“He’d photograph your soul if he could find enough light, honey.” Ava Gardner and Jack Cardiff

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I finally got around to reading Ava Gardner, The Secret Conversations, and one of the things that jumped out at me was the bond that develops between Stars and Cinematographers.

Jack Cardiff (the extraordinary, he who painted with light) had this to say about his friend, Ava, when approached by her biographer, Peter Evans:

“Don’t kid yourself, pal. If Ava Gardner wants you to write her book, you’ll write it.” And, “Nobody becomes a movie star by putting all their cards on the table—”

Ms. Gardner was surprisingly candid with Mr. Evans, but before publication withdrew her permission to complete a book that had only begun to be fleshed out. A book, up to that point, mostly based on late night, often drunk, conversations on the phone.

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Peter Bart had this to say in Variety:

The memoir, based on Gardner’s middle-of-the-night rants, effectively reminds us of the salty jargon of that glitzy era. Sex was defined as “being good in the feathers,” death was “pushing around the clouds” and Ava’s summary of her own life was, “She made movies, she made out and she made a fucking mess of her life, but she never made jam.”

via ‘Ava Gardner’ Book More Explicit Than Other Superstar Memoirs | Variety.

But beyond the sweetly crude vernacular and candor about everyone who had tossed around in those feathers, another portrait emerged, one of enduring friendship and long-lived loyalty.

This bears repeating, Miss Gardner on Jack Cardiff:

“He’d photograph your soul if he could find enough light, honey.”

When she was petrified of meeting her publisher for the first time, she instructed Peter Evans to call her favorite cinematographer:

I rang Cardiff and told him exactly what Ava had said. That afternoon, the world’s finest cinematographer rearranged the lamps in her drawing room—and placed a key light above the chair on which she’d sit for her meeting with Snyder.

He called me that evening. “It’s best I can do discretely,” he said. “When she sits in that chair tomorrow, keep telling her how beautiful she looks. Keep on saying that. 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. Remember, it’s always the cameraman who grows old, never the star.”

Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations: Peter Evans, Ava Gardner: 9781451627695: Amazon.com: Books.

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4 Comments »

  1. I’m totally buying his book… also “Living with Miss G” by Mearene Jordan, Ava Gardner’s companion and helper for 40 years… they both look like great reads! I’ve just finished a spate of Kate Hepburn bios, and now you’ve given me a taste for Ava’s.

  2. ” Keep on saying that. 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. Remember, it’s always the cameraman who grows old, never the star.”

    That is both a beautifully touching and deeply real story. It doesn’t flinch from our shallowness but it also shows such a deep bond between the two. Wow.

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