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The Ava Gardner Blogathon Arrives

The big event has finally arrived! Over the next two days several wonderful bloggers are joining me to celebrate Ava Gardner. I decided to host this blogathon due to Ava being a great favourite of mine. The blogathon is also being held on these particular dates because the 24th of December is Ava’s birthday. 

Check back to this post over the next two days to read all of the entries. I’ll update this post as often as I can do. 

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Day 2 Entries

Poppity writes about Ava’s 1960 film The Angel Wore Red.

 

Diary Of A Movie Maniac tells us all about 55 Days At Peking.

 

Overture Books And Film writes about another lesser known Ava film called The Great Sinner.

 

Pale Writer writes about a little known Ava Gardner film called Riding For Glory.

 

Movie Rob writes about Mogambo. He also writes about The Night Of The Iguana

 

Vinnieh shares his thoughts on Pandora And The Flying Dutchman.

 

Critica Retro writes about the delightful film One Touch Of Venus.

 

Musings Of A Classic Film Addict tells us about her visit to the Ava Gardner museum.

 

Day 1 Entries

Silver Screenings gets the blogathon off to a terrific start, with this excellent post about Ava’s character in the film Mogambo

 

Down These Mean Streets tells us about the time Ava played an unforgettable Femme Fatale in The Killers

 

Caftan Woman takes a look at Ava’s 1946 Noir Whistle Stop

 

Dubsism writes about the sports analogies hidden in Ava’s disaster film Earthquake.

 

Realweegiemidgetreviews discusses The Cassandra Crossing.

 

The Stop Button writes about Ava’s performance in Seven Days In May.

 

I talk about the romantic fantasy Pandora And The Flying Dutchman

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The Ava Gardner Blogathon: Pandora And The Flying Dutchman(1951)

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This is my entry for my Ava Gardner blogathon being held on the 23rd and 24th of December, 2018. 

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Pandora And The Dutchman kissing on the beach. With the yacht in the background. Screenshot by me.

Watching this film is like entering a vivid dream. The only film that I can really compare it to is Portrait Of Jennie, as both of these films have this dreamlike quality and poetic and haunting atmosphere. Pandora And The Flying Dutchman is a film that I think you have to completely surrender yourself to for it to work the way it should.

The film is a slow build and it is one that is all about emotion and mood. The film is surreal, artistic and truly beautiful to look at. The story is a mix of romance, mystery, tragedy, the supernatural and fantasy.

I also like how the film can be viewed in two ways. It is pretty clear that the mysterious Captain is the real Dutchman, and that all that happens later is due to some supernatural power or some fantastical element. Yet you can also view all that happens as mere coincidence only, and you can think that the characters believe the legend and somehow make it seem like it has come true.

Pandora

The film is inspired by the legend of the doomed Flying Dutchman, a man who is cursed to sail the world for all eternity. In this film the Dutchman has been cursed after he murders the woman he loves. The cursed man sails the globe alone for centuries. His curse can be lifted if he falls in love with a woman who loves him so much that she will die for him(imagine having that conversation on a first date!)

The film was directed and written by Albert Lewin(The Picture Of Dorian Gray, The Moon And Sixpence). The film features beautiful colour photography by the legendary Jack Cardiff(Ava never looked more beautiful than she does in this film, thanks partly to the cinematography of Jack Cardiff). Albert and Jack’s vision helps to make this film a real treat, but the undisputed main draw for us in the audience is Ava Gardner and James Mason as the doomed lovers.

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Ava is at her most beautiful and bewitching as Pandora. Screenshot by me.

Both James and Ava totally convince as a couple who are drawn to one another for reasons that they can’t quite understand. When they look at each other they really do manage to capture that something inside them both is connecting to one another.

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Henrick and Pandora. Screenshot by me.

James has a weariness and otherworldly air about him that makes you believe he is someone who has lived through time. Ava captures the reckless nature of her character perfectly, and she makes it seem like Pandora knows she has been waiting for the Dutchman all her life. 

Pandora And The Flying Dutchman begins on the coast of Esperanza, Spain, in the early 1930’s. Two dead bodies are caught in the nets of local fisherman and are brought back to the beach. Some who gather on the beach know who the dead people are and they are very upset.

