LONDON -- Hollywood sex symbol Ava Gardner, remembered for her beauty, brains and love of late-night prowling, will be buried next to family members in North Carolina.
'My heart is broken with the loss of my first love,' said Mickey Rooney, first husband of Gardner, who died Thursday at age 67 in London of pneumonia. 'The beauty and magic of Ava will forever be in all our hearts.'
Gardner's body will be flown to Smithfield, N.C., and buried next to her parents and brother.
A spokesman for the Underwood Funeral Home in Smithfield said 'no date has been set for the funeral (at Sunset Memorial Park). We understand the body will not leave London until Sunday.'
Gardner's leading men included Burt Lancaster, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck, Tyrone Power, Paul Newman, Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston and Richard Burton. But her husbands -- Rooney, Frank Sinatra and Artie Shaw -- perhaps brought her more notoriety.
Among Gardner's best known films are 'One Touch of Venus' in 1948, 'Show Boat' in 1951, 'Mogambo' in 1953, 'The Barefoot Contessa' in 1954, 'The Sun Also Rises' in 1957, 'On the Beach' in 1959, '55 Days at Peking' in 1963 and 'Seven Days in May' and 'The Night of the Iguana' in 1964.
'Ava was a great lady and her loss is very painful,' Sinatra said from New York.
What really ended the Sinatra marriage in 1957, Gardner said, was his resentment of her success.
One of her managers of those days, David Hanna, said a contributing factor was Gardner's insistence on spending the nights roistering.
'I don't like the daylight,' she said. 'The night is for living and it takes talent to live at night. Not everybody has it.'
Said Hanna: 'Not even Sinatra could keep up with her incredible staying power. A night out with her could stretch to 36 or 48 hours. Her insatiable quest for nocturnal adventure made it difficult to maintain a satisfying emotional attachment.'
Peck, who starred with Gardner in the film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's 'The Snows of Kilimanjaro' in 1952 and other films, said she 'became in real life the living prototype of a Hemingway heroine.'
'Not only beautiful, but smart, direct, honest and, for many years, burning her candle at both ends,' Peck said. 'She knew she might burn herself out, but there was that Hemingway thing -- gallantry, grace under pressure, never a complaint, even after a stroke a couple of years ago.'
She loved all three husbands, she said, admitting her own jealousy contributed to the end of all three marriages.
'They all married Ava Gardner, the so-called beauty, not the farm girl from Grabtown,' she said.
Besides her marriages, Gardner had what Hanna described as 'several moiling, toiling, raging and rip-roaring love affairs. I have never known such an unhappy, tempestuous and crazily mixed-up woman.'
Gardner said she once got drunk with John Kennedy before the future president entered the Senate but couldn't remember what happened. George C. Scott was 'madly in love with her,' according to reports at the time. Bullfighters Luis Dominguin and Mario Cabre were fervent companions but couldn't stand the pace. There was a long romance with Italian comedian Walter Chiari that almost made it to the altar.
In 1950, Gardner met Sinatra at the lowest point of his career, desperately hoping for a movie role that would rehabilitate him as a star. The meeting came at a dance in Palm Springs, Calif., where Gardner was with eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, who had pursued her for eight years. The actress said, many years later, that Hughes was a boring man with only two interests -- money and big breasts -- and she couldn't get rid of him.
She said Hughes once slapped her and she laid him out with a brass bell. But her dark, flashing beauty -- brunet hair, green eyes and exquisite figure -- drew him back and that night they came across Sinatra dancing with his first wife, Nancy.
They changed partners and the romance was on. They married in 1951 after Sinatra got his divorce and the next six years were filled with long stretches of ecstatic love-making, Gardner said. But they increasingly were interrupted by quarrels and violence and Sinatra once threatened suicide, fired a gun into their bed and threw her out of the house.
Gardner left North Carolina at age 19 with a Southern drawl so thick the filmmakers shut off the sound track on her first screen test. But with her luminous beauty, sultry voice, talent and romances, she succeeded Rita Hayworth as Hollywood's reigning love goddess.
Gardner was a novice Hollywood starlet in 1942 when she became the talk of the town by marrying Rooney, then the nation's top box-office star. The Rooney match lasted only a year, as did her marriage to band leader Artie Shaw, which ended in 1946. Her third and last marriage, to Sinatra in 1951, ended in divorce in 1957.