On Christmas Eve 1922, Ava Gardner joined this low world and made it, somehow, for 67 years more radiant, more extraordinary. She was the unlikely product of a poor Southern family, so extravagantly beautiful that really she had no choice but to become an international film star.
She was not, perhaps, tremendously sensible - no one could marry Frank Sinatra and be considered that - and in fact her whole life could just about be summed in her plangent comment about her wild affair with a Spanish bullfighter, an escapade that tried the patience of even her dearest friends (who do seem to have been awfully longsuffering):
"It was a kind of madness, honey."
It's almost a shame that she was so heart-stoppingly lovely, for she was also a smart, proud, wordly woman and, when she cared to be, a fine actress. She Lived, in a kind of Auntie-Mame capital-L kind of way, and while she might have lasted longer with a little more care, I'm not sure that she would have traded quantity for quality.
If you ever find yourself in Smithfield, North Carolina, do visit the Ava Gardner Museum, a fascinating and even moving tribute to this great lady. And yes, YankeeDown - I have my mask, too! They're a must-have souvenir.