Saturday, April 27, 2013

Ava Gardner personal gown worn to the premiere of "That's Entertainment" in 1974

 Currently being exhibited at the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, NC, for Ava's 100th Centenary Celebration. It will be on view through Jan. 7th, 2023. Please visit the museum, it's such a great tribute to Ava!
Ava Gardner is legendary as one of the great stars of Hollywood's Golden Age, as well as one its most beautiful. She was married to Frank Sinatra in the 50's and was known to be the love of his life, and was also married to Mickey Rooney and Artie Shaw early in her career. Her private life could've been a movie itself, showcasing her humble beginnings as a girl from North Carolina, her rise to stardom, and then the colorful life she led after she became a star at MGM.

When Ava started at the studio in the early 40's it was mostly in bit roles, and gradually she started playing more prominent ones and then became a leading lady by the late 40's. It was in "The Killers" and "One Touch of Venus," that her beauty, talent, and star potential was really showcased, and ironically both of those films were made outside of MGM. By the early 50's she had become a top star, and was cast in leading roles of major films. One of her most famous came in 1953 in "Show Boat," one of the biggest musicals MGM ever made. They decided to overdub her voice for the songs, but fortunately footage survives of her singing "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" and she's really very good, so good that you can see the studio made a mistake in not using her vocals. The footage can be seen in the third "That's Entertainment" movie. Although considered an MGM star, some of her greatest movies were made outside of the studio, among them "The Barefoot Contessa," "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," "The Sun Also Rises," and "On the Beach."


This piece came from Ava's estate, and she wore it a few times during the early 70's. It's made of white chiffon and is layered in three tiers with full bell sleeves which are also layered. There is a scarf made of the same material that is attached at the neck and is worn draped around the back. It's unlabeled which leads me to believe that Ava had it custom made.

As simple as the piece is, Ava really looked like a million in it... below is the footage from the premiere of "That's Entertainment" showing Ava in the piece arriving at the event, and then at the famous gathering of stars at a dinner following the premiere. It was the first and only time that so many stars who worked at MGM were reunited, and they were all welcomed on stage to take a historic photo of the gathering. Luckily it was filmed too, and it's amazing to see all of them together. Ava is standing next to Charlton Heston who she starred with in "Earthquake" that same year. They may have even been filming it around the same time. Notice how Ava gets the biggest ovation :) She deserved it. And it's nice to see her wearing this piece in such a long clip. It begins after the scenes from "Showboat" ...

A little about "That's Entertainment"... it was a big hit when it was released in 1974, showcasing many of the great musical scenes MGM filmed over the years and introduced by some of the great stars of the studio. Since it was made before the days of VCR's, let alone DVD's and other digital media, it was a thrill for people to be able to see these great scenes on the big screen again, and it also introduced them to a new generation. The movie was such a hit that they made a sequel in 1976, and a third installment which included a lot of behind-the-scenes footage in 1993. All three of the movies are on DVD and I highly recommend them. I've watched them many times since I was a kid. They were basically an education for me, learning about these great musicals that MGM made during the glory days of the studio.

Here are some great candid shots of Ava wearing the piece... The first one was taken in her home the night of the premiere before she left, and then in a limo...

Here are some shots of her wearing it at another event... and the last photo is a nice one taken by her friend, Roddy McDowell...