Frank McLynn

A Wicked, Wicked Life

Ava Gardner


Bloomsbury 533pp £20 order from our bookshop

Ava Gardner, surely one of the best known of all film stars, exemplified the classic rags-to-riches fable. The seventh child of a North Carolina sharecropping tobacco farmer, she was what the unkind describe as poor white trailer trash, with accent and ambitions to match. The height of her aspirations was to be a secretary in New York, but she was ‘discovered’ from a chance snapshot in a photographer’s window and whisked away to Hollywood for the big star build-up, purely on the basis of her looks. And here, straight away, Lee Server’s workmanlike  biography solves one problem that has always puzzled me. While everyone agrees that Ava Gardner was no great shakes as an actress, she was consistently described as a woman of stunning beauty – yet this did not seem to me to correspond with the image I saw on the screen. According to Server, she was one of those rare movie stars who are far more stunning in the flesh than on celluloid; usually it works the other way round, with fairly ordinary-looking men and women being transformed by the magical alchemy of a camera that likes them.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • . is next week! The programme is excellent and there are free copies of Literary Review, to boot! ,
    • 'Britain's spy chief in the Congo replied to a fellow peer who asked her whether SIS played any part in its prime m… ,
    • This month Lucy Popescu covers the plight of poet Galal El-Behairy and activist Wael Abbas in Egypt's crack-down on… ,
    • 'I fear that defending an 18th-century agrarian economist against – well, against whom exactly? – is not the best u… ,
    • 'He lacks empathy with all but the wealthy and has no grasp of the struggles faced by the majority of his concitoye… ,
    • Here's Richard Vinen's review of A Certain Idea of France by Julian Jackson: ,
    • RT : James Crabtree's 'Billionaire Raj' - my review for . "...For sheer chutzpah, India’s billionaires provid… ,