Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cinema Style File--The Colorful Ava Gardner in MOGAMBO and BAREFOOT CONTESSA

Ava Gardner is TCM's Star of the Month for November and, as always, it's a thrill to watch her.  She's a fiery actress, full of a strength and sexuality that never wavers.  Her acting comes from her story, too, which is an incredible one.  Grew up poor in North Carolina, moved to New York and had her picture taken by a friend's boyfriend, a scout from MGM spotted the photograph, and off she went to Hollywood.  She enjoyed her share of lovers along the way and ended up marrying three rather interesting husbands--Mickey Rooney (who was the hugest star in Hollywood at the time), jazz legend Artie Shaw, and Frank Sinatra.  The relationship with Frank was allegedly wrought with passion--both good and bad--and she continued to enjoy that passion in her other relationships as well, including a famous Spanish matador.

Though clearly colorful in real life, it's Ava in technicolor that I really admire.  You can quickly see why.  Mogambo (1953) and The Barefoot Contessa (1954) are two of my favorite movies with Ava.  As a blonde I share very little in common with her appearance, but she's invaluable to watch because of the colors and color combinations that costume designers asked her to pull off.  Absolutely inspirational.  This is particularly true of trickier vivid primary colors like reds and greens and yellows.  Let me tell you, I've learned many lessons on the color yellow just from watching Ava.

John Ford used one of my favorite costume designers of all time, Helen Rose, to dress Ava for Mogambo.  This movie is a remake of the wonderful 1932 black-and-white Red Dust, which also starred Clark Gable in the same role.  But here we've got Grace Kelly (instead of Mary Astor) as the good but tempted wife, and Ava Gardner (instead of Jean Harlow) as a showgirl with a heart of gold.  What's incredible to me is how much Ava truly outshines Grace in this picture.  How many times can you say that?

In Joseph Mankiewicz's Barefoot Contessa, Ava plays Maria Vargas...a gypsy dancer who is discovered and wooed first by Hollywood and then later by a Count.  You can watch her character evolve from that barefoot backwoods dancer to dazzling superstar to an elegant Countess in the span of the movie through her Sorelle Fontana wardrobe.

I absolutely love the combination of this butter yellow with the blood red lips and nails, 
pale ivory skin, and her luscious dark hair.  Incredible.

Beautiful on the boat

 Wouldn't be surprised if Thierry Mugler was inspired by many of the movie's gowns

A goddess at last


gilbertgigliotti@gmail.com said...

Great movies all...and if you like Ava, then you might enjoy AVA GARDNER: TOUCHES OF VENUS (Entasis Press, 2010), an anthology of fiction, non-fiction, and verse about the inimitable Ava. Ms. Gardner's biographer Lee Server called it "a divine tribute to the Goddess of sex, glamour, and passion."

Kimberly Truhler said...

Sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing!

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