Ava Gardner and housekeeping

Honestly, I just intended to write a review of The Barefoot Contessa (1954). I did, but it led to some housekeeping — on Piddleville, to the neglect of my actual house.

I felt the need to clean up the appearance of a movie I reviewed back in 2001, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951). And that led me to …

I ended up thinking about Ava Gardner and why it was so difficult to  put her in a decent movie and let her act. One of the things both those movies have in common is using Gardner essentially as scenery. Even as a symbol. But not as a character, although she appears to do her damnedest to be one and, to the degree it was possible, successfully.

I haven’t seen every movie Gardner was in; in fact, I’ve seen relatively few though those I’ve seen appear to be her better known films. There is one big exception. Unbelievably, I haven’t seen The Killers (1946). Don’t ask why; I’ve no idea.

Here is what I have seen and written about:

And then there is this review of Lee Server’s biography of Gardner:

Of the movies, my two least favourites are Pandora and Contessa. It’s probably Night of the Iguana I like best, partly due to the story, partly due to Gardner’s performance. The other is Mogambo — which surprised me. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen that one great movie that starred Ava Gardner. In some ways, she reminds me of the singer Eva Cassidy who the music industry could never figure out how to box and package.

Gardner’s problem with the movie business was different. Movies don’t appear to have gotten past the idea that she was a beautiful woman.

Other matters — what’s with the ads, pal?

You’ve probably noticed I have a lot of Amazon links and ads. I even put up a Barnes & Noble ad. Even a Google ad. They’re cluttering up my sidebar and appearing here and there in some of my reviews. The reason is simple: I’m experimenting. So they will likely clutter things up for a bit longer till I see what works, what doesn’t, what is unobtrusive but helpful and what isn’t.

As for the “what works” business, it may well be that nothing works. But I figure if something I’ve written gets someone interested in a film or book, I can make it easy to buy it, assuming someone would want to.

And there is, of course, the matter of paying for what it costs to run the site. Piddleville has been kicking around since about 2000 and I’ve never made any money from it but I have forked out quite a bit in registration, hosting and other costs. So if I can create a small revenue stream, at least enough to pay for the site, that would be a good thing.

I’m not much of a huckster; I’ve never wanted to be. But if I can generate some revenue without being an annoyance, I think that’s okay. For the moment, I’m just testing a few things and once I figure out what, if anything, works and isn’t a pain in a visitor’s behind, I’ll strip things back.

For the moment, however, please be patient! :)

Movies, books and upkeep

I guess you could say I did a bit of house-cleaning with my blogs today – a sisyphean task to complete, but I gave it a go.

Although Piddleville continues to be an organizational mess, I made a few changes – temporary ones, I hope. (It needs some fixing). One was to create a “book review” section because I have a few movie related book reviews here and there. I added two today (yes, a very small start):

My Wicked, Wicked Ways – the Errol Flynn autobiography from 1959, and a wildly entertaining read.

The combustible Ava Gardner – the Ava Gardner: ‘Love is Nothing’ biography by Lee Server from a few years ago, also tremendously entertaining.

I don’t do a lot of book reviews but when I do it’s usually because I really enjoy the book, as was the case with both of these.

While I was at it, I also added a brief (and sadly lacking) review of one of my favourite movies, The Night of the Iguana (1964).

The combustible Ava Gardner – review

Ava Gardner: ‘Love is Nothing’ (2006)
by Lee Server

Book cover for Ava Gardner: "Love is Nothing"I recently finished reading Ava Gardner: “Love Is Nothing” by Lee Server and it’s nothing if not entertaining. Somewhere, he makes mention of her living life “like a rocket.”

It’s an apt description but I think I’d say she lived like she drove cars – fast, carefree and just a little bit out of control (and with more than a few crashes).

It really is an extraordinary life and, if the end has a bit of sadness to it, it should be seen in context. Her highs were very high and the lows – well, very low. It strikes me as a life characterized by extremes.

I found the biography very good and, as one reviewer mentioned (I can’t remember who it was), while Server details the good and the bad he does appear to have an affection for his subject. But then, really, who didn’t? One thing the biography makes fairly clear is how easily most people found Ava to like, even to love.

And yes, the book covers all the marriages and the affairs and, good grief, there were a helluva a lot of them.

As for her film work, one thing that comes across (for me, at least) is how much we missed of some fine acting – for several reasons. In part, a studio that seemed incapable or indifferent to placing her in good roles, and also Ava’s own insecurities and capriciousness. She was better than she knew, better than the studio allowed her to be and so she probably never achieved what she might have on film.

We do, however, have Ava Gardner in some gems, like The Killers and (my favourite) The Night of the Iguana. (Server often mentions the film Pandora and the Flying Dutchman and, while Gardner is quite fine in the film, as is James Mason, the movie as a movie is a bit of a turkey.)

If I have any objection to the biography I think it is that an explanation for the kind of personality Ava Gardner had may be absent, though I’m not sure anyone could actually explain what went into making Ava Gardner. This is not to say the book omits anything or is remiss in anyway. But she seems to have experienced major swings in mood (many, I would imagine, caused by alcohol – she was, I think, an alcoholic, taking it in like water). She was also plagued by insecurities.

And really, what explains that relationship with Sinatra? Alcohol and combustible personalities … It’s an explanation but I’m not sure that fully accounts for it.

Whatever the reasons, Ava Gardner’s life is utterly fascinating. And perhaps more than just the endless incidents and relationships, it may be its inexplicable quality that makes it most compelling.

Also see: