A VIDA DE AVA GARDNER, DOS MURROS DE HOWARD HUGHES ÀS AMEAÇAS DE SUICÍDIO DE SINATRA (2013)
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A vida de Ava Gardner, dos murros de Howard Hughes às ameaças de suicídio de Sinatra
10 ago. / 2013
Lançada biografia não autorizada escrita a partir de conversas com a actriz no final dos anos 80.
Ava Gardner com Frank Sinatra, o seu terceiro marido
Esta não era exactamente a autobiografia que Ava Gardner queria publicar.
Mas, a avaliar pelas críticas publicadas em vários jornais, Ava Gardner: the secret conversations, que acaba de ser lançada nos Estados Unidos pela editora Simon & Schuster, é muito mais interessante do que a biografia oficial da actriz, Ava: My Story, autorizada pela própria e publicada em 1990 pela Bantam, nove meses depois da sua morte.
O livro agora lançado é o resultado de várias conversas mantidas, em Londres, entre Ava e o jornalista britânico Peter Evans, a que ela tinha inicialmente proposto que escrevesse a sua biografia. O trabalho começou, os dois encontraram-se diversas vezes – ela chegou mesmo a fazer-lhe telefonemas madrugada dentro, partilhando as suas angústias – mas cancelou o projecto quando descobriu que tinha havido problemas entre Evans e Frank Sinatra, com quem Ava tivera um turbulento casamento. Ainda dependente do apoio de Sinatra, a actriz, que por essa altura já sofrera dois AVC que lhe tinham paralisado parte do rosto, não queria problemas com o ex-marido.
A decisão de fazer uma biografia – o nome de Evans tinha-lhe sido sugerido pelo amigo Dirk Bogarde – partira de uma questão muito prática: Ava precisava de dinheiro. Pragmática, explicou a Evans: “Ou escrevo o livro ou vendo as jóias. E sou um bocado sentimental em relação às minhas jóias”. Havia alguma urgência. “Em breve, querido”, disse, “deixará de haver milho no Egipto”.
Ava morreu, a inócua biografia que deixou pronta foi publicada, e passaram-se vinte anos até Evans decidir pegar nas gravações das conversas e preparar um livro. O jornalista morreu no ano passado, deixando Ava Gardner: the secret conversations praticamente pronto. Antecipando o lançamento, a revista Vanity Fair publicou na sua edição de Julho um excerto. E o que contou, afinal, Ava Garner a Peter Evans nesse ano de 1988 quando tinha já 65 anos e a sua lendária beleza era cada vez mais uma memória? (foi ela quem disse um dia que Elizabeth Taylor “não era linda, era bonita”, enquanto ela, sim, era “linda”).
Não há grandes revelações no livro, mas há relatos da sua vida em Hollywood e, sobretudo, das várias relações amorosas. O seu casamento, em 1942, com o actor Mickey Rooney acabou por causa das infidelidades dele, mas Ava, que na altura tinha apenas 19 anos e acabava de chegar a Hollywood, fala de “Mick” com carinho.
Ao contrário, por exemplo, da relação com o milionário Howard Hughes, que incluiu cenas em que ele a esmurrou e ela lhe atirou com um cinzeiro à cabeça. A actriz de A Condessa Descalça (Joseph L. Mankiewicz), Mogambo (John Ford) ou A Noite da Iguana (John Huston) recorda que “havia sangue por todo o lado, até sangue verdadeiro nos Bloody Marys”. Igualmente violenta foi a relação com o actor George C. Scott, que se embebedava e lhe batia, e na manhã seguinte não se recordava de nada do que se passara. Com o músico de jazz Artie Shaw (segundo casamento, entre 1945 e 46) as coisas não correram melhor – Ava conta que perdeu totalmente a autoconfiança e que começou a beber a sério, e acusa-o de pertencer à “esquerda caviar” e de detestar que ela fosse actriz.
Mas a relação mais forte da sua vida foi com Sinatra, com quem casou em 1951, e de quem confessava sentir saudades. Sinatra não estava num período particularmente positivo quando os dois se juntaram e Ava conta que ia ver os espectáculos dele perante salas meio vazias em Itália. “Eu tinha que estar apaixonada para ir assistir àqueles espectáculos”. Se ela era a estrela em ascensão, ele estava a ir na direcção oposta. “Independentemente do que eu fizesse, o facto de ele depender de uma mulher para lhe pagar algumas contas – a maior parte delas, na verdade – tornava tudo muito pior”. Quanto à suposta ajuda da Máfia, Ava nega que ela existisse. “A chamada Família não estava em lado nenhum quando ele precisou deles”.
Sinatra era ciumento e nunca perdoou a aventura “de uma noite” de Ava com o toureiro espanhol Mario Cabré. Ela confessa: “Ele era bonito e eu tinha bebido demais. Foi um erro terrível. E contar a Sinatra também não foi boa ideia. Veio a correr para Espanha e queria matar o pobre desgraçado”. Disse-lhe que se ela lhe contasse tudo, ele lhe perdoaria. Ela contou, e ele não perdoou.
Mas Sinatra era – sempre – um dramático, segundo Ava. Uma das técnicas que utilizava frequentemente era ameaçar suicidar-se. Um dia, Ava ouviu um tiro dentro do quarto. Quando entrou ele estava sentado na cama, com a pistola na mão, “sorrindo como uma criança”. Tinha disparado contra a almofada.
MAN RAY, Ava Gardner portrait
'There was blood on the walls and the furniture': How reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes punched Ava Gardner in the face - so she smashed an onyx ashtray over his head
By PETER EVANS
PUBLISHED: 00:37 GMT, 24 June 2013 | UPDATED: 08:27 GMT, 24 June 2013
On Saturday, in the first part of a major series, we revealed in Ava Gardner’s own words how her marriage to Mickey Rooney was plagued by his infidelities. Today, in our second extract from a new book — based on a series of interviews suppressed during her lifetime — she tells PETER EVANS about her violent relationships with Howard Hughes and George C. Scott, her adoration of musician Artie Shaw and her affair with Robert Mitchum...
Why had they been arguing? All that Ava Gardner could recall was that her latest boyfriend had suddenly punched her hard in the face, dislocating her jaw. And instead of bursting into tears, she’d coolly smashed an onyx ashtray over his head — and probably killed him.
‘There was blood on the walls, on the furniture — real blood in the Bloody Marys,’ Ava told me years later.
Volatile: Ava Gardner with Howard Hughes in 1946 - 'We fought all the time,' she said
Classic beauty: Hollywood star Ava Gardner had a tempestuous love life
There was a long silence. Then she said: ‘Call Jack Cardiff.’ Cardiff had photographed Ava in both Pandora And The Flying Dutchman and The Barefoot Contessa. In 1988, when I phoned him, he was probably the world’s leading cinematographer — but he came round to her flat right away.
After setting up a key light above a chair in Ava’s sitting-room, Cardiff told me: ‘It’s the best I can do discreetly. When she sits in that chair, keep telling her how beautiful she looks.
‘Lay it on thick. She won’t believe you — she’s too smart to fall for blarney — but it’s what she wants to hear. It’s the tribute you must always pay to great beauties when they grow old.’
The next day, when I arrived for the meeting with her publisher. Ava was sitting in the chair Cardiff had lit for her. The ruined side of her face was in darkness and she tilted her head so the light made her eyes shine. Tricks of the trade, she said.
The publisher was utterly bowled over — just as she’d intended. Just as most men always were.
At the age of 20, newly divorced from her first husband Mickey Rooney — who’d awakened her powerful sex-drive — Ava had been catnip to men. That’s when aviation billionaire Howard Hughes had come calling.
‘Nothing was ever an accident with Howard,’ she recalled. ‘He had people meeting every plane, train and bus that arrived in Los Angeles with a pretty girl on board. He had to be the first to grab the new girl in town.
‘And when he read the story of my divorce in the papers, he decided I was the new girl on the loose.
‘Howard never cared much about what he wore, or what he looked like. Maybe on our first dates he did — but he went downhill pretty fast after that. And he was never really aware of his personal hygiene.’
So what was attractive about him, then? She considered that for a while.
‘He was a skinny guy, not bad looking, well over 6?ft. He reminded me of my father. He had a kind of remoteness about him like Daddy had, and that’s always attractive in a man.’
It also helped, she said, that he was 17 years older and ‘infinitely more serious and smarter and sophisticated than anyone else I’d dated up to then’.
True, he was still seeing plenty of other women, but, she pointed out, ‘that didn’t stop him proposing to me all the f*****g time.’
His wealth never impressed her much, though he showered her with diamonds and furs. In the middle of the war, he even used to bump four-star generals out of their airline seats (Hughes owned TWA) for Ava.
