Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra at the Majestic | Grand Hotel Majestic "Già Baglioni" - Luxury 5 stars Hotel
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Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra at the Majestic

Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner at the Grand Hotel Majestic “già Baglioni” © Archivio Fotografico Storico “FOTOWALL” by Walter Breveglieri; ed. MINERVA, Bologna

The golden age of cinema and showbusiness – the 1950s and 1960s – touched on Bologna, where the stars and celebrities of yesteryear used to get together – as they still do to this day – at the safe haven of the Grand Hotel Majestic “già Baglioni”. Hence the guestbook featured the names of greats such as Clark Gable, William Holden, Gina Lollobrigida, Sean Connery, Sophia Loren, Alida Valli, Anna Magnani and Burt Lancaster, not to mention Dodo D'Hambourg, the magnificent Black Widow at the Crazy Horse in Paris. Last but not least, the most talked about couple in society circles, Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner, also stayed.  

The love affair and career of two stars of Hollywood

Frank Sinatra, the most celebrated crooner of all, was born in 1915 in Hoboken, across the Hudson from Manhattan. The son of Italian immigrants, he decided as a youngster that he wanted to emulate his hero Bing Crosby. After leaving school, he got by doing odd jobs before embarking on his rise to success. In the 1960s he became an international star thanks to songs such as “I get a kick out of you”, “Fly me to the moon”, “I’ve got you under my skin” and later “New York, New York”, “My Way” and “Strangers in the Night”. In the meantime, he left his first wife Nancy Barbato to marry Ava Gardner, the queen of Hollywood, a woman with a huge personality. Born into a very poor family in North Carolina in 1922, the last of seven children, Gardner was discovered by chance by an MGM agent. After appearing in a few bit parts, she conquered the scene alongside the likes of Burt Lancaster, Gregory Peck, Clark Gable and Grace Kelly. When she married Sinatra – her third husband – she was regarded as the beauty and style icon of her era. The marriage lasted six years and was blotted with arguments and misunderstandings.

Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner at the Grand Hotel Majestic “già Baglioni” © Archivio Fotografico Storico “FOTOWALL” by Walter Breveglieri; ed. MINERVA, Bologna

“We want Ava!”: an anecdote hidden in a photograph

Among the framed photographs that pay homage to the celebrities who have stayed at the Majestic, one from 1953 stands out from the rest. In it, Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner are walking down the hotel steps. Surrounded by a clutch of adoring men, she looks radiant. A step behind her, he is scowling and looking almost depressed, despite a faint attempt at a smile.
 
The picture, which was taken by Michele Breviglieri, the renowned photographer at the local Resto del Carlino newspaper, conceals an episode that took place behind the scenes. The night before, in fact, Sinatra had starred in a concert at the Teatro Manzoni. But halfway through his performance he had left in a furious huff because, knowing that he had come to Bologna in the company of his wife, the audience had begun chanting, “We want Ava, we want Ava!”. The fact was that the actress’s star was shining ever more brightly, and that year she had co-starred in John Ford’s Mogambo with Clark Gable and Grace Kelly, and was to be nominated for an Oscar for her performance the following year. Frank Sinatra on the other hand was experiencing a decline in his popularity after his first divorce. That night the hotel manager of the time had to use a great deal of tact, not to mention alcohol, to raise the crooner’s spirits.

 

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