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About the Book

“If I had to go back in Hollywood history and name two people who were most desperately and passionately in love with each other, I would say Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner were It,” said celebrity columnist Liz Smith.

The story of Frank and Ava has not been fully explored or explained – until now. Frank & Ava pushes deep into the characters of two iconic stars and brings new insights and fresh information to the turbulent story of their lifelong relationship.

The timeline for the long, hot, messy, glorious, painful romance stretches from the ‘40s into the ‘90s, yet it is a story that speaks to today’s audience about high Hollywood and a love that went beyond time and space…into forever.

They were a twosome made for the tabloids, remarkably similar in some ways, starkly different in others. He was Sinatra as usual. It’s Frank’s world, as the bumper sticker read. Ava just didn’t want to live in it. Ava was the one woman in his life he could not control.

More than anything else, a great love story

The story begins in Hollywood’s golden age when Ava and Frank met at MGM, where Ava was emerging as a movie star. But she fell in (and out of) love too easily. Mickey Rooney married her (she was a virgin) because he wanted another conquest. Artie Shaw treated her like a dumb brunette, giving her a reading list on their honeymoon. Neither marriage lasted a year. Then, after being courted by Howard Hughes and numerous others, along came Frank Sinatra.

But when MGM fired him, and his record company dropped him, no one seemed to want him, except Ava. His passion for Ava destroyed his marriage and brought him close to ruin. Their wild affair broke all the rules of the prudish era as Frank left his wife and children and pursued Ava while she taunted him by flirting with bullfighters between movie sets in Europe. Their greatest roles were off-screen. They became romantic renegades on an international stage. They were America’s first reality show, with the press (as the media was called back then) followed them from location to location.

“Oh, God, Frank Sinatra could be the sweetest, most charming man in the world when he was in the mood,” said Ava. But then came the quarrels, separations, infidelities, and reconciliations. Eventually, there was a divorce, and they thought it was over. It wasn’t.

Frank & Ava is much more than the story of a star-crossed love and dueling careers. They met when Ava was at her peak in beauty and box office appeal – and Frank was at his career low. It is the story of the collapse of the great Hollywood studio, and how Frank emerged from the wreckage and became the greatest entertainer of the century, while Ava abandoned Hollywood and gradually faded from stardom as an expatriate in Europe. Yet, through all of the tortured years of separation and splintered affairs with others, they maintained a secretive relationship known only to those who recognize that this was their love of a lifetime. Over the years they attempted to reconcile, romanced and nurtured each other, right to the end.

A supporting cast from Hollywood’s golden age

This is a story that holds romantic and dramatic appeal in equal measure. It links the dual (and dueling) careers of two Hollywood giants, revealing how such careers are created, nurtured…. along with the changing nature of show business in the early ‘50s…the demise of the studio system; changing musical and movie going tastes after the War; the rise of the LP and changing styles in music…. it combines all of this with one of the greatest romance stories of the 20th century.

Weaving eyewitness accounts, memoir and journal entries, newspaper reports, and interviews with informed sources, biographer John Brady, in a compelling narrative style, tells the story of Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner, costars in a real-life drama that sweeps you back to Hollywood’s golden age with a star-studded supporting cast…

Humphrey Bogart, Ernest Hemingway, Tommy Dorsey, Buddy Rich, John Huston, Mia Farrow, Mario Cabre, Luis Miguel Dominguin, Mel Torme, Artie Shaw, Jimmy Van Heusen, Mickey Rooney, Lana Turner, Johnny Mercer, Marilyn Maxwell, David Niven, Nicholas Ray, Jilly Rizzo, Robert Taylor, Dean Martin, Lena Horne, Swifty Lazar, Richard Burton, Robert Evans, Paul Anka, Don Costa, Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Stephen Birmingham, Hedda Hopper, Louella Parsons, Mickey Rudin, Jerry Lewis, Claude Terrail, Shelley Winters, Barbara Sinatra, Greg Bautzer, Kim Novak, Charlton Heston, Louis B. Mayer, Howard Hughes, Grace Kelly, Mark Hellinger, Esther Williams, George C. Scott, Ingrid Bergman, Peggy Connelly, Sophia Loren, Lauren Bacall….and more.

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John Brady | Frank and Ava in Love and War