Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Ava Gardner Conversations

Bastards are always the best survivors. -On why Frank Sinatra would outlive her. 

I could never take Surrealism seriously after that.  -Said after her crazy meeting with Salvador Dali in Spain. 

Tough, beautiful, self-depreciating, loving a good joke and manipulator, this is how I see Ava Gardner after reading Ava Gardner:  The Secret Conversations. 

What was suppose to be her tell all book, turned into a post mortem collection of conversations for both Ava Gardner and the author Peter Evans.  Rumor has it that she canned the idea of this book after telling Frank Sinatra about it.  He supposedly asked her what the publisher was paying her for the book.  He sent her a check for that amount not put it out. In 1990 she released Ava:  My Story without the participation of Peter Evans. 
 The kernel of the book began in January 1988 when Ava approached Evans about ghost writing her memoirs.  Subsequently, they had many conversations; about half of them took place in the wee hours of the morning.  Ava died two years after their initial conversation took place.  In 2009, Evans decided to put his research into a book.  I was not aware that the author had died of a heart attack before finishing The Secret Conversations. 
Ava married Mickey Rooney when she was 19.

This book can easily be skimmed. There is repetition, especially when it comes to Ava pondering whether to actually release this book or not.  She gives you a glimpse into Hollywood of the 1940’s and 1950’s (It was either a blast or debauchery depending on how you look at it) and I do mean a glimpse.  If you are interested in hearing about her films, try another source.  I would have loved to hear the story behind working with her idol Clark Gable on Mogambo. 

The most poignant insight into Ava’s last years comes from the meeting at her place in London with the head of Simon & Schuster, who wishes to publish her book.  Ava was considered one of the most beautiful women in the world. She prided herself on swimming and playing tennis in her 60’s.  She probably thought these activities would counter her chain smoking and drinking.  She suffers a stroke that leaves half her face paralyzed and a limp left arm. 

Here comes her modified Sunset Blvd moment.  When Evans sets up the meeting she immediately tells him "Call Jack Cardiff.  Tell him I desperately need him."  Jack is one of the top cinematographers.  He rearranges the lamps in Ava’s drawing room to make her look her best. Jack tells Peter, "It’s the best I can do discreetly.  Remember, it’s always the cameraman, never the star.  Tell her she looks good even if she doesn’t believe you.  It’s a tribute you must always pay to great beauties when they grow old."

People really had an affectionate and realistic take on Ava. They played her game, which she played truthfully and no one was fooling the other.  

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