Actress Ava Gardner was a sultry beauty famous for playing femme fatale roles, and for her marriages to Frank Sinatra, Artie Shaw and Mickey Rooney.
Gardner was born in Grabtown, North Carolina, on December 24, 1922. She was her parents’ seventh child. When Gardner was 2 years old, she and her family were forced to leave their tobacco farm. Her father then worked as a sharecropper, while her mother ran a boardinghouse. The family always struggled financially, a situation that worsened when Gardner’s father died when she was 16.
Gardner was studying to be a secretary when her photographer brother-in-law sent pictures of her to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. A striking beauty with dark hair and green eyes, Gardner’s photos convinced the studio to give her a screen test. This led to her signing a seven-year, $50/week contract with MGM in 1941 when Gardner was 18 years old.
Upon her arrival in Hollywood, Gardner was put into the MGM studio system to learn how to be an actress. Her thick Southern accent made speech lessons a required part of her training. Gardner was shy and intimidated by the process of appearing on camera, and, thusly, would sometimes drink beforehand to calm her nerves.
Below are some beautiful black and white portraits of a very young Ava Gardner in the 1930s: