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on 26 August 2007
If you have ever watched a film starring Ava Gardner and been enchanted by her face, acting and voice, you will surely want to know how her life unravelled and what her many loves, husbands and one-night stands resulted in.....
Lee Server has used a lot of slang, presumably to match his subject, and he does give you a pretty complete picture of this somewhat wild, amoral woman. But he also makes you realise she was a very decent person and certainly her own woman.
She was a better actress than she was given credit for, and was one of those movie-stars one simply couldn't take one's eyes off....not just because of her classical beauty, but because of something warm, earthy, lovable and fascinating within her.
She did not lead a very happy life, and this book is no hagiography. But it's fascinating account of Hollywood in the 40s, 50s and 60s, shows very well how a beautiful woman like Ava Gardner could get caught up in the star-making machinery, meet men of all types, some of whom wanted to "mould" her, went her merry way the moment a man did something she didn't like, failed to have a child which might have grounded or fulfilled her, and finally grew old, lost her beauty, became ill, and died like everyone else. But not quite like everyone else because, after all, she WAS Ava Gardner. I could not put this book down. A well-researched, rivetting read.
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on 25 April 2006
A lengthy but addictive read about the bitter sweet life of Ava Gardner. Thorougly well researched, particularly in respect of film production and anecdotes from co-stars and others who knew or met Ava. Written in a dispassionate yet understanding style by clearly an intelligent and insightful biographer.

Any fan of Ava Gardner or a curious on-looking should read this excellent and defining biography.
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on 16 November 2007
If you have ever seen a film with Ava Gardner you will understand why people thought she was one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the silver screen. Today's stars pale by comparison. This is a fantastic book that gives you an idea of the complicated person behind the image. It makes you wish you had had the chance to get to know her as a person. I bought the only copy in the English language bookshop here in Rome and it was a well-thumbed copy. I fully intend to buy the book in hardback. In fact I liked it so much I wrote to the author and asked him if he had any intentions of writing a book about Lana Turner! Another great star from the past.
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VINE VOICEon 26 November 2008
Finally a defining and well researched biography on this remarkable lady. I don't think that any one book will ever truly capture the uninhibited, hedonistic, hurricane of a personality that was Ava Gardner. What struck me deeply about Ava's life story, was the fact that like so many "sirens" of her time, Ava's fame, notoriety, fondness for liquor, relentless search for happiness, and flight from public scrutiny, where characteristics, flaws and traits engrained within, from their "upbringing" within the Hollywood studio system. Ava's star was on a course set for worldwide attention and admiration, almost from the very beginning, a path that was hers alone. A real "broad" and magnificent beauty, at a time in movie making when beauties truly had to be naturally beautiful.
I believe that anyone who reads this excellent biography will come away with a tinge of sadness, and empathy, for a "dame" who befriended Hollywood Royalty, Noble Royalty, homeless victims, builders, maids and butlers. Now that is a genuine "legend".
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on 6 January 2016
This isn't a great piece of writing. But it is decent biography- and that's all I was expecting. The beautiful dark eyed girl from North Carolina, chased by men and adored by millions. Her life is a Hollywood story itself..small town southern girl spotted in a photo, under contract to MGM for 50 bucks a week and walk on parts in forgettable movies.. Marrying everyone's boy next door Mickey Rooney. Stalked, bugged and attacked by the strange Howard Hughes. Night moves with cold hearted band leader Artie Shaw. Some very predatory men chasing her through unenlightened times. Success with The Killers. Public disapproval with Sinatra. Mixing up the medicine in Mexico while The Sun Also Rises, with faded stars Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power. Multiple lovers. Car crashes. Naked night swimming. Restless international travel. More lovers. A horribly abusive fling with George C Scott (easy to see what the "C" might have stood for). A somewhat quiet ending in London.

But for all her adventures, wildness and debauchery, she was a really good actor. The camera loved her, of course, which made her a movie star, but she really could act too. There was substance to the style. Sadly, some poor career choices followed in her later years; turning down Mrs Robinson and choosing TV. Maybe she needed a good strong manager.

Like any other man, I fell in love with Ava very early on - the first grown up woman to make me feel strange about myself. I fell harder in my 20s when I saw her, older but somehow more sexy and earthy, in The Night of the Iguana. I visited Mexico because of that film.

There is something of the failed screenwriter and noir novelist in the sometimes tortuous prose of Lee Server: "her eyes like Andean emeralds" ..."the existence of the mediocre nagged at him like a bleeding ulcer"..."love was a trick, a double cross"...."she lived now without plan or purpose, escaping the past"..but it's an entertaining romp through a kind of life that is no longer lived. Hollywood feels cold, calculating, sanitised and clinical now. There's little drama or artistic flourish, and none of the great characters like Ava Gardner or anyone in her orbit. Movie stars now trot out well rehearsed publicity anecdotes on chat shows. Ava comes from a lost world, and she will forever be that elusive goddess on the silver screen. She belongs to that past. She belongs to the stars.
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on 8 May 2008
Fantastic, often hilarious, never anything other than utterly riveting portrait of a woman you'll wish you were best friends with. Rich anecdotes set during the golden age of Hollywood give this immense depth and with real emotional punch.
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on 26 September 2009
Thank you Lee Server for such a great read. Well researched with good indexing and lots of information about Ava, including all the men in her life. If you are interested in Mickey Rooney, Howard Hughes, Artie Shaw, John Huston, Kirk Douglas, Robert Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Robert Mitchum ....... the list goes on - you have to read this book!
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on 31 January 2010
I neglected to read the blurbs on the front and back cover, and so I was taken aback at how down-to-earth the writing style was, as if Ms. Gardner was talking to you personally. The reason for this was that the had recorded most of the material and this gives the book a nice, friendly feeling.

Well well written, with long stretches of gossipy tid-bits on Frank Sinatra, Artie, Shaw, and Mickey Rooney, any Hollywood buff must have this in his/her collection. Gardner was truly one of the most beautiful women ever and it is sad to read about her downhill turn to alcohol and self-pity. But beneath all that is a wild cat of a woman who lived life to the fullest. I'd recommend this book, right up there with This 'N That by Bette Davis, and Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson. Also, the biography Memoirs (Penguin Modern Classics) (Tennessee Williams) is first-rate in the ground covered. Ms. Gardner's auto-bio may not be the total truth, but it is fascinating and highly entertaining.
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on 1 October 2010
This is not the most consistently engaging of biographies - the author has a habit of including details that just don't need to be there, especially when recounting film productions, as if some kind of word count needs to be met regardless of what the narrative actually requires - but this is still a very interesting account of a fascinating woman and an unforgettable star.
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on 31 August 2015
My, what a gal she was!!. A quite superb read about the always enthralling Ava. Lee Server has done a terrific job bringing alive those times from decades long past. I have to applaud Mr.Server and emphasise that this book was as enjoyable as his biog. on Robert Mitchum. Page turners that make you sorry when the book ends. Bravo!
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