Frank McLynn

A Wicked, Wicked Life

Ava Gardner

By

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.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Why did the 'bold and determined' Empress Matilda never manage to become Queen regnant? Peter Marshall reviews a n… ,
    • From the Archive: Martyn Bedford on Ian McEwan's 'Atonement' ,
    • In 'Silenced Voices' reports the ongoing story of the human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been… ,
    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,