Ava Lavinia Gardner was an American actress. She was signed to a contract by MGM Studios in 1941 and appeared in small roles until she drew attention with her performance in The Killers. She became one of Hollywood’s leading actresses, considered one of the most beautiful women of her day. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in Mogambo. She appeared in several high-profile films from the 1950s to 1970s, including Bhowani Junction, On the Beach, The Night of the Iguana, Earthquake, and The Cassandra Crossing. Gardner continued to act on a regular basis until 1986, four years before her death of pneumonia, at age 67, in 1990.
She is listed as one of the American Film Institute’s greatest stars of all time.
Gardner was born in the small farming community of Brogden, North Carolina, the youngest of seven children of poor cotton and tobacco farmers; her mother, Mary Elizabeth Gardner was a Baptist of Scots-Irish and English descent, while her father, Jonas Bailey Gardner, was a Roman Catholic of Irish American and American Indian descent. When the children were still young, the Gardners lost their property, forcing Jonas Gardner to work at a sawmill and Mollie to begin working as a cook and housekeeper at a dormitory for teachers at the nearby Brogden School.