Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ava Gardner

We Love Ava Gardner

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In The Beginning
- To many who worked for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in what was called the home office at 1540 Broadway New York City
1540 Broadway New York City.
, Hollywood was a distant wasteland and the fabled West Coast studio just a mere adjunct to a vast international business enterprise. The actual movies were made "out there" in California, but their fate was largely decided in the Loew's State Building on Times Square. At 1540 they approved scripts, casting, budgets and production schedules, designed publicity and advertising campaigns, controlled print orders and worldwide distribution, it was there that Clark Gable's check was signed. It was at 1540 that some of the very biggest Hollywood stars had their first contact with the movie business.

From early on a critical division of the New York office was the talent department, whose job was the contractual capture of potential effective film actors and actresses and, most important, potential stars. Originally the department was intended to go after only performers who were already well established either on Broadway or European stages, in vaudeville or nightclubs luring them to their motion picture debuts.

With the great success of Metro's Joan Crawford
She was picked from the back row of the Chorus Line.
, plucked from the back row of a New York chorus line in 1925, the studio realized that a discerning talent scout might find real stars, unique, great and most of all profitable like Miss Joan that had no real experience.

These people might even be someone with no discernable talent but perhaps with that "special" quality that could connect with an audience in the dark of a movie theater and so make lots more money for MGM and Loew's Inc. It was an idea born in the very early years of the motion picture business, when "legitimate" stars often refused to work in this primitive medium. Louis B. Mayer took a lesson from Henry Ford: Find him the raw talent and he could process and package the product like any other mass manufactured merchandise. And the Hollywood "STUDIO SYSTEM" was born in the late 1920's and existed until the early 1950's.

So it was the Talent Dept. in New York devoted much time to scrutinizing unknown, unproved individuals for signs, however small, of that "SPECIAL" star quality. They stalked small theater productions, beauty pageants, sporting events, modeling agencies, and even billboards. They left the doors at least partly open to the solicitations of people directly off the street.

1941 was a tumultuous year for the "studio system". In 1938 the U.S. Justice Dept. had filed suit against the eight major Hollywood studios charging violations of the "Sherman Anti-Trust Act" and the practice of "BLOCK BOOKING" and "Blind Bidding" were just getting started. It was early summer of 1941 with December 7 still months away (WW II) when a young dark haired girl walked into the Metro office on Broadway in New York. The activities inside 1540 showed few connections to the glamour and mystery of the sensational Hollywood movies. As she sat and waited to be interviewed it might well have been for a secretarial position.

Here are fifty of my favorite Ava Pix

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Someone finally came out and lead her to the office of a man named Ben Jacobson, a specialist in talent who just sat and stared at her for some time. Finally handing her a few pages of script to read, he sat quietly and listened patiently and after a minute or two asked her to stop. And so began the first tentative steps down the path of what was to become the legend of Ava Lavinia Gardner on a sunny summer afternoon in New York City in 1941. Ava was 19 years old....

There was a time when tobacco was a much revered product and it's cultivation was almost a form of art. Back before big business got a hold of it and mass produced it in a much diminished form. The Piedmont region of North Carolina was just such an area where the 'yellacured' bright-leaf flourished under the watchful eye and gentle hand of the small (50 acres of less) knowledgeable farmer. It was the main cash crop of the region and an enterprising male slave from Catawba County is credited with developing the 'flue-cured' process that began the revolution in the tobacco industry.

The great 'Old Masters' of the artworld such as Rembrandt, Ver Meer, Goya and Delacroix each had their own secret formula for their particular clear concoction known as 'medium' into which they mixed dried color powders to create their particular paints. It is one way to authenticate a painting by an 'old master'. So it was with the cultivation of tobacco. If you've ever seen the movie "PARRISH" (1961) it should give you some insight into the business
The lead cast.
as it existed in that time.

Carefully cured, the mild golden leaves of the Piedmont could be inhaled deeply and held within the lungs delivering a quicker and more addictive kick from the nicotine. Tobacco farmers passed their intricate secrets of cultivation and curing from father to son detailing the long process from January to late summer, seeding, plowing, cropping off, killing out, grading, sometimes making your bed in the barn with the tobacco crop so you could watch the temperature in the furnace all night long, and finally in late August or early September begin preparing the big juicy golden leaves for market.

It was into this environment that Miss Ava first opened her eyes and took her first breath of life. Her early friends were mostly barefoot boys as she helped her Dad work the tobacco. She was a southern 'TOMBOY' at heart and that experience would influence the rest of her life and is key to an understanding of Miss Ava.

