Review: AVA GARDNER: The Secret Conversations, Peter Evans

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Ava Gardner is irresistibly candid and surprising. She began the book because, as she told Evans, ‘it’s either write the book or sell the jewels and I’m kinda fond of the jewels.’ At the time of their collaboration Gardner was living in London, where she had lived for decades, smoking and drinking heavily. Having suffered a stroke that damaged the left side of her face and her left arm she had trouble sleeping and was often depressed – the glamorous wardrobes replaced by grey. Her story could itself have been depressing except for her wit and wickedness, which are on full display in this book. This book tells the story of her life as she wanted to tell it.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK ( July 2013)
Reviewer:  Gerry O’Donnell

Ava Gardner, one of Hollywood’s great beauties, lived an extraordinary life by any standards; a life that could be easily dismissed as an unbelievable movie script were it not, in fact, true.

Her rise to fame and fortune began when, as a beautiful but unsophisticated 18 year-old virgin, she went to Hollywood for an off-chance screen test where, quite by chance, she meets the most famous movie star in the world, Mickey Rooney.  She marries and divorces him (for habitual philandering) after 17 months and is immediately courted by the immensely wealthy Howard Hughes, owner of Trans-World Airlines.  Curiously, Ava Gardner never thought herself an actress and intensely disliked making movies,  She says it was the pressure of her marriages to philandering or demanding husbands that made her take up smoking and drinking, habits that continued until her dying day 50 years later.

The most important feature of this book is not so much the scandalous revelations of big-time movie stars, all of which have been amply recorded in many earlier books and hundreds of articles from the 1940’s to the present day, but the insights into the unguarded mind of Ava Gardner, the woman.  She may have been the most famous movie star in the world and the epitome of glamour, but beneath the Hollywood veneer, “I am just an ordinary woman,” she says of herself.  And beneath the Hollywood veneer, I, for one, believe her.   She is a strong, independent person and would have been a pleasure to know.

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