A typical first date involves dinner or drinks or maybe a movie. But, something that basic just wouldn't have been fitting for one of Old Hollywood's most-talked about celebrity couples. When Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra first got together—while he was still married to someone else, mind you—they ended up getting arrested and had to be picked up from the police station in the middle of the night.
Gardner and Sinatra went on to be together for several years, even getting married themselves. But their relationship was a tumultuous one, as foreshadowed by their first romantic night. Read on to find out just what happened that got the two stars in so much trouble and to learn more about their relationship.
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Sinatra and Gardner got together when he was still married.
Sinatra was married to his first wife, Nancy Barbato, from 1939 to 1951. They had three children together: Nancy Sinatra, Tina Sinatra, and Frank Sinatra Jr. As for Gardner, she was married to Mickey Rooney from 1942 to 1943 and then to Artie Shaw from 1945 to 1946.
According to the biography Ava, a Life in Movies by Kendra Bean and Anthony Uzarowski (via People), Sinatra and Gardner first met at a club in 1943. But while she stood out to Sinatra, he was still happily married and nothing happened between them until years later.
Sinatra and Gardner started an affair.
Ava, a Life in Movies explains that Sinatra saw Gardner a few years later at MGM. He reportedly said of the encounter, "I looked at her and said, 'Jesus, you got prettier since last time I saw ya.' This was not the young girl from [North] Carolina at the studio. This was a woman who was glorious."
According to the biography Ava Gardner: Love Is Nothing by Lee Server (via Vanity Fair), Gardner and Sinatra began their affair when they drunkenly left a party in Palm Springs together in 1949. They drove off to the nearby city of Indio, California where Sinatra took out two guns and began shooting at streetlights. Gardner then took a gun herself and shot the window of a hardware store.
They were arrested and bailed out by their studio.
On what was essentially their first date, Gardner and Sinatra were arrested in the midst of their wild adventure. According to Server, they were brought into the police station but rescued when the studio paid for the cops to free them and keep the matter quiet. Server writes that Gardner arrived home to see her sister eating breakfast. "Ava told her she had been out with Frank Sinatra and they had had a wonderful time," the book states.
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They eventually got married.
Sinatra ended up leaving Barbato for Gardner. Their divorce was made official in 1951, and soon after it was granted, Gardner and Sinatra tied the knot. This marriage turned out to be Gardner's last, and like her first two, it was short-lived. The couple's few years together were full of arguments, jealousy, and issues involving both of their careers.
"He has a temper that bursts into flames," Gardner once said, according to People, "while my temper burns inside for hours." The pair separated in 1953, though their divorce wasn't official until 1957.
They remained friends after splitting.
Even after their divorce, Gardner and Sinatra remained friends and were close until her death in 1990. (Sinatra died eight years later.)
"They developed a great friendship," actor and friend Kathryn Grayson told People. "They helped each other. I think they wanted to get together again, but circumstances kept them apart."
Actor Arlene Dahl, who was a friend of Gardner's told People, "She told me that she never loved another man as much as she loved Frank."