In flashback we see what led to this sad event. Our guide and narrator throughout the film is Geoffrey Fielding(Harold Warrender)an archaeologist and historian who knew the two dead people. 

                  Pandora with each of the three other men who love her. Screenshots by me.

Pandora Reynolds(Ava Gardner) is an American woman living in Esperanza. She is  a reckless woman, beautiful, adventurous, fun, destructive, seductive and passionate. Many men are drawn to Pandora. One of her admirers(Marius Goring)commits suicide when he realises he will never really have her love. A fearless and passionate bullfighter(Mario Cabre) becomes crazed with jealousy once he falls for Pandora. Pandora doesn’t really love any of these men. Deep down inside herself, Pandora somehow knows that the man who she is destined to give her heart to is not in her life yet.

Pandora becomes engaged to racing car driver, Stephen Cameron(Nigel Patrick), Stephen has her attention and affection until she becomes intrigued by the owner of a yacht anchored off shore. One night she swims out and climbs onboard. There she meets the mysterious Henrick van der Zee(James Mason). She is a little freaked out when she sees that he has painted a woman who looks just like her. As the film goes on we also see that Pandora looks exactly like the long dead woman Henrick loved and killed(who we later catch sight of  in a portrait). 

                        Pandora and Henrick first set eyes on each other. Screenshots by me.

The pair slowly develop a friendship which quickly turns into love for both of them. Pandora’s love for Henrick also changes her as a person, she becomes kinder, more tender and sensitive. For the first time in her life, Pandora Reynolds experiences the mix of joy and agony that love can bring.

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Henrick and Pandora share a kiss. Screenshot by me.

We later learn that Henrick is the Flying Dutchman. The Dutchman realises that the woman who can break his curse is Pandora, and despite his desperation to be free, he just can’t bear to think of her having to give up her life to break the curse. You will have to watch the film to find out what happens next. 

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Ava Gardner as Pandora. Screenshot by me.

I can imagine no other actress in the role of Pandora Reynolds. Ava does so much with this character. She is so ethereal in the role. Ava makes us think that this woman has somehow known all her life that this romance and fate is the reason for her birth.

Ava also makes us both love and hate Pandora, maybe hate is too strong a word because I never fully dislike her. The way that she dismisses those who love her so is very cruel to watch though. Ava performs her role from the heart, she lays bare her soul and emotions in this film, more so than in any other performance she ever gave in my opinion. It’s one of her best roles. 

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James Mason as the anguished Henrick. Screenshot by me.

James Mason conveys a sorrow and desire that makes you want to reach out and give Henrick a big hug. He totally makes you believe that he is this tired and ancient man.

I love the scene on the beach where Pandora confesses her love for Henrick. In that moment James does such a good job of making us see that Henrick so wants to accept her love, but instead he chooses to push her away to try and save her from possibly being able to break the curse.

Henrick loves Pandora so much that he cannot bear to lose her, even if her loss could set him free from the curse. James and Ava have a lovely chemistry and I would have loved to have seen them together in more films. James was never more intense or full of pain and sorrow than he is in this film. His monologue and performance during the flashback sequence contains some of the best acting he ever did, very moving and powerful indeed.

Nigel Patrick(such an underrated actor), Shelia Sim, Mario Cabre, Marius Goring and Harold Warrender all provide excellent support. I love the side plot of the one sided love that Shelia Sim’s character has for Nigel Patrick’s Stephen, we know that she is the woman who really deserves his love. I always long to see a bit more of that couple later in the film. 

I highly recommend this film to any fan of Ava Gardner. She is the heart of this film. Any other fans of this film out there? What do you think of the film and Ava’s performance?

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Announcing The Ava Gardner Blogathon

After toying with the idea for a while now, I have decided that I want to try and host one more blogathon this year. The subject for the last 2018 blogathon will be Ava Gardner.

Ava would have been 96 years old this year. I decided that I would hold this blogathon over two days, one of which is her birthday. I do hope that you will all join me to celebrate the life and career of this screen legend. Ava is someone who I admire a great deal. What you saw with Ava was what you got. Ava was open, generous, kind, fun and honest. She always seemed so down to earth too. 

For this blogathon you can write about any of Ava’s films. You can write about your favourite Ava Gardner performances. You can write a tribute to her. You can write about her life and career. I will accept two duplicates per screen title. You may write more than one post if you wish, but no more than three posts per person please. 

The blogathon will be held on the 23rd and 24th of December, 2018. If Ava was still with us today, she would be celebrating her 96th birthday on the 24th of December this year. 

If you would like to join in the fun, simply let me know what you want to write about below. Take one of the banners from below and put it on your site somewhere to help promote the event. Have fun writing about Ava and watching her films.

 

Films that have now already been chosen twice are The Killers, Pandora And The Flying Dutchman and Mogambo.

 

Participation List

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films: Pandora And The Flying Dutchman

Poppity: The Angel Wore Red

Dubsism: Earthquake

Movie Rob: Mogambo and Night Of The Iguana

Down These Mean Streets: The Killers

Caftan Woman: Whistle Stop

Palewriter2: Lone Star

Silver Screen Classics: The Killers

Realweegiemidgetreviews: The Cassandra Crossing

Musings Of A Classic Film Addict: Write up about her visit to the Ava Gardner Museum

The Stop Button: Seven Days In May

Silver Screenings: Mogambo

Vinnieh: Pandora And The Flying Dutchman

Diary Of A Movie Maniac: 55 Days At Peking

                                        Overture Books And Films: The Great Sinner

Critica Retro: One Touch Of Venus

In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood: East Side, West Side

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Disaster, Drama, Page To Screen

On The Beach (1959)

What would you do if you knew that the world was coming to an end? How would you react to such news? How would you cope with having this new fact in your life?Stanley Kramer’s 1959 film, On The Beach, tackles all these questions and many more as well. It is a powerful, moving and very unsettling film experience. You will also never be able to hear the tune Waltzing Matilda without remembering moments from this film once you’ve seen this. That tune is used as the theme of the film. 

The film is filled with haunting scenes that are hard to shake off once you’ve finished watching the film. Scenes such as Peter and Mary having a conversation about suicide pills. The sailor leaving the submarine and going ashore to the radiation filled mainland of America, so that he can die at home in surroundings he knows and loves. That same crewman’s description of finding his parents dead. Chilling stuff for sure.

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Dwight and Moira comfort one another. Screenshot by me.

On The Beach is an adaptation of the 1957 novel of the same name, which was written by Nevil Shute. At the time of the films release there was great public fear of Atomic and Nuclear weapons. I’m sure this film chilled many viewers to the bone at the time, particularly due to its unflinching look at the aftermath of one of these weapons being used. The film is scary and thought provoking. Almost sixty years later and this film still remains a frightening and powerful film experience. Sadly the film still remains relevant as mankind is still intent on having these weapons around.

I like how the film captures how many different reactions various people have to the news of the end of mankind. Some can’t handle it and escape into a bottle of booze, some go to extremes to feel and experience life while it still exists, and some simply refuse to accept that there is no hope of survival whatsoever. It always makes me think how I would react in such a situation.

On The Beach poster

The film is set in Australia. The entire population(apart from people in Australia)have died due to radiation sickness following a Nuclear war. The radiation is being spread on the winds, and it is estimated to arrive in Australia in around five months time. The citizens there are trying to come to terms with the war, and with the fact of their own impending fate. An American submarine, the U.S.S. Sawfish, surfaces off the coast of Australia. It was submerged when the war began, and therefore the crew were not exposed to the radiation spreading across the surface of the planet.

The submarine has been travelling around the globe and briefly surfacing at various countries, only to find no sign of life. Captain Dwight Towers (Gregory Peck)and his crew dock in Australia and come ashore. Despite Dwight’s wife and children having been killed in the war, he just cannot accept that painful fact and still acts as though they are living. While the crew are ashore, Dwight befriends the guilt ridden scientist Julian Osborn (Fred Astaire) and the outgoing and boozy Moira (Ava Gardner). Dwight and Moira slowly fall in love with one another. Dwight however cannot permit himself to act on his feelings though because he still considers himself married.

Dwight and his crew are joined by Julian and Lt. Peter Holmes (Anthony Perkins)after a Morse signal is picked up coming from America. The crew must travel there and try and find out if anyone has somehow managed to survive. While all this is going on, the countdown to human extinction has begun and the clock is ticking fast.

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Peter and Mary have a difficult discussion about the suicide pills. Screenshot by me.

This is an extremely bleak film and I don’t find it to be an easy watch at all. The performances of the cast make it a must see though. I find it to be extremely moving and I think that it captures so well the horror and tragedy such an event would bring about in reality. I find the human stories to be the main reason to return to this one again and again. It’s both fascinating and moving watching the different characters and how they react to their approaching deaths.

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Gregory Peck as Dwight. Screenshot by me.

Gregory Peck is completely heartbreaking as a man trying to appear to be in control of his emotions. Inside though Dwight is anything but in control of his emotions. Dwight is consumed with a grief that he cannot display publically. Gregory shows us his tough façade cracking a few times though.

Thanks to Gregory’s superb performance we see Dwight really struggling to stay in control and we also see him wrestling with his conscience in regards to his developing and undeniable feelings for Moira. 

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Fred Astaire as Julian. Screenshot by me.

Fred Astaire is best remembered today for his incredible dancing skills, but he was also a very fine dramatic actor. His performance here as Julian Osborn is one of the best he ever gave in my opinion. Julian was a Nuclear scientist and he feels tremendous guilt that something he helped to build is now ending up destroying humanity.  

Fred steals every scene he is in with just a look. In many scenes he is in the background but you keep your focus on him to see how he is reacting at certain moments. I also like the look on his face in scenes where Julian watches Dwight and Moira, he seems to know before they do that they are falling in love. I think Julian knows that their time together will be very bittersweet and he pities them because of that. I think that Fred is especially excellent in the scene where the Sawfish crew ask Julian to try and explain how the war started in the first place. 

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Ava Gardner as Moira. Screenshot by me.

Ava Gardner touches my heart as Moira. She conveys the sadness and fear that Moira is struggling with perfectly. Moira is such a tragic figure because she has so much love to give, and she wants to spend her final days being happy with Dwight.

Ava perfectly conveys this woman’s inner turmoil, as she struggles to blot out the pain of the present by consuming booze and how at the same time she finds in Dwight a reason to stay alive and sober to savour every moment they have left. I think Ava delivers one of her most underrated performances in this film. She makes you want to hug Moira because she is so vulnerable and loveable. 

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Anthony Perkins as Peter. Screenshot by me.

Anthony Perkins is excellent as the young Lt. Peter Holmes. I’ve never been much of a fan of Perkins, but I really do like him in this film. Peter and his wife have recently had a baby, and his wife is really struggling to accept the truth of what is about to happen to everyone. Anthony perfectly captures the emotional and moral distress Peter is in.

When Peter has to decide if he and his young family will take the government issued suicide pills or not, Anthony really lets you see how much of a difficult decision that is for Peter. It is the kind of decision that nobody should ever have to make, but the film forces you to think what you would do in his place. Would you accept the slow, painful and deeply unpleasant death caused by radiation? Or would you have one last beautiful day surrounded by those you love, still being healthy and in control of your life, and then take the pill and peacefully slip away? 

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Donna Anderson as Mary. Screenshot by me.

Donna Anderson breaks my heart every time I watch this. Donna plays Peter’s wife, Mary. This woman is terrified of the truth about the end of the world but she won’t accept it or even talk about it. She too must decide how to meet her end.

I think many people would react like Mary, still holding out for hope even when faced with the opposite reality. Donna portrays Mary’s hysteria and terror very well indeed. 

John Tate is Admiral Bridie. John only appears in a few scenes but he is excellent when he does show up. I really like how he subtly conveys his love for his much younger secretary, Lt. Hosgood (Lola Brooks). Those feelings are there in the way he looks at her. The way Hosgood looks back at the Admiral also gives me the impression that they both felt the same way. Watch them carefully in their scenes together.

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Bridie and Hosgood share a drink. Screenshot by me.

I especially love their final scene together where they share a drink. That scene moves me each time I watch it. The scene is beautifully played by both actors. I also love the weight of what is inferred between them but how it is never said, it makes for a very powerful and touching moment.

If you are among the few people on the planet who actually believe we should have Nuclear weapons; then I would seriously hope that this film (particularly the final ten minutes, and the famous final shot)would make you change your opinion. I would also recommend you watch the film Fail-Safe and the TV miniseries Threads and The Day After

Just having one of these terrible weapons in the world is one too many. These films and series show what will happen to us if we ever use them. It annoys me so much that some members of our species are intent on creating ways of bringing about our destruction. We should learn to love each other, because at the end of the day we are all the same, we are all human and will all die one day. Why can’t our time on earth be filled with happiness instead of war and hate?

As bleak as this film is, it also does have some happy moments and it also focuses on the many good points about humanity. We see characters give and receive love. We see compassion, friendship and kindness. It makes you think that you should really value your life because you could lose it at any time. I also like that the film ends on a plea that could be seen as being directed straight at us in the audience. That plea is “There is still time… Brother”. Nuclear destruction is not Science Fiction, it is a terrifying real life possibility, but we do have it within our power to stop it from becoming an horrific reality.

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The plea aimed directly at us. Don’t let our world end like this. Screenshot by me.

I’m sure that audiences back in 1959 cannot have found the final shot of the plea to make for comfortable viewing. After all this final shot would have reminded them that the horror they’ve just seen wasn’t fiction. At the height of the cold war this film cannot have been an easy one to watch. Given the state of our world right now, I’m afraid that this  film sadly remains very relevant and chilling for us to watch today. Will we ever come to our senses and get rid of these weapons and our hate? I hope we will get rid of them.

My favourite scenes are the following. Julian and Peter’s conversation on the submarine. Dwight trying to explain to Moira at the train station how he feels about his dead family. The young sailor leaving the submarine and going ashore in San Francisco, he chooses to die there (his home city)but he will do so alone. Julian trying to explain how the Nuclear war started. Bridie and Hosgood sharing a drink and an important conversation. The scene during the boat race between Dwight and Moira. Moira watching the submarine submerge. Moira and Julian’s conversation in his garage. The final scene.

This is a powerful film and is one with an equally powerful message to deliver. Strong performances from all the cast and a beautiful score to enjoy . Be sure to see this one on Blu-ray to see it looking its best. I highly recommend the novel too. It goes into more detail about how the war started. It also graphically describes the symptoms of radiation sickness, while the film only hints at those horrors.
Any other fans of this one? Please leave your thoughts below.

Book Chat

Ava: A Life In Movies by Kendra Bean and Anthony Uzarowski

Photo0190My most treasured gift this Christmas has been this beautiful book about Ava Gardner. It is a glossy book focusing on her film career. It also discusses her early years (which I found most interesting)and her private life.

Some information featured in it I already knew about, but there was much revealed here that I wasn’t aware of. I also learnt a great deal more about her early years, and how she started out as an MGM starlet. 

The book includes so many beautiful photos of Ava, many of which are new to me. The book is worth buying for the photos alone.

Ava’s personality comes through strongly in this book. I have always liked Ava because she was her own person. She was kind, fun, outgoing and she did her own thing. Ava was a free spirit and was someone who was very down to earth, despite her worldwide fame and position in life.

She treated everyone the same; be they cast or crew, adoring fans, or simply an ordinary person who she met by chance. I also like how Ava treated black and white people equally and had many black friends in a time when racism was rife. This book made me like her even more than I already did.

The book also conveys how deeply insecure and shy Ava was. She didn’t think much of her acting talents, and she was also a very private woman who didn’t like media attention. 

Kendra and Anthony have clearly done their research and it really shows. The book is not only beautiful to look at, but is also a very interesting and entertaining read. The book captures the woman behind the beautiful and glamourous screen image and helps bring her to life. I also really like how they focused more on her film performances and acting ability than on her personal life. They show us that there was more to this woman than just her good looks and highly publicised personal life. 

This would make a perfect gift  for fans of Ava, or for someone who loves classic era films. The way this book has been put together means it’s ideal to read in a group. You can gather together and flick through the book, lay it out on a table and look through it.

Physically it is a very glossy and high quality book. I highly recommend this one to fans of Ava.

Oh, and be sure to go and stop by Kendra’s beautiful blog Viv and Larry.com to learn more about Vivien Leigh and her husband Laurence Olivier.