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The Eight Marriages of Mickey Rooney


2 of 9

Mickey Rooney's First Wife -- Ava Gardner (1942-1943)
Mickey Rooney and Ava Gardner

Actor Mickey Rooney and his first wife actress Ava Gardner shortly before their wedding in January 1942.

Photo: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Ava Lavinia Gardner: December 24, 1922 in Grabtown, North Carolina. Ava Gardner Museum

Ava Gardner: At the age of 67, Ava Gardner died from pneumonia on January 25, 1990 in Westminster, London, England. Ava was buried in Sunset Memorial Park, Smithfield, North Carolina.

How Mickey and Ava Met:
When Ava was still a starlet at MGM, she met Mickey in 1941 at the studio on the first day on the Babes on Broadway set. Their first date included Ava's sister. He proposed on their first date and then another twenty-four times. She finally said yes on December 9, 1941.


Mickey: "When she [Ava] appeared, everything in me stopped. My heart. My breathing. My thinking."
Source: Mickey Rooney. I.E.: An Autobiography. 1965. pg. 115.
Mickey: "I don't know exactly how many times I proposed. I stopped counting after twenty-five. I asked in as many ways as I knew."
Source: Mickey Rooney. I.E.: An Autobiography. 1965. pg. 129.

Wedding Date and Info:
Mickey and Ava were married in Ballard, California at the Santa Ynez Valley Presbyterian Church on January 10, 1942. Ava and Mickey obtained their marriage license in Montecito, California. Ava's sister Bappie was maid of honor, MGM publicist Les Petersen was best man, and the officiant was Reverend Glen H. Lutz.

Ava and Mickey honeymooned for four days at the Del Monte Hotel in Carmel near Pebble Beach on the Monterey coast. They then did a promotional tour for the studio.

Lee Server: "Metro's wedding planners up on the third floor felt the best thing was to get it over with quickly and without a fuss, minimizing the publicity and cutting their losses. Ava was told not to bother asking any of her Carolina relaives to come out. An an elaborate wedding dress was deemed to be out of place and an unnecessary expenditure. Ava was disappointed, angry, and embarrassed ... Ava wore a feathered hat, a plain blue outfit, and a corsage ... Rooney wore a sedate dark suit."
Source: Lee Server. Ava Gardner: Love is Nothing. 2007. pg. 71-72.


Ava and Mickey did not have any children.

After realizing they had little in common, Ava's distress over Mickey's gambling, Mickey's concern over Ava's drinking, and her growing lack of trust, Mickey and Ava separated on January 15, 1943, received their interlocutary divorce decree on May 21, 1943. Their divorce was finalized one year later.

Ava: "I didn't want his money. We were babies, just children, and our lives were run by a lot of people. We hadn't had a chance."
Source: Ava Gardner. Ava: My Story. 1991. pg. 31.

Ava: "I knew that dumping Mickey was a risk. Careerwise, it could have been the end of me. If I stopped being Mrs. Rooney, they wouldn’t think twice about letting me go. But I really had no choice. Mickey was never going to change his ways. I knew that if I had sued Mick for adultery, and named some of the girls he’d been [with], it would have blown his wholesome Andy Hardy image right out of the water. It could have destroyed his career stone dead. I knew that citing ‘incompatibility’ was the cleanest and fastest route out of the marriage."
Source: Peter Evans, Ava Gardner. "Three Men and a Goddess." VanityFair.com. 07/2013.

Ava: Actress. .

Other Marriages:
Ava later married Artie Shaw (1945-1946) and then Frank Sinatra (1951-1957).

Quotes About the Marriage of Ava Gardner and Mickey Rooney:

Ava: “He wasn’t what I’d call a handsome may-an, and his shortness surprised me, but there was definitely something appealing about him. He had thick, red-blond wavy hair, crinkly Irish green eyes, and a grin that was … well, it definitely wasn’t innocent, honey, I can tell you that!”
Source: Peter Evans, Ava Gardner. "Three Men and a Goddess." VanityFair.com. 07/2013.

Ava: “It’s a shame that it didn’t work out with Mick. The idea of being married had always appealed to me, and I was hopelessly in love with him by this time. We lived in a tiny apartment on Wilshire in Westwood that we’d rented from Red Skelton. One bedroom, living room, kitchen, and a tiny dining room. Oh God, Mickey and I were out practically every night of our lives together. We danced, he drank a fair amount — I was catching on pretty fast."
Source: Peter Evans, Ava Gardner. "Three Men and a Goddess." VanityFair.com. 07/2013.


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