Ava Gardner


  1. Merle Oberon, Night in Paradise, 1945.       Producer Walter Wanger wanted MGM’s  Gardner  for the Persian Princess Delerai due to wed King Croesus, circa 560 BC. Universal insisted on Oberon. Neigher lady could save such a turkey from a director Arthur Lubin, mainly known for Abbott & Costello and Francis The Talking Mule turds.  
  2. Barbara Stanwyck, East Side, West Side, 1948.       Casting changes for all kinds ofreasons, including, once in awhile … adultery! The first that Ava realized that Barbara knew about Ava’s “secret” affair with Stanwyck’s husband, Robert Taylor… was when Barbara used her clout to snatch Ava’s lead in this Metro soap opera and had Ava forced her into an unimportant support role.Who’s da boss!
  3. Ann Sheridan, I Was A Male War Bride, 1948.      Director Howard Hawks felt that Ava could not handle Catherine, the  US Women’s Amy Corps officer who  wed Cary Grant’s stuffy French Army captain. and the only way he can travel with her to the US  was by  joining the war bride quota. Therefore, Cary had to disguise himself as herself, long hair, nylons and acting extremely feminine. No, said director Howard Hawks, “Just do it like a man women’s clothing.”  Won’t work, said Grant. So Hawks got dragged up for a Heidelberg party with the military  top brass – red wig, cigar and “Gotta light, general?” A convulsed Grant got the message and followed suit. “I honestly feel it’s the best comedy  I’ve ever done.”

  4. Hedy Lamarr, Samson and Delilah, 1948.
    Cinemperor Cecil B DeMille’s 1935 plan been Henry Wilcoxon with Joan Crawford, Larraine Day, Dolores Del Rio, Paulette Goddard, Jane Greer or Miriam Hopkins….  Next in line, producer David O Selznick envisaged Kirk Douglas and Marlene Dietrich… By ’48, CB got serious.  He sought a mix of Vivien Leigh, Jean Simmons and “a generous touch of Lana Turner” from among … Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Rhonda Fleming (the Queen of Babylon, 1954), Ava Gardner, Greer Garson (Mrs Miniver!!), Susan Hayward  (1951’s Bathsheba), Rita Hayworth (the future Salome), , Jennifer Jones (St Bernadette in 1943), Patricia Neal, Maureen O’Hara, Nancy Olson (too demure), Jean Peters, Ruth Roman, Gail Russell, Ann Sheridan, Gene Tierney… even such surprises as comical Lucille Ball (!) and song ‘n’ dancer  Betty Hutton.  Plus the Dominican Maria Montez (perfect!), Italian Alida Valli and two Swedes: Viveca Lindfors and Marta Toren.  But CB had already fancied Lamarr for his unmade epic about the Jewish queen Esther (played by Joan Collins in 1960).  Here’s a Samson review signed Groucho Marx: “No picture can hold my interest where the leading man’s bust is larger than the leading lady’s!”  (

  5. June Allyson, Right Cross, 1949.       Sure helps if you’re sleeping with the star.  Allyson was the wife of the movie’s star, Dick Powell.  First choice would have made more sense. Ava!  Or even the girl just about seen as the model Dusky La Dieu in her tenth movie.  Marilyn  Monroe.
  6. Jeanne Cagney, Quicksand, 1949.      Stealing, er “borrowing” $20 to splash on a date with his gal is just the start of Mickey Rooney’s problems. The main one being he didn’t want to make this B-thriller but A Ticket to Tomahawk with   Anne Baxter. Gardner didn’t want it, either, and got her way. She was. of course, The Mick’s  ex-wife (1940-1941). Andy Hardy, he wasn’t anymore.
  7. Yvonne De Carlo, The Girl Who Took The West, 1949.       Howard Duff, Stephen McNally and Deanna Durbin (or A Gardner) became Scott Brady, John Russell and Yvonne Yvonne De Carlo. Their tale was told three ways – by two Western cousins and the gal they’re fighting over – in a Western Rashômon made a year before Japanese ace Akira Kurosawa made his instant classic – re-made as a Western in its turn as The Outrage, 1964.
  8. Deborah Kerr, Quo Vadis, 1950.       Took America 26 years to film Henryk Sienkiewicz’s 1895 epic novel about ancient Rome. MGM won the rights in 1925.  And planned to shoot in  1935…or ’42… or ’43… By 1950, Lana Turner was set for Lygia. When he couldn’t get her, director John Huston, quit at the first opportunity – ie when Gregory Peck’s eye injury meant he had to leave Rome, ancient and modern.
  9. Elizabeth Taylor, The Girl Who Had Everything, 1951      The usually trustworthy  Daily Variety reported on  August 2, 1951 that Gardner would play Jean Latimer.  Liz, however, was far better suited to the role. And the title! 
  10. Jennifer Jones, Carrie, 1951.        Frank Sinatra’s career was in tatters and Ava supported her greatest love every which way – not helping her own career by refusing most everything including this class act: William Wyler filming a Theodore Dreisler novel with Laurence Olivier.

  11. Eleanor Parker, Scaramouche, 1951.      “‘He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad…” Impossible to be Leonore in this MGM film as she (always) had another MGMovie to make.
  12. Ginger Rogers, Monkey Business, 1951.  Howard Hawks directs Danny Kaye  and Ava Gardner in… No, wait a minute. Cary Grant (obviously) got to hear about the screwball comedy and so it became Grant and Ginger Rogers involved with an elixir of youth.  And Marilyn Monroe stealing scenes as a skittish secretary.     Next time we saw them together, Tony Curtis was “playing” Cary in Some Like It Hot, 1958.
  13. Elizabeth Taylor, Ivanhoe, 1952.   But Ava got to play Guinevere in the same castle (exceptnow it was Camelot) in The Knights of the Round Table, 1954, with Robert Taylor (except now he was Lancelot).
  14. Mary Welch, Park Row, 1952.       Tough guy auteur Samuel Fuller financed his cut-price Citizen Kane – and lost the whole shebang: $200,000.The Press loved the newspaper story, but Darryl Zanuck was right. To win the the public Sam needed stars. For example, Gardner as the tabloid queen boss of honest editor Gregory Peck.Or (better) Peck and Susan Hayward.
  15. Jean Peters, Pickup On South Street, 1952.       Ava, Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe and Shelley Winters… Maverick auteur- and “tabloid philosopher”! – Samuel Fuller, who invariably spoke in CAPITALS, was offered a jolie brochette to choose his Candy: “NOT SEXY ENOUGH to be a hooker, NOT SMART ENOUGH to be a housewife. AVA WAS JUST TOO LUSCIOUS TO BE CREDIBLE.”
  16. Elizabeth Taylor, The Girl Who Had Everything, 1952.  Or, indeed, The Boy…  as during a swimming pool scene, Fernando Lamas, in tight white trunks, displayed just how excited he was to meet Liz Taylor.  The scene was hurriedly reshot when his, er, ardour,  cooled down.   Ava had been first announced first for lawyer William Powell’s daughter. 
  17. Eleanor Parker, Scaramouche, 1952.  
    “I was never an actress – none of us kids at MGM were.  We were just good to look at.”    And,    she always  added:  “exploited  like animals.” Of herself, she declared:  “She made movies, she made              out and she  made a fucking mess of her life. But she never made jam.”

  18. Pier Angeli, Sombrero, 1953.           What does a gal do?Her stormy lover, Frank Sinatra, wanted to take her on holiday to Hawaii. MGM wanted her to start a dullard romantic drama. Answer: She was suspended by Metro in a note sent to her in…  Honolulu!
  19. Lana Turner, Betrayed, 1953.       Or how Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Richard Widmark became Clark Gable, Lana Turner and Victor Mature. When La Turner missed a wardrobe fitting appointment in London for Clark Gable’s Metro finale, the suits reached for Gardner or Jennifer Jones. You don’t mess with MGM… But Turner talked her way back. She was, after all, on honeymoon with the fourth of her seven husbands. Lex Barker, aka Tarzan, circa 1948-1952.
  20. Phyllis Kirk, Crime Wave1954.        Head Brother Jack Warner is screaming at director André De Toth.“What the hell are you thinking of?I offered you Bogart and Ava Gardner, the biggest names. You don’t want them…! Go ahead, Tex, make the goddamned picture with nobodies. Cut your own throat.  But you’ll have to shoot it in 15 days. Go on, get out!” De Toth was delighted at refusing Bogie a second time and getting his own way.” He shot the thriller in14 days – with Bogie and Ava he’d have had 35.

  21. Lana Turner, The Prodigal, 1954.       Prodigal means “recklessly wasteful and extravagant.”  Exactly.  Change of  Samarra, the lightly-clad temptress who incited history’s first juvenile delinquent, Edmund Purdom, to leave home. Now, over to our on-set reporter Lana Turner in her autobio… “The Prodigal Son they named Micah, and to play him, chose Edmund Purdom, a young man with a remarkably high opinion of himself. His pomposity was hard enough to bear; worse yet was the garlic breath he brought back from lunch. My lines were so stupid I hated to go to work…. Even the costumes were atrocious… the material was so stiff that I felt I was wearing armor. ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘I may be trapped in this picture, but I’m going to make myself as sensuous, sexy, and gorgeous as possible.”
  22. Doris Day, Love Me Or Leave Me, 1954.    After MGM thoughts about Janes Morgan and Powell, Gardner was suspended for refusing the biopic of 30s’ stage and screen singer Ruth Etting, a shady chanteuse caught up with a gangster called  Marty “The Gimp” Snyder. (Director George Cukor also refused; he didn’t do gangsters!).  Forget it, Ava  cabled from Spain. She was only returning to the US for her divorce from Sinatra, not for another musical where “I stand there mouthing words like a goddamn goldfish while you’re piping in some goddamn dubbed voice” (as happened on Show Boat, 1951). A third Jane (Russell) was battling  to play another singer, Lilian Roth, in I’ll Cry Tomorrow – also aimed at Ava.  Co-star James Cagney suggested Doris Day for the role, far from all her future rom-com virgins. Her best work, she thought. Her fans, not so much. Doris lost an Oscar but won Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, as a result. 
  23. Susan Hayward, I’ll Cry Tomorrow, 1955. MGM went through nan odd mix of actresses and ages! (from Piper Laurie at 23 to Jane Wyman at 38) to play the 30s’ alcoholic singer Lilian Roth.  Ann Blyth, Grace Kelly (!),Janet Leigh, Jane Russell, Jean Simmons and  Shelley Winters. Director Charles Walters quit when his choice of June Allyson (no, really!) was rejected (obviously) while Ava Gardner stopped trying to win another 30s chanteuse, Ruth  Etting  in  Love Me or Leave  Me,  to battle  for Roth. After winning Best Actress at the 1956 Cannes festival, Hayward won her fourth Oscar nomination. She won one for  the similar sounding but way heavier I Want to Live! about the 1955 gas chamber execution of alleged killer Barbara Graham. Said her producer Walter Wanger: ‘Thank goodness, we can all relax, Susie’s won the Oscar she has been chasing for 20 years.
  24. Olivia De Havilland, That Lady, 1955.       “And I made a mess of it,”admitted De Havilland afterone Howard Hughes lover substituted another.
  25. Grace Kelly, Green Fire, 1955.       In the two years since sharing Gable in Mogambo, Alfred Hitchcock had made Grace the bigger MGM name.For better or  worse, Ava’s philosophy had always been: “If I’m in love or having an affair, I stop working.”
  26. Elizabeth Taylor, Giant, 1955.
  27. Maureen O’Hara, The Magnificent Matador, 1955.      Why play opposite Anthony Quinn’s fake bullfighter, when she was playing Budd Boetticher’s script for real with Luis Miguel Dominguin in Spain. Her career never interested her. “I did it for the loot, honey, always the loot.”
  28. Rosanna Podesta, Helen of Troy, 1956.      For the face that launched a thousand ships… how’s about Ava, Yvonne De Carlo, Rhonda Fleming, Liz Taylor, or Lana Turner?  No, let’s find an unknown Italian who can’t speak English….
  29. Sophia Loren, The Pride and the Passion, 1956.      As usual, Frank Sinatra had jumped into ta role that Marlon Brando refused. He soon wished he hadn’t. (a) He hated locations. (b) His wife, Ava Gardner, couldn’t be Juana due to The Little Hut. (c) Their marriage was crumbling. For her first English-speaking debut, Loren mastered the language with the aid of director Stanley Kramer’s then-wife, Anne.
  30. Jane Russell, Hot Blood, 1956.       Director Nicholas Raywanted Ava and Marlon Brando for his gypsies and settled for Jane and…Cornel Wilde??!!   Marlon saw the result.  And thought Russell-Wilde looked good… “in their costumes.”

  31. Yvonne De Carlo, Band of Angels, 1957.      Ava passed on another “mixed blood” heroine after Show Boat, Bhowani Junction, despite the star being GableHerpal, directorGeorgeCukor,told her the beauty from North Carolina’s Grabtown: “Ya jes talk lak ya done in Grabtown and it’d be perfect. “
  32. Rita Hayworth, Fire Down Below, 1957.    She wasn’t interested but Robert Mitchum was happy with the Ava idea. During My Forbidden Past, 1951, they’d had a wild affair replete with (allegedly) golden showers.
  33. Elizabeth Taylor, Raintree County, 1957. Apart from the all-star luncheon seen inso many Hollywood documentaries,MGM also planned to celebrate it’s 1949 silver jubilee by adapting Ross Lockridge’s novel for Ava, Van Heflin,Lana Turner, Robert Walker.
  34. Marlene Dietrich, Witness For The Prosecution, 1957.      As if he didn’t have enough trouble settling upon his hero (Kirk Douglas, Gene Kelly, Jack Lemmon, etc), Billy Wilder considered both Ava and Rita Hayworth for the titular Christine Vole.Their Cockneyspeak would have been no less horrendous than Marlene’s.

  35. Elizabeth Taylor, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, 1958.  
    “Miz Taylor was never my  idea,” said Tennessee Williams.  The playwright hated the film. Before    director Richard Brooks took it on, MGM planned Ava opposite Anthony Franciosa or William Shatner as Brick in monochrome. Also seen: Carroll Baker. Grace Kelly, Lana Turner.   In mid-shoot, Taylor’s  third husband, producer Mike Todd, died in a plane crash on March 22, 1958. She  collapsed but returned to woerk between April 14-May 19 – “the film saved my life.” 

  36. Haya Harareet,  Ben-Hur, 1958.      Sword and sandal epics were in.  And producer Sam Zimbalist, who’d made one of the biggest – Quo Vadis, 1950 –  was back in Rome in charge of the re-make of the 1923 silent Ben-Hur, racing chariots and all.  Sam even considered retaining his Vadis trio: Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Stewart Granger. However, the battle for Esther was between Italian Pier Angeli, Santa Barbara’s unknown Carolyn Craig and Swiss Liselotte Pulver.  Liselotte  won but was contracted to Germany’s Gustav Adolfs Page. Enter: Israel’s Haya Harareet, from the Israeli Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer, 1955.  She  retired in 1964 after just eight films in nine years.
  37. Barbara Bel Geddes, Jovanka e le altre (US: Five  Branded Women, Italy-US, 1959.      With their heads shaved for sleeping with German soldiers during WWII, five Yugoslav women then bravely fought for their homeland with the very partisans who had humiliated them.    Also seen for the heroines: Claire Bloom, Julie Harris, Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren, Shirley MacLaine, Barbara Nichols, Lee Remick. Bel Geddes was not shaved for the film due to her next assignment on Broadway. (Jeanne Moreau also wore a skullcap or bald-wig).
  38. Sophia Loren, The Millionairess, 1960.      “Ava would have been terrible,” said UK producer Dimitri de Grunwald taking over the rights.“All the chemistry would disappear.You need Sophia’s buoyancy.”
  39. Belinda Lee, The Story of Joseph and His Brethern, 1960.      The Columbia tycoon, Harry Cohn, kept talking to Ava about his dream movie in 1952 when all she talked about was how “that sonofabitch husband of mine” was perfect for From Here To Eternity.
  40. Sophia Loren, El Cid, 1960.  Another day, another epic…  This time in Spain.  La Loren was always producer Samuel Bronston’s choice for Doña Jimena – even at $1m for ten weeks work – but when negotiations stumbled, he began musing about German teen Christine Kaufman (15; living with Tony Curtis at age 16), the French Jeanne Moreau, Swiss Lisolette Pulver and British Moira Shearer. Ava simply refused because the titular Charlton Heston’s role was bigger than hers. Heston nearly followed her on learning La Loren’s $1m salary was way bigger than his. And that, peop[e, is why he would never look at her  during their love scenes. Such a gent!
  41. Dorothy Malone, The Last Sunset, 1960.       Producer (and star) Kirk Douglas and his Western’s director Robert Aldrich said the tough pioneer Belle Breckenridge was for Ava. But Malone had scooped a surprise Supporting Actress Oscar on March 27 1957 for Written on the Wind… also co-starring Rock Hudson.

