Frank Sinatra loved many women during his lifetime, but few of his affairs or marriages meant as much to the man as the fiery and passionate relationship that he shared with actress Ava Gardner. What started out as an extramarital affair eventually turned into a marriage, though it was one that didn’t quite last as long as either party had been hoping. Still, the two maintained feelings for each other until their deaths. Join Facts Verse as we explore the affair that ended Frank Sinatra’s marriage.
Frank Sinatra was already an established star when he first set eyes on Ava Gardner. It has been said that Frank saw the young actress in a magazine. And then proclaimed to those around him that he was going to marry her. This came in spite of the fact that Frank already married, with children. Frank married his first wife in 1939, and met Ava in the early 1940s. Though the older gentleman’s obnoxious advances initially were off-putting to Ava, she eventually won over by their shared interests and flaws.
Frank continued his pursuit of Ava over the course of the decade, not finding much luck until around 1948. That year, the two began spending a fair amount of time together. Their public appearances started drawing attention from their peers, as well as onlookers in the media. Ava had married and divorced twice previously, once to Mickey Rooney and another time to legendary bandleader Artie Shaw. Frank, as stated, had married to his first wife for nearly a decade. Frank’s first wife was Nancy Barbato, and they had three children together, including Nancy Jr.
The affair between Frank and Ava was certainly neither party’s first. Frank had previously embroiled in a notorious affair with Lana Turner. In fact, his affair with Lana one that he would later reignite when he married to Ava. Frank and Ava shared a common love for many things, including alcohol, music, and making love. They were also both emotionally volatile, often getting into intense public arguments about trivial matters. As their relationship grew more passionate, it became harder for the couple to hide their extramarital relations. Their peers began to take notice, and then the tabloids followed.
In 1950, a photo that had taken of Frank and Ava together at the London Palladium began circulating in newspapers and magazines. These exposes not only affected Frank’s reputation amongst his largely conservative fan base, but also caused the singer a good bit of trouble at home. Frank and Nancy announced their separation on Valentine’s Day of that same year, though they’re not officially divorced until 1951. It was with a heavy heart that Nancy Barbato agreed to allow Frank the divorce, though the two maintained a healthy relationship as friends, as well as co-parents of their three children, up until Frank’s death many decades later. Frank would subsequently get married three more times, including to Ava Gardner. Join Facts Verse as we explore the affair that ended Frank Sinatra’s marriage.
Frank and Nancy officially divorced at the end of October 1951, and Frank and Ava married by the end of the year. There was a ceremony in Pennsylvania, but it came with a bad omen. The day before the wedding, Ava received a letter from a prostitute that claimed she had been sleeping with Frank for several months. Though Ava was never sure whether to believe the letter or not, it did leave her entering into the marriage with a fair bit of uncertainty. After all, Frank had a history of adultery.
Frank and Ava’s relationship was volatile even before their marriage began. In August of 1951, the two had been staying at Lake Tahoe when Frank attempted to take his life as a result of an argument the couple had been having. Frank took a handful of sleeping pills after drinking several glasses of champagne, though resuscitated by Ava before dying. Frank would go on to attempt suicide a few more times over the course of their relationship.
Not too far into their marriage, Frank and Ava had seemingly come to terms with the fact that neither party was completely faithful to the other. Ava had various one-night stands, and Frank allegedly hooked back up with his former flame, Lana Turner. Some speculate that Frank did this to spite Ava for her infidelities, though it seems more likely that Frank simply wanted infidelities of his own. The pair would continue their alcohol-fuelled marriage for many years, and a great deal more drama was to follow. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! As well, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way! Join Facts Verse as we explore the affair that ended Frank Sinatra’s marriage.
In 1953, Ava Gardner was filming a movie called Mogambo in Africa. She invited Frank out to visit her, and had some news to tell him. As it turns out, Ava had become pregnant, and she believed that the baby was Frank’s. Frank was overjoyed at the news, but Ava not so sure. Later, Ava flew out to London and had the child aborted without Frank’s knowledge. This broke Frank’s heart, and dealt a blow to the couple’s marriage that it would never recover from.
After filming had wrapped on Mogambo, Ava ventured off to Spain without Frank. Ava was apparently on a mission to seduce the country’s most popular bullfighter, a man by the name of Luis Miguel Dominguin. Ava had cheated on Frank plenty of times before, but this marked the first occasion that she didn’t come back. Within a year, Ava filed for divorce.
Upon learning that Ava had filed for divorce, Frank slit his wrists. This may have been the umpteenth time that Frank had attempted suicide as a means of coping with his relationship, but it was first time that Ava wasn’t by his side when he woke up. Frank finally agreed to the divorce in 1957, after making numerous attempts to win Ava back. One of Frank’s most notable attempts to win back Ava’s love was his 1957 concept album, Where Are You?
While Frank’s separation from his first wife had dehumanized him in the eyes of many of his fans, the separation from Ava had the opposite effect. The tabloids were viciously cruel to Frank as the singer attempted to recuperate from his heartbreak. This had the unintentional effect of making the star seem human again. The 1950s also saw Frank successfully venture into dramatic acting, having won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as a result of his turn in 1953’s From Here to Eternity. Join Facts Verse as we explore the affair that ended Frank Sinatra’s marriage.
Although Frank and Ava officially divorced in 1957, their relationship didn’t end there. The two kept in contact over the years, and continued to view each other as friends. Frank attempted to rekindle the flame between them in 1965. Frank was filming a movie called Von Ryan’s Express in Rome. And had been offered the chance to stay in a beautiful local villa by the feature’s production team. While there, Frank sent an invitation for Ava to come stay with him. Though Ava accepted the offer, she did so only as friends.
Although Ava had been the one to initiate the divorce, many have come to believe that the separation from Frank negatively affected her as much as it did him. Ava began increasingly escaping into alcohol and was greatly aged upon their 1965 reunion. Frank had a hard time dealing with the sight of his former love struggling with alcohol abuse.
Frank remarried twice after divorcing Ava. He married actress Mia Farrow in 1966. Mia was nearly 30 years younger than Frank, and the couple’s relationship didn’t last very long. When Mia skipped out of a costarring role alongside Frank so that she could star in Rosemary’s Baby, Frank subsequently served her with divorce papers. Join Facts Verse as we explore the affair that ended Frank Sinatra’s marriage.
Several years later, Frank married his fourth and final wife. Frank married Barbara Marx in 1976, and the two remained together until Frank’s death over two decades later. Despite the fact that this turned out to be Frank’s longest marriage, Barbara never got along with Frank’s kids. Barbara infamously kept Frank’s three kids out of the loop during the singer’s final days, making very little effort to call and inform them that their father was lying on his deathbed.
Despite the fact that Frank technically moved on, he never truly forgot about Ava. Frank sent Ava a bouquet of flowers every single year after their divorce, up until Ava’s death in early 1990. Ava had previously suffered from a stroke, and had lost the ability to speak. However, that didn’t stop Frank from calling her up on the phone sometimes and speaking enough for the both of them. It was reported that Frank called Ava a lot during her final days, though Ava wasn’t able to speak back. Ava passed away on January 25, 1990. At the time of her death, she was 67 years old.
Frank himself died a little over eight years later. The singer had suffered a heart attack in 1997, after which he stopped making public appearances. Frank suffered from numerous other health problems in his final days, including high blood pressure, bladder cancer, and pneumonia. As well, it was believed that his many years of taking antidepressants had caused some symptoms that resembled dementia. All of these issues came to a head in 1998, when Frank was taken to a medical center in Los Angeles. Frank passed away not longer after, at the age of 82.
Frank Sinatra’s four wives weren’t the only notable romantic partners that the legendary singer had over the course of his lifetime. He also had relationships with notable celebrity figures Angie Dickinson, Marilyn Monroe, and Judy Garland. Comment down below to share if you think there’s another Frank Sinatra romance that deserves to be talked about, or if you believe that Frank and Ava were truly the loves of each other’s lives. As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!