In a recent article in Vanity Fair, one of my favorite things to read, I saw a preview for a new biography on Ava Gardner: Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations. Other books have been written about this starlet, none of which she actually colloborated on. Before reading the book, I didn’t know much about her, but now I am definitely interested in watching some of her old movies! Ava worked with Peter Evans on this book, who had already written a few notable biographies. He wrote biographies of Brigitte Bardot, Aristotle Onassis, and Peter Sellers. Evans began working on this book in 1988, when he was approached by Gardner, but was sidetracked for a variety of reasons. He began taping their conversations for later work on the biography. These conversations went on for quite some time, and he kept all of them.
Before really finishing this project, she decided to go with another biographer, one who would create the image she wanted to present in a biography. This book was published in 1990, called Ava: My Story. At the time she began working with Evans, Gardner was 66, and had suffered from a stroke in 1986. She had once been one of Hollywood’s greatest stars, but at this point in her life she was nearly broke. She reminds Evans several times throughout the course of the book that the only reason she wants to work on the book is because she needs the money, she is also very concerned about her image that will be represented in the book. She seems to not trust Evans in presenting this image, which probably explains why this biography was not finished during her lifetime. Evans, along with the BBC, had been sued by Frank Sinatra in 1972 by exposing his alleged connection with the mafia. Ava passed away in January of 1990, and it took years for Evans to gain the permission of the Gardner family to publish these taped conversations. He passed in August of last year, and it was after that the publication of this book truly began.
“She had been called ‘the most irresistible woman in Hollywood,’ and ‘the world’s most beautiful animal.’ Such encomiums were typical of the hype that was de rigueur in the Hollywood marketing machine of the 1940s and ’50s, but they were not inappropriate. Ava Gardner’s whole life had been defined by her beauty and the many and various lovers it ensnared – and she famously devoured…She had seduced by, married to and divorced from, lived with and walked out on, some of the most famous names of the twentieth century.”
She was apprehensive of writing a biography, believing it was tacky to write a Hollywood tell-all. She also worried about the reputation of Frank Sinatra, her third husband, whom she still had strong feelings for. She was also once married to Mickey Rooney and Artie Shaw, and had once dated Howard Hughes. Because the book is published almost as a transcript of these taped conversations, Ava’s voice and story is uncensored. The details of these relationships are just as juicy as any tabloid tale today. She is not necessarily known for her great moves, as she is remembered for her famous lovers. Like many actresses, her career began to decline as she got older. Yet, as these conversations illustrate, she was sensual, charming, and very. This is a must-read!