Friday, February 19, 2010

PastPosts * Ava Gardner: Love is Nothing by Lee Server

This was originally posted elsewhere on 06/11/2006. Though I cleaned up some parts, it still reads a bit racy. So sensitive eyes, beware.

"It is said men literally had to support themselves against buildings when [Ava Gardner] walked by," writes Lee Server in Love is Nothing. After reading this compelling biography, it’s clear that the men in Ava Gardner’s life were obsessed with her, and it’s easy to understand why. Her talent, charm and feminine beauty combined with her 'I don't give a damn' attitude captivated them.

Ava’s brief marriage to Frank Sinatra and their subsequent relationship is a highlight of the book. Ol’ Blue Eyes was so taken with her he was brought to the edge of insanity. When he was told of her death, he went to his room and sat there alone, all night and well into the next day. He could barely raise his voice above a whisper when he spoke of her. Ava haunted him to the end of his life.

Examples of Ava's sex appeal and her affect on men spice up the book. Server describes how she’d wander around the house she shared with first husband, Mickey Rooney, wearing only her panties and declare, "Let's f---." In filming a love scene with Ava, Burt Lancaster developed a "pitched tent" and had to take a breather much to the amusement of the crew and Ava herself. Server also relates how some men went to great lengths to have a piece of her, like Ernest Hemingway who saved one of Ava’s kidney stones as a memento.

The actress’s real-life adventures rivaled anything in her films. She knew with age she’d lose the appeal that drove men wild, so she lived it up taking no prisoners while she was able. Ava could drink most men under the table and curse with the best of them. Bhawani Junction costar Francis Matthews claimed, "She could go all night, y'know. She was a wild country girl and liked to let her hair down and fling off her shoes and have a good time." There was no reaching this woman or holding her down. By the age of 35, she had already collected three ex-husbands.

Lee Server knows his subject and obviously admires her. In the book's intro, he refers to her as "a carnal, dangerous angel in the chiaroscuro dreamscape of film noir." Server fondly brings Gardner to life as a warm, refreshingly unpretentious star whose appetites eventually did her in—though, she seemed to have had one helluva time getting there.

Click here for more of Friday’s Forgotten Books courtesy of Patti Abbott.

12 comments:

Barbara Martin said...

An interesting look at movie idols for men. Not really racy.

Chris said...

Awesome. I love a good biography of an interesting subject, and that whole "celebrity" period is nothing if not interesting.

David Cranmer said...

Barbara, A absolutely fascinating lady. I went to her museum in North Carolina and there are so many interesting facets to this idol.

Chris, And these are larger then life stars. Anyone who was anybody then graces this bio. The scenes with Mitchum are particularly amusing. At one point, he hides from Ava because he needed a break from the madness that ensued when they got together.

Cormac Brown said...

Well, you already know how I feel about her. In the aforementioned role with Lancaster, she gave instant credibility to his character just giving up on life, because she had already left him high and dry. I watch Ernest Hemingway's "The Killers" every fifteen months or so, just to refresh my mind as to who was the ultimate noir femme fetale.

David Cranmer said...

Cormac, We are simpatico. Her performance in THE KILLERS is the definitive femme fatale.

Laurie said...

I know of Server through his book Danger is My Business which is a wonderful book about pulp writers. Thanks for posting this again.

George said...

You're right about Ava Gardner defining "femme fatale" with her performance in THE KILLERS. The only one who has come close is Kathleen Turner in BODY HEAT.

Evan Lewis said...

Wow. Now I want to know what spicy bits you purged from this review. And where can I get one of those kidney stones?

David Cranmer said...

Laurie, That's right! BUSINESS totally slipped my mind.

George, Yeah, Turner had the crown for a brief period. Damn, I haven't seen BODY HEAT in awhile.

Evan, Men would get the kidney stones but women would think we're nuts.

Travis Erwin said...

Interesting. I'm ashamed to say after reading this that I know nextto nothing about Ava Gardner.

RJR said...

I have that book right next to me as I'm writing the 5th Rat Pack book, which featuresd Ava Gardner. It's called I'M A FOOL TO KILL YOU, a play on words with the song Frank wrote specifically for Ava (lyrics).

RJR

David Cranmer said...

Travis, Fascinating lady who lived half a dozen lives in one. I have another PastPosts coming up soon where I feature photos of her museum in North Carolina.

RJR, I remember reading in Server's bio that she listened to his music right up to the end.