Nor did she really appreciate his idea of a date, which was to hire an exclusive private club, clear it of people and have an orchestra playing while he and Ava dined alone.
‘The first couple of times were amusing — although dining a deux in an empty restaurant can lack a bit of atmosphere,’ she said. ‘It felt as if we were a couple of actors being served by other actors on a candlelit stage.’
It was during the first stage of their long-running affair that she fell wildly in love with the band-leader and clarinetist Artie Shaw, who was then the big heart-throb of the jazz scene.
Much to Hughes’ chagrin, he was quickly (if temporarily) dumped. When Ava told him that the bandleader wanted to marry her, he warned: ‘It won’t last five minutes. He doesn’t love you: he just loves the idea of sh**ging you.’
Sadly, said Ava, Hughes was right. ‘We married in ’45 — October 17. Artie dumped me one week after our first anniversary. The b*****d broke my heart.’
At that time, Shaw, who was earning the equivalent then of $1?million a week, was already tiring of fame and had embarked on a lifelong mission to educate himself. The people he hung around with were all Left-wing ‘pseudo-intellectuals’ — as Ava described them — and she told me she’d ‘gotten seriously into socialism’ herself. Indeed, she still had the books to prove it.
‘We’d go to the Russian consulate,’ she recalled. ‘We’d sit down to dinner and the vodka bottles would appear, and the caviar. That’s when I got a taste for the hard stuff.’
Chiefly because she felt inadequate, she soon started drinking to excess.
‘Artie was difficult, he was complex, but I was stuck on him,’ she explained. ‘I was crazy about him.
‘He was smart as a whip: he always knew what I was going to say next. To tell the truth, I was always a little afraid of him. Not physically. Not the way I was scared of GCS [the actor George C. Scott, with whom she had an affair in the Sixties]. When GCS was loaded, he was terrifying — he’d beat the s*** out of me and have no idea next morning what he’d done.
‘I’d be lying next to him, black-and-blue and bleeding, and he couldn’t remember a thing.
‘Artie was another kind of bully. He was a dominating sonofabitch.
‘I don’t know which was worse: GCS’s physical violence or Artie’s mind games. He used to put me down so much I lost complete confidence in myself.’
Ava’s poverty-stricken rural childhood and basic high school education had left her ill-equipped to shine in Shaw’s milieu. Cruelly, he told her to keep her mouth shut, sit at the feet of his friends and absorb their wit and wisdom.
‘I was happy to do that. But if I kicked off my shoes and curled my feet up on the couch, he’d go bananas. “You’re not in the f*****g tobacco fields now,” he’d scream.’
With Shaw’s encouragement, Ava started seeing a psychoanalyst six times a week — ‘I felt like a character in a New Yorker cartoon’ — and enrolled in a correspondence course on the humanities at the University of California. To her surprise, she got mostly B pluses — and a high score on an IQ test.
She also all but stopped making movies. ‘Artie once told me he couldn’t respect a woman who made a living as a movie star — “Movie acting has nothing at all to do with talent; it’s all about key lights and cheekbones,” he said.
‘I think he said that when I beat him at chess — after he’d hired a Russian grand master to give me lessons. I guess I learned too well.
‘But I owe Artie plenty,’ she said generously. ‘He made me get an education. Give the guy credit where credit’s due.’
Still madly in love, she decided she wanted his baby. He refused — wisely, she realised later. ‘I don’t think in my heart I genuinely wanted a baby at all. Maybe I was playing a part; who the hell knows?’
One day, Shaw caught Ava reading the bestseller Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor. Snatching it from her hands, he derided the book as ‘a f*****g potboiler’ and tore it to shreds.
‘A few months later, he ditched me and married Kathleen Winsor,’ said Ava. ‘If I’d paid more attention to those Freudian manuals he was always laying on me, I might have smelled a rat. But I had no idea.
‘Our marriage had lasted just about a year when he called the cab on me — but I loved him just as much as I loved Mick Rooney at the end of that marriage.
‘A couple of months after our divorce, I fell apart when Artie married Kathleen. It taught me a lesson, though. It taught me that hypocrisy isn’t just the province of movie producers.’
ADAPTED from Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations by Peter Evans, to be published by Simon & Schuster on July 2 at £20. © 2013 The Estate of Peter Evans. Order a copy via amazon.co.uk