This was a time before 'make-up' was in common use, there was no Botox or peels, butt lifts or lipo, silicone or implants that could transform the 'average' to 'exceptional'. A time when only a remarkably few were randomly blessed with a natural beauty that required no enhancement. It was left to nature and '...the luck of the draw..' whether one was beauty or beast. Her effect on men began at a very early age and must have a been a curious experience for a young innocent soul.

Learning to handle such a feminine asset can take a lifetime. It seems to me, many are consumed by the fire of their own fame (Marilyn) but Ava's barefoot past seemed to keep her grounded even when cavorting in the rarefied air of the likes of Frank Sinatra and Howard Hughes. She could cuss like a sailor and delight like only a southern girl can...

Click Pic to see her sing !

Now here just below is a clip from a favorite Ava movie entitled "PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN" with James Mason. There are moments when it feels rather like a Pressberger and Powell release (Black Narcissus) but in fact it was written and directed by Albert Lewin...

Try it Full Screen Mode

If there is indeed a God in Heaven and I was lucky enough to make it there, I would expect his voice to sound exactly like James Mason. There is something about the camera and Ava. Some indefinable quality that makes her presence on screen both very personal and unique. I actually get the feeling that I understand exactly what she's going through.

Take this clip with Stewart Granger from "Bhowani Junction" (1956) for example. Look closely at her face during her performance.....

Personally I believe it was her barefoot 'Tomboy' upbringing that allows her to do that. Her ability to re-create an experience on screen is truly unique. Her beauty is natural with an attractiveness that goes beyond anything done with makeup or surgery.

If you are an avid Ava fan such as I and are interested in getting some film footage, do a world wide search for Ava -> I always find interesting stuff searching there.

Now we come to it, this is not meant to be a BIO about Miss Ava, there are many such BIO's all over the net and no need to create one here. But rather my personal experience encountering Miss Ava on the big screen. She was in my opinion, her most devastatingly beautiful in "Bhowani Junction", her most elegant and mature in "55 Days In Peking", and her most personally revealing in "The Barefoot Contessa", but there is one, ah yes "THE ONE" that stands out in my own mind.

Her role as "Maxine Faulk" in "NIGHT OF THE IGUANA" (1964). I have chosen to believe it was this role that revealed the true nature and being of the Goddess herself. In 1964 Miss Ava was forty two years old and just past her Hollywood prime. A bit puffy in the face and the lines of a life well lived engraved around her eyes. There was plenty of 'baggage' in her personality accumulated in her 42 years. But she knew 'who' she was and the fire still burned brightly in her heart.





It was this Ava to which I finally succumbed and I've been 'in love" ever since. A lusty barefooted beauty that could cuss like a sailor and break your heart with her kindness. A mature woman that had retreated from the world and lived in one of her own making as a Hotel owner in what was then, a rural fishing village in Mexico. It was this film that created Puerto Vallarta as a tourist destination!

Richard Burton and Ava on the set

Richard Burton and Sue Lyon on the set

(Sue Lyon played the under aged sexy ingénue Charlotte Goodall....)

(Sue Lyon with Director John Huston)

Click for Pix!
Night Of The Iguana

John Huston was a powerful and very eccentric man in Hollywood. in 1990 Clint Eastwood took on the persona of John Huston in a thinly fictionalized account of John Huston in "WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART". But John certainly understood human nature and the temptations of life. Combined with the dark writings of Tennessee Williams this turned into a dark and often funny masterpiece. Here on the left are my still photos from this famous production....

Here just below is the powerful poem read by Cyril Delevanti (Nonno)...

Miss Ava in those fishnets !
Miss Ava left us in 1990 at the age of 68. Here ends this small tribute to a life well lived by a barefooted tobacco farmers' daughter.....

Lucky Greg Peck gets a handful of Miss Ava!

Here are some of my favorite Ava Gardner pix.

Beautiful Ava!

♡ ♡ Movie Classics ♡ ♡


Camila said...

Hi! Hope that you understand spanish... Que historia de vida tan bella e interesante. Los felicito por la entrada! Yo tuve la suerte de encontrarmela en dos hoteles en buenos aires. Divina! Bye!

MovieClassics said...

Thanx so much for your comment.

Anonymous said...

The most beautiful woman I have ever had the honour to behold: Ava

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We love Vintage Hollywood! The likes of Errol Flynn, Richard Widmark, Cary Grant, Sterling Hayden and those magnificent ladies of yesteryear!
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