Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations

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Overview

This wickedly candid memoir that Ava Gardner dared not publish during her lifetime offers a revealing self-portrait of the film legend’s life and loves in Hollywood’s golden age.

Ava Gardner was one of Hollywood’s great 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 and career had to wait for publication until after her death, so ...

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Overview

This wickedly candid memoir that Ava Gardner dared not publish during her lifetime offers a revealing self-portrait of the film legend’s life and loves in Hollywood’s golden age.

Ava Gardner was one of Hollywood’s great 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 and career had to wait for publication until after her death, so concerned was Gardner with its frankness.

“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 an impoverished childhood in North Carolina to the heights of stardom. Tell-all stories abound, especially when Gardner holds forth 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.”).

She has just as much to say about lovers, such as Howard Hughes (“Howard was in my life, on and off, for more than twenty years, but I never loved him.”) and George C. Scott (“I was scared to death of him.”) and would-be lover John Huston (“He had a great life. He lived like a king. God, I miss him.”)—all of whom get Gardner’s unflinchingly honest treatment.

“If I get into this stuff, oh, honey, have you got something coming,” Ava told Evans. Get ready for the most revealing Hollywood autobiography in decades.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Her parents were poor North Carolina cotton farmers, but Ava Gardner (1922-1990) became one of the most glamorous movie stars of all time. Her private life, which included marriages to Frank Sinatra, Mickey Rooney, and bandleader Artie Shaw, attracted almost as much attention as her onscreen romances. In her last years, she worked with ghostwriter Peter Evans on an autobiography, but the project was shelved before her death. In this gathering of their conversations, readers can now savor Gardner extremely candid assessments of her life, her loves, her co-stars, and her secret opinions. Now in trade paperback and NOOK Book.

Publishers Weekly
Jaw-dropping anecdotes about film legends and the studio system in its heyday make this an irresistible read for Hollywood history buffs. A fiery beauty (1922–1990) who loved to fight (even with the author she hired), Gardner inspired uncanny devotion among colleagues, friends, and lovers. Of the latter, there were many, and even seasoned fans will learn fresh tidbits about ex-husbands Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw, and Frank Sinatra, as well as her tumultuous relationships with Howard Hughes and George C. Scott. One of the more touching stories is of Gardner, self-conscious after a stroke left her face partially paralyzed, asking a famed cinematographer to set up flattering lighting prior to meeting with a publisher. Journalists will find the book of interest as it makes transparent the prickly process of ghostwriting. Evans (Bardot: Eternal Sex Goddess) shares the difficulty of sequencing the life of a movie star whose memory is failing and who angrily retracts batches of sensitive material that slip out during 3 a.m. phone calls. Gardner is funny and frank, and Evans’s diligence makes the book not only one of the more revealing celebrity autobiographies published recently, but a candid glimpse into the world of a ghostwriter, star handler, and late-night confidante. 8-page b&w insert. Agent: Ed Victor, Ed Victor Literary Agency (July)
From the Publisher
“I read Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations in a delirious gulp. It is absolutely terrific. I couldn’t put it down. Gardner comes across as a flamboyant but tragic figure who always spoke the truth no matter how painful. And the way writer Peter Evans has shaped their conversations is truly remarkable.”

“Jaw-dropping anecdotes about film legends and the studio system in its heyday make this an irresistible read. . . . Even seasoned fans will learn fresh tidbits about ex-husbands Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw, and Frank Sinatra, as well as her tumultuous relationships with Howard Hughes and George C. Scott. . . . Gardner is funny and frank, and Evans's diligence makes the book not only one of the more revealing celebrity autobiographies published recently, but a candid glimpse into the world of a ghostwriter, star handler, and late-night confidante.”

“An unvarnished account of [Gardner’s] marriages and affairs in golden-age Hollywood. . . . Give[s] a vivid sense of Gardner’s salty, no-BS personality. . . . Juicy.”

Kirkus Reviews
Based on the movie star's late-night ramblings, an unvarnished account of her marriages and affairs in golden-age Hollywood. The films she made weren't the principal basis of Ava Gardner's fame, so it's no great disappointment that there's little here about The Sun Also Rises, Mogambo or The Barefoot Contessa (to name the ones people might actually remember today). British journalist Evans (Nemesis: The True Story of Aristotle Onassis, Jackie O, and the Love Triangle That Brought Down the Kennedys, 2004, etc.) encouraged her to focus on her personal life, and she let loose with plenty of frank, bawdy material about husbands Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra, plus a long list of lovers topped by Howard Hughes and George C. Scott. But even as she was confiding that sex with Rooney was so great they were still indulging after their divorce and that Scott was a mean drunk who frequently beat her bloody, she was having second thoughts about a memoir. Broke and recovering from a stroke, she asked Evans to be her ghostwriter in 1988 because, she explained, "I either write the book or sell the jewels. And I'm kinda sentimental about the jewels." But she never really liked the idea and was often shocked to read Evans' transcriptions of her profanity-laden speech and the salacious stories she probably wished she'd kept to herself. Indeed, since Evans got most of this material from phone calls the insomniac Gardner made when she couldn't sleep and had been drinking, the whole project smacks of exploitation, especially since Gardner eventually decided against allowing this revealing document to be published. Evans revived the project after her death with the permission of her estate, and the pages he produced before his death last year certainly give a vivid sense of Gardner's salty, no-BS personality. Nonetheless, reading it feels somewhat like going through a person's bureau drawers when she's not home. Juicy, but it leaves a nasty aftertaste.
Patricia Bosworth
“I read Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations in a delirious gulp. It is absolutely terrific. I couldn’t put it down. Gardner comes across as a flamboyant but tragic figure who always spoke the truth no matter how painful. And the way writer Peter Evans has shaped their conversations is truly remarkable.”
The New York Times Book Review - Maureen Dowd
"[Makes] you feel as if you're eavesdropping. . . . Watching this Venus ply her mind games, sensuality and stubborn will on [her coauthor, Peter] Evans, it's easy to imagine what it was like to be a love object jerked on her marionette strings in her prime. You wouldn't have a chance."
St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Harry Levins
"As a siren, [Gardner] held her own with [Marilyn] Monroe. And to judge by Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations, Gardner was a more interesting woman. . . . A little jewel of a book."
Philadelphia Inquirer - Carrie Rickey
"A complete delight. . . . [Gardner's] quotes exude the musk of a woman supremely indifferent to the social proprieties and expectations of her era. . . . Hers is the heartbreaking memoir of the ultimate heartbreaker."
Washington Times - Sandra McElwaine
"Profane, freewheeling. . . . Earthy, uncensored. . . . A tough and provocative look into the life of the compelling temptress who, though bruised, managed to stay afloat."
Chicago Tribune - Jeanine Basinger
“Her story is a raw-nerved revelation. . . . A vivid portrait of Gardner.”
The New Yorker - David Denby
“A bristling look at Hollywood attitudes and sexual manners.”
Library Journal
In 1988, British journalist and biographer Evans (Nemesis: The True Story of Aristotle Onassis, Jackie O, and the Love Triangle That Brought Down the Kennedys) was asked to work with ailing former screen siren Ava Gardner on a memoir about her tempestuous life. Evans died in 2012 as he was attempting to complete it; Gardner herself had died in 1990. What remains is this account of Evans's attempts to work with the actress, who was alternately cooperative and difficult. The result is a mélange of the author's reactions to his subject's unpredictable mood swings (she was drinking heavily) and some of the facts he was able to glean from her. Unfortunately much of it is very repetitious and could have used rigorous editing. Although readers do get a vivid picture of Gardner's personality and some facts (many of them salacious) about her husbands and lovers, there is little insight into the root causes of her often reckless behavior. VERDICT This is more Evans's memoir than it is Ava Gardner's, and when it focuses on his own feelings and reactions—which it often does—it is not particularly interesting. [See Prepub Alert, 1/6/13.]—Roy Liebman, formerly with California State Univ., Los Angeles
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451627695
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 7/2/2013
  • Pages: 293
  • Sales rank: 179,159
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author


Ava Gardner was born in Grabtown, North Carolina, in 1922. Her films include The Killers, Showboat, Mogambo, The Barefoot Contessa, The Sun Also Rises, and On the Beach. She died in London in 1990.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 25 )
Rating Distribution

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(11)

4 Star

(3)

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(4)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2013

    Great

    I loved ava's fowardness and her honesty. Its hard to find an interview of her (since she hated doing interviews) it was so nice to read about the real ava in her own words. Funny, witty and truthful.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 5, 2013

    Excellent and earthy, fun to read

    What makes this book unusual is it's based on Mr. Evans' interviews with Ava Gardner, and is mostly in her own words. She is far earthier than you might imagine a screen goddess to be, and while fairly self-aware, she is clearly lonely and unhappy toward the end of her life. This may be why she lowered her guard with Peter Evans and you get an awful lot of fresh, insider information from the horse's mouth because of it. I enjoyed this book greatly, but couldn't help but wish she had been happier at the end of her life. It would have been fun to interview her (with the same frankness) at the height of her career, but this is still a treasure trove of what she really thought and felt, and well worth reading.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 30, 2013

    Ehhh!

    I tried so hard to get through this book but finally put it down about half way through. It just seemed repetitious, never saying much new. Don't get me wrong...I bought the book because I love Ava Gardner. Evidently, it's the actress that appealed to me and not her personal life.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 22, 2013

    I never care about her when she was alive, but...

    This is one of those "starts" of yesteryear that never interested me much. I didn't think she was attractive or interesting. I always thought her life was rather vapid and her acting was worse. After reading this reading this book, I now understand that I was right about her. She never contributed much to the acting world, was not much of a wife, and was a taker not a giver of anything useful to society. The author seems to approve of this lifestyle, as well. Other than servicing her many husbands and lovers, she didn't do much. I read most of this book while multitasking in the bathroom and that's the place for it.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 1, 2013

    Reads like the unfinished project that it is.

    Reads like the unfinished project that it is.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2014

    dul

    I wanted to real a biography or autobiography. This is all about Gardner and how much she didn't want to write this. It was redundant imo.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2014

    To Drake

    If your dominant and into bondage and that type of stuff go to rio res two

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2014

    Drake

    *finishes unhooking her b<\>ra and stares at ur bo.obs *

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2014

    Av&alpha

    Luke? Gtgtb bbt

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2013

    Nate

    There

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 26, 2013

    Highly Recommend

    An easy read. You get a good feel of who Ava Gardner really was beyond her beauty.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2013

    Gat

    Shes bak on

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2013

    Takeover rp at best school

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2013

    Alex

    Walks in

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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