April 22, 2006

"A remarkably beautiful woman who was surprisingly shy, yet spoke her mind fearlessly... who thought little of herself as an actress..."

Peter Bogdonovich on Ava Gardner.

I must confess that I've never understood why people -- is it just men? -- are enthralled by Ava Gardner. Was she ever good in a movie? Is she really so especially beautiful? I don't see it in the stills, and maybe I've never seen one of her movies. She made a hell of a lot of them, but look at the list. What a shocking lot of crap!

Anyway, I like that she was good with the snappy remark. Bogdonovich quotes this crack about Clark Gable: "Clark is the sort of guy that if you say, 'Hiya, Clark, how are you?' he's stuck for an answer."

26 comments:

ganzo azul said...

...her luminous beauty — which no camera could quite capture —

This photo probably comes closest.

Mark Daniels said...

I have seen Ava Gardner in movies and she was wretched.

Mark Daniels

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

It was all about her and Frank Sinatra and Mickey Rooney. The days of the big movie moguls who could titillate us before we had television and depended on the voyeurism of The Big Screen! Mortal men and women in the audience could pretend for a moment to be reckless and adventurous, get the woman and seduce the hunk.

It left much to the imagination which was it's greatness!

Ann Althouse said...

How thinking about a woman being with Mickey Rooney is sexy is beyond me. Frank Sinatra, I understand. But Ava Gardner seems to be mostly about the fact that she makes people think about sex -- and then there's Mickey Rooney taking the most prominent place is her legend as a sex symbol. I don't get it!

I don't see how Gardner can compare to Elizabeth Taylor as a Hollywood Goddess of that era. Taylor seems to own the niche. Taylor is more beautiful, a decent actress, was in some great movies, and had a sexier personal life (as we knew of it).

knoxgirl said...

I remember reading somewhere that all his other marriages notwithstanding, Frank Sinatra never really got over Ava Gardner.

Anyway, talk about cheekbones!

Oscar Madison said...

Maybe Clark was just tongue tied because of Gardner's remarkable beauty...

Ann Althouse said...

Oscar: On that theory, Ava's observations about everyone are unreliable. Every time anything happens to her, she is disabled by her own beauty from having any undistorted perceptions, because everyone she ever encounters is twisted out of normality by looking at her.

David said...

Ann, isn't that the point of the exercise? It is all about perception.

Their lives were fit only for "THE BIG SCREEN" in Technicolor.

Dave said...

"Was she ever good in a movie?"

Lots of beautiful women were terrible movie actors. And yet they are still beautiful.

See Elle "the body" MacPherson as but one example.

Dave said...

"But Ava Gardner seems to be mostly about the fact that she makes people think about sex "

Same with the late '70s/early'80s model Gia Carrangi (and, natch, Angelina Jolie, who played Carrangi in an HBO movie about her life and death.)

Jeff said...

In Miles Davis' autobiography "Miles", he pays tribute to Ava Gardner and the effect she had on himself, other jazz musicians, and the creative community that he ran with at the time. Miles carried a torch for Ava, too, and needless to say, he was no Mickey Rooney! And Miles hated almost everybody....

Elizabeth Taylor had a beautiful face but she was all top and no bottom...

Ann Althouse said...

So, Jeff, Elizabeth Taylor wasn't fat enough?

bearbee said...

Some of the most beautiful are Greek actress Irene Papas (difficult to find a photo to do her justice and Isabella Rossellini another of Isabella and each could act.

This is trite but their physical beauty was mixed with an inner radiance.

I liked Ava in 'Night of the Iguana'.

dick said...

I always thought she was best in The Barefoot Contessa. What a beautiful woman!!

I remember Lena Horne talking about her. She said Ava was her best friend in Hollywood. Very down to earth woman on her own. I don't how you can say that she is anything but beautiful.

Jeff said...

Elizabeth Taylor has a beautiful face, but never had the greatest figure. Her costumes seemed to place on emphasis on her bosom, and rightfully so. I seem to recall noticing that she had a flat behind in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof".

Ava Gardner, on the other hand, had an hourglass figure. She was also leggy like a dancer, which I find more attractive.

Miles Davis also wrote of Gardner as being a sensation while still a teenager and the object of heavy competition among the men of Hollywood. She was the Angelina Jolie of her day, sex symbol-wise. That Mickey Rooney got her first attests to his status as one of the leading box office draws of the period. Kind of like if Macaulay Culkin had a more productive career into his early 20's.

SippicanCottage said...
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Maxine Weiss said...

What was Lana Turner doing with Mickey Rooney? That guy musta had somepin'. Artie Shaw. Lana and Ava dated the same men.

