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Jaw-dropping anecdotes about film legends and the studio system in its heyday make this an irresistible read for Hollywood history buffs. A fiery beauty (1922-1990) who loved to fight (even with the author she hired), Gardner inspired uncanny devotion among colleagues, friends, and lovers. Of the latter, there were many, and even seasoned fans will learn fresh tidbits about ex-husbands Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw, and Frank Sinatra, as well as her tumultuous relationships with Howard Hughes and George C. Scott. One of the more touching stories is of Gardner, self-conscious after a stroke left her face partially paralyzed, asking a famed cinematographer to set up flattering lighting prior to meeting with a publisher. Journalists will find the book of interest as it makes transparent the prickly process of ghostwriting. Evans (Bardot: Eternal Sex Goddess) shares the difficulty of sequencing the life of a movie star whose memory is failing and who angrily retracts batches of sensitive material that slip out during 3 a.m. phone calls. Gardner is funny and frank, and Evans's diligence makes the book not only one of the more revealing celebrity autobiographies published recently, but a candid glimpse into the world of a ghostwriter, star handler, and late-night confidante. 8-page b&w insert. Agent: Ed Victor, Ed Victor Literary Agency (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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In 1988, British journalist and biographer Evans (Nemesis: The True Story of Aristotle Onassis, Jackie O, and the Love Triangle That Brought Down the Kennedys) was asked to work with ailing former screen siren Ava Gardner on a memoir about her tempestuous life. Evans died in 2012 as he was attempting to complete it; Gardner herself had died in 1990. What remains is this account of Evans's attempts to work with the actress, who was alternately cooperative and difficult. The result is a melange of the author's reactions to his subject's unpredictable mood swings (she was drinking heavily) and some of the facts he was able to glean from her. Unfortunately much of it is very repetitious and could have used rigorous editing. Although readers do get a vivid picture of Gardner's personality and some facts (many of them salacious) about her husbands and lovers, there is little insight into the root causes of her often reckless behavior. -VERDICT This is more Evans's memoir than it is Ava Gardner's, and when it focuses on his own feelings and reactions-which it often does-it is not particularly interesting. [See Prepub Alert, 1/6/13.]-Roy Liebman, formerly with California State Univ., Los Angeles (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* In 1988, only two years before her death, legendary actress Ava Gardner, then living in semiseclusion in London and running low on money, asked the late Evans to ghostwrite her autobiography: I either write the book or sell the jewels, and I'm kinda sentimental about the jewels. Gardner didn't want to do a sugarcoated memoir, preferring to tell it straight, the real story of the marriages to Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw, and Frank Sinatra, the multiple affairs (with Howard Hughes, among many others), the hardscrabble childhood in North Carolina tobacco country. But as the two met and Gardner began speaking of her life, it became clear to Evans that the actress was more reticent about telling it straight than she pretended to be. The conversations were uninhibited, to be sure, but Gardner balked at the finished chapters ( I sound too fucking vulgar ), leading ultimately to the project being abandoned. Shortly before his own death in 2012, Evans wrote this memoir of a memoir-in-progress, transcribing Gardner's recollections and providing connective passages setting the scenes. What emerges doesn't cover the sweep of the movie icon's remarkable life as fully as Lee Server's Ava Gardner (2006), but it does capture Gardner's indelible voice vulgar, yes, but humanly so as well as unfailingly witty and movingly melancholic. Finally, 25 years after the fact, we have at least a facsimile of the unbuttoned version Gardner claimed she wanted to tell. Movie buffs will be as transfixed by the actress' own words as they have always been by her drop-dead beauty on the screen.--Ott, Bill Copyright 2010 Booklist