AUTHOR: Peter Evans
DATE FINISHED: June 27
BLURB: Ava Gardner was one of Hollywood’s biggest and brightest stars during the 1940s and ’50s, an Oscar-nominated leading lady who co-starred with Clark Gable, Burt Lancaster, and Humphrey Bogart, among others. But this riveting account of her storied life, including her marriage to Frank Sinatra, and career had to wait for publication until after her death—because Gardner feared it was too revealing.
“I either write the book or sell the jewels,” Gardner told coauthor Peter Evans, “and I’m kinda sentimental about the jewels.” The legendary actress serves up plenty of gems in these pages, reflecting with delicious humor and cutting wit on a life that took her from rural North Carolina to the heights of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Tell-all stories abound, especially when Gardner divulges on her three husbands: Mickey Rooney, a serial cheater so notorious that even his mother warned Gardner about him; bandleader Artie Shaw, whom Ava calls “a dominating son of a bitch…always putting me down;” and Frank Sinatra (“We were fighting all the time. Fighting and boozing. It was madness. But he was good in the feathers”).
REVIEW: I love reading bios of classic Hollywood actors and actresses, but this one is a bit off the norm. It's not a proper bio. Ava withdrew permission before the author could get enough material for the book. Years after she died, he had the idea to frame it as more about the conversations they had, but then he died before he could finish. His editor ended up putting it all together.
I knew all this going in, so I wasn't surprised about how scattershot the stories were, jumping around in Ava's life. Nor was I bothered about how she was portrayed. Some of the negative reviews seem determined to ignore the fact that she was a flesh and blood woman with good days and bad days. She can be charming and sweet, and still be cranky and insecure on other days. I'd rather hear about a person and all his/her foibles than be painted the picture of perfection. I ended up learning more about her (and the author) than I expected, which is a good thing. And I have more respect for her as well. I've always thought of her as just a pretty face when it came to her pictures, and to hear her be so honest about her abilities was refreshing.
SQUARE: Wild (replacing Banned Book)