You all have to see "The Killers" with Burt Lancaster. Just look at the stills from that one....she was the most beautiful gal....she....pre 1950. Ann, you'd like "East Side, West Side" with her and James Mason....with that famous line that "All she needs to do is crook her little finger" and the men come a'runnin. That was a famous scene between her and Barbara Stanwyck arguing over Barbara's husband. East Side, West Side was a great film as it was kind of the end of the studio days, and MGM threw everyone into that film to use up their contract, before everything collapsed.

After 1950, I agree, nothing she did was noteworthy, and her looks became ravaged from all the drinking and hard living. But pre-1950, she was lovely.



Peace, Maxine

Maxine Weiss said...

Ann: You can't compare Ava Gardner to Elizabeth Taylor. There's a 20 year age difference between the two.

Ava, Rita, and Lana are strictly 1940s sweater girls. They were the pinups of the 40s.

---Sort of a slump in the early 50s, but by the mid-50s, then it was Liz and Marilyn's time.

hygate said...

Is she really so especially beautiful?

Yes

dick said...

I remember a Sunday magazine (This Week? or Parade?) that had a bunch of lists such as build, most beautiful with makeup and most beautiful without makeup that was prepared by the Hollywood workers. I forget whether it was Rhonda Fleming or Arlene Dahl who was most beautiful with makeup but it was Ava Gardner who was picked as most beautiful without makeup. The comment was that she had the most fabulous complexion, long eyelashes and she just had a look that was mesmerizing and that it was all natural to her. Never forgot that comment. That was around the same time as the movie Barefoot Contessa came out.

Ron said...

Ava Gardner then was like Jennifer Connolly now; great beauty, no scripts.

and certainly Ava isn't as sexy as say, ...Larry David.

Sanjay said...

Professor Athouse asks,

"Is she really so especially beautiful?"

so, in case this isn't clear yet from the above responses,

Yes,yes yes. Oh, God, yes. Yes. Yes.

Michael Farris said...

I'd say Ava Gardner was first and foremost a movie star, people tend to confuse that with acting, but in reality, there's not that much connection.

Lot's of good to great actors can't or don't become movie stars and many movie stars are not required to act beyond the barest basics. What movie stars have to have is _presence_ a combination of distinctive looks and command of body language that allows them the ability to hold the camera and an audience's attention. Ava Gardner definitely had that. Acting wasn't her job and she mostly left it to the rest of the cast and counted on them, and the technicians (director, cinematographer, film editor) to make her look good.

It's a little like opera singers, if you have Lucianno Pavarotti's voice and musicianship, you're going to be the leading man no matter that you look like an overfed peasant and have virtually no acting skills.

lindsey said...

I'm pretty sure that even Elizabeth Taylor once stated that Ava Gardner was either the most beautiful or that she wished she looked like her.

the cowardly lion said...

I believe that the dark, smoldering richness of Ava Gardner's appearance that makes her "Ava Gardner", is what makes some people unable to "get" her. Where instead more conventially pretty women like Marilyn Monroe, are often valued more.

I however, find the North Carolina Belle's looks to be simply fabulous. I personally favor her look over Elizabeth Taylor's. However, I do agree that Hedy Lamarr was probably was the most beautiful woman of all... I wouldn't say that everyone knows that though, the average modern day American probably wouldn't even know who she was.

As for the filmography of Ava, I also agree that she made some loosers. So did a lot of beautiful women, and even a lot of talented women. These were the days when actors and actress were practically slaves for their studios. Often actors under contract had little to no control over which films they ended up in, especially somebody like Ava who was a victim of typecasting and assumed to have limited abilities.

Did she actually have the talent though? First let's take into consideration that when Ava Gardner first came into Hollywood as a young woman she had literally no acting training at all or the dream of ever being an actress, she was discovered almost by pure chance when her brother in-law flashed her picture to the right person.

Next take into account that she was in many poor films. Of course bad and terrible movies can make even the greatest of them look like hams. I've seen even Bette Davis and Kate Hepburn look untalented due to bad movies that they made (mainly in the earlier stages of their career).

I've seen Ava Gardner act badly, I've also seen her act well. Was she a great actress? No she definitely was not. Could she have been a great actress? For me the jury is still out on that one. Perhaps if she had gone through years of serious training, and had been consistantly in very good films, with coaching from master directors and actors, the world may have had a different light to look at Ava in instead of whether or not she's your type of beauty.

I think that she had some talent, but it was undeveloped talent. I recommend the 1946 film noir "The Killers" as an example of depth. It is a well-made film based on an Ernest Hemingway story, and I feel that she gives a solid performance in it.

I also suggest 1964 film "The Night of the Iguana" based on the Tennessee Williams play. By this time Ava Gardner is no longer a 23-year old like she was in the killers, and she is trying her hand at a more emotionally-complex character.

Perhaps you may also want to check out "Showboat" from 1951, to be perfectly honest I actually dislike that film. However, I think that Ava Gardner is believable in her character, although she's probably in less than half of the film, her part is mainly just a little side story.