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 You are in:  Special Report: 1998: 05/98: Sinatra
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Friday, 15 May, 1998, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Frank Sinatra's love and marriage
Ava Gardener and Frank Sinatra
Ava Gardner was his second wife - and many believe the love of his life
Frank Sinatra married four very different women but each relationship had its ups and downs.

His first wife was his childhood sweetheart Nancy Barbato with whom he had three children, Nancy, Frank and Christina (Tina), before their marriage ended in 1951.

The couple met in 1934 at the New Jersey holiday resort of Long Branch when he was 19 and she was 17.

But over the next few years they rarely saw each other because of Sinatra's busy work schedule.

Sinatra billboard
Frank Sinatra became an idol in the 1940s
After a failed law suit brought by a married women who alleged Sinatra had slept with her, he married Nancy in 1939.

In September, 1950, Nancy was granted a legal separation because of his mental cruelty - she claimed the superstar went away for weekends by himself.

Sinatra's second marriage, to actress Ava Gardner in 1951, lasted less than six years and they spent much of it apart.

"We were happy when Frank was on the skids," she said. "When he became successful again, his old arrogant self came back."

Ava Gardner was far from the homely wife from New Jersey but the couple's relationship proved just as stormy.

Bride left sprawling

In 1951, Sinatra gave her a six-carat diamond engagement ring. But she threw a tantrum and flung it out of the window into the street. It was never found.

They decided to marry within a week or two in a ceremony that was not without drama.

As the band played Here Comes The Bride, Ava tripped and was left engulfed in her wedding dress, sprawled at the foot of the stairs.

But many believe Ava Gardner was the love of his life - when they split he tore up his favourite picture of her in a fury and then tried to glue it back together again. But a piece was missing.

A delivery boy found it and Sinatra gave him a gold watch.

The crooner's other conquests are said to have included Marilyn Monroe, Gina Lollobrigida, Natalie Wood, Judy Garland and Lauren Bacall.

Mia Farrow and Frank Sinatra
Mia Farrow's marriage to Sinatra lasted 14 months
In 1966, aged 50, Sinatra married actress Mia Farrow, then 21. His mother had said of her: "This one don't talk, she don't eat. What does she do?"

Sinatra was 50 when he declared his love for the 20-year-old actress from the soap opera Peyton Place.

Married life was bliss - for a time. But Mia was still virtually a teenager - and looked like one.

Sometimes Sinatra joked about her on-stage. "I finally found a broad I can cheat on," he said. But they separated in 1967 and were divorced the following year.

Stern husband

Sinatra married his fourth wife, Barbara, a former model and dancer who had been married to Zeppo Marx, in 1976. She was said to have a calming effect on her husband.

Blonde Barbara was as beautiful as all Sinatra's previous brides, but she was also older and more mature.

At the time of his death they had been married for more than 20 years in what looked like the happiest relationship of his life.

But, in the last years of his life she was virtually at war with his three children over his fortune.

And he was, by all accounts, a stern husband. She said she was not allowed to sing at home, or even hum a tune.

"There could be only one star in our household," she once said.

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