  42. Geraldine Page, Sweet Bird of Youth, 1962.      
    Ava was  plain scared of tackling Tennessee Williams (that, she felt,  required real actresses) and even more scared of playing, well, herself.  Alexandra del Lago was a washed-up, man-hungry movie star!Scripter-director Richard Brooks wanted Garbo and no one else as the Hollywood has been  – think Norma Desmond with a Tennessee Williams spin. She did not agree, of course. Brooks also tried Rita Hayworth,  Lana Turner, plus Greek Melina Mercouri and  Austrian Maria Schell, – before realising no one   could match Geraldine Page from the 1959 Broadway play – which also featured her husband, Rip Torn.!Two years on, director John Huston persuaded Ava  (and not Bette Davis!) to be Maxine in Tennessee’s  Night of  the Iguana,  which  he based on her  sad sexiness. Besides, as he told her that year:  “The truth, dear Ava, is simply I want you in  every picture I ever make.”

  43. Capucine, The Pink Panther, 1963.
  44. Gina Lollobrigida, Cervantes, (US: The Young Rebel), France-Italy-Spain, 1966.  Two years earlier producer  Ely Landau had booked   Alain Delon, Anthony Quinn (or Yul Brynner) and Ava Gardner for his peek at the early  life of the Don Quixote author Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra.. But the bad bio-pic was finally produced by the Salkinds, Michael and his son Alexander, with Horst Buchholz, José Ferrer and Gina Lollobrigida. Michael Salkind had made the 1932 Don Quixote film in Spain.
  45. Anne Bancroft, The Graduate, 1967.       

  46. Elizabeth Taylor, Reflections In A Golden Eye, 1967.  
    Before John Huston got it on with Taylor, Marlon Brando, and Robert Forster, UK director Tony Richardson tried to film the Carson McCullers story in the early 50s with Jeanne Moreau and Burt Lancaster…  Ava was announced for the wife of the sexual mess Major Weldon Penderton 1964.I turned down more roles than I accepted… and to be honest, the ones I accepted were often for all the wrong reasons… Hell, baby, after 25 years… if all you’ve got to  show  for  it  is Mogambo  and The Hucksters, you  might as well give up.”

  47. Melina Mercouri, Gaily, Gaily,1969.       Director Norman Jewison got his way when producer Walter Mirisch wantedAva as the brothel madam, Queen Lil,  giving a penniless Beau Bridges room and board in 1910 Chicago.
  48. Melina Mercouri, Promise at Dawn (aka La promesse de l’aube), France-USA, 1970.   Vittorio De Sica was first signed to direct Romain Gary’s autobiographical novel with either Gardner or Ingrid Bergman. Finally, Jules Dassin made it with his wife as Gary’s Russian, ex-silent film actress mother, who said Time’s critic Stefan Kanfer,   “who could give Sophie Portnoy lessons in classic and popular Momism.” Ex-child sar Chatlotte Gainsbourg played her in a 2017 French re-make.
  49. Hildegarde Neil, Antony and Cleopatra, 1972.       Eighteen years earlier, duringJulius Caesar, MGM production chiefDore Schary wanted Joseph Mankiewicz to direct Marlon Brandoas Marc Antony again – with Ava as Cleopatra!  Marlon refused, Joe was aghast…but then turned Ava into his form of Cleo, The Barefoot Contessa, 1954. He late re-wrote Shakespeare for Liz Taylor and Richard Burton in Cleopatra, 1962.
  50. Piper Laurie, Appointment With Death, 1987.      As Frank Sinatra told her by  phone: “It stinks getting old,” In 1986, while in hospital with pneumonia, Ava had a stroke affecting her speech and left arm; not her mind. “The part [of Emily Boynton] was of a crippled woman,” said Michael Winner. “She wanted  to do it.  We agreed on everything. You could see her face… and her movements  slightly disjointed. But it would have been fine. Close to the starting date, she  called on  him. ‘Michael, I hate to let you down, but… I’m just not up to it.’  It’s OK, Ava, I understand. She was the most gracious person, a very sensitive person.” IMDb uncvered a wonderful May 1987 letter from Sir John Gielgud to actress Irene Worth, saying he was  booked into Israel “to do a rather absurd part in an Agatha Christie…might be fun, even with that vulgar but quite funny director, Michael Winner.”

    >>> Footnote

                   Robert Mitchum told how on one of their films together, he and the crew hung a sign on her dressingroom door: Honest Abe.  “Because she wore her own bosom.”  












 Birth year: 1922Death year: 1990Other name: Casting Calls:  50