It was in the small Spanish fishing villages of Lloret de Mar and Tossa de Mar that the torrid romance of Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra played out in the 1950s. More than a romance between singer and actress, this was a passion of operatic proportions played out between the singer, the actress and the matador, because Ava was also having an affair with Catalan matador, Mario Cabré.
In 1950 Sinatra came to Spain to be with Ava who was living in Tossa de Mar while shooting Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. They tried to be discreet about their affair but as the Matador publicly dedicated every bull he killed to Ava, this proved impossible. Sinatra divorced his wife in 1951 and married Ava the same year.
In 1953, the pair split up, but Sinatra came back looking for her at Christmas of that year by which time, Gardner was having an affair with another bullfighter, the famous Luis Miguel Dominguín. Sinatra and Ava made up and moved to Madrid where their life was lived out in public in night-clubs and restaurants, their frequent booze-fuelled fights ensuring the affair remained front-page news. They divorced in 1957.
Gardner became an alcoholic. She had a stroke which left her unable to speak properly and the only person she would speak to in her last years was Frank Sinatra who telephoned her regularly. She said he had always been the love of her life.
Ava’s charm and friendliness won over the people of the two villages and both towns erected a statue to her. The one below is in Tossa de Mar, the one above from Lloret de Mar taken on a visit I made in the early days of this century. I think the Tossa one is more beautiful but the Lloret one was meant to symbolise her role in The Barefoot Contessa.