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The Five Roles That Defined Ava Gardner's Career

By    |   Friday, 15 May 2015 01:18 PM

Ava Gardner played many small parts and uncredited roles before her breakout movie “The Killers” in 1946.

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That movie launched a career that included decades of film and television work, including starring in her 60s in the TV show “Knots Landing."

Famous for her beauty and marriages to high-profile stars like Frank Sinatra and Mickey Rooney, Gardner was nominated for just one Oscar, despite her obvious appeal and acting ability.

Here are five of Gardner’s memorable roles:

1. Kitty Collins, "The Killers" (1946)
Adapted from an Ernest Hemingway story and starring Burt Lancaster, this movie was billed as an all-time classic of suspense, and it was nominated for four Oscars. As an unresisting victim is murdered, an investigator (Edmond O’Brien) discovers a link between Kitty Collins and the deceased. The New York Times’ Bosley Crowther called it a “diverting picture” and added that “Ava Gardner is sultry and sardonic” as the lady who corrupts the “nice guy.”

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2. Eloise Y. Kelly, "Mogambo"
A remake of “Red Dust” (1932) and also starring Clark Gable, Grace Kelly, and Donald Sinden, Ava Gardner shines in her seductive role. Set in Kenya and directed by John Ford, this cinematic safari is an outdoor adventure romance that resulted in an Oscar nomination (Best Actress in a Leading Role). The New York Times’ Crowther said, “Miss Gardner, as we say, is as enticing as any calculated vampire can be.”

3. Maxine Faulk, "The Night Of The Iguana” (1964)
Filmed in Mexico and starring Richard Burton and Deborah Kerr, the plot centers around a defrocked minister (Burton) who is now a tour guide using Faulk’s hotel as a drop-off point for tourists. His latest clients are schoolteachers and this Tennessee Williams adaptation explores the complications of romance and how to deal with failure. The New York Times was again positive of Gardner’s role as the “the owner and mistress of the hotel, which she personally imbues with a raucous and blowsy decadence.”

4. Moira Davidson, "On The Beach" (1959)
With a star-studded cast that included Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire, and Anthony Perkins, this movie examines disturbing events in Australia after a nuclear war, as radiation is carried toward the country by prevailing winds. The plot centers on a married American naval officer (Peck) and his relationship with a local girl (Gardner) as he comes to terms with the loss of his family in America. Variety praised the movie for its emotional impact, stating, “Peck and Gardner make a good romantic team in the last days of the planet.”

5. Victoria Jones, "Bhowani Junction” (1956)
Set in India in 1947 and based on the John Masters novel of the same name, it is the story of Jones (Gardner) and her romantic entanglements with three men and a struggle between rival political parties as they seek to control India’s future after independence.The New Yorker’s Richard Brody described the scene where Victoria converts to the Sikh faith as one with “an extraordinary, nearly mind-bending intensity.”

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Ava Gardner played many small parts and uncredited roles before her breakout movie “The Killers” in 1946.
hollywood, ava gardner
Friday, 15 May 2015 01:18 PM
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