Friday, October 1, 2021

CMBA Profile: Ava Gardner Museum Official Blog

Each month, the CMBA profiles a classic movie blog. For October, we’re featuring Beth Nevarez, Lora Stocker, and Lynell Seabold of the Ava Gardner Museum Official Blog. All three work for the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, North Carolina, and write for its official blog.

CMBA: What makes a film a “classic” in your opinion?

AVA GARDNER MUSEUM Official Blog: A “classic” film is often defined as one that has stood the test of time—retaining popular and, perhaps even, critical appeal from its initial release to modern day. At the Ava Gardner Museum, we tend to take an expansive view of the term “classic”—understanding that tastes and opinions change and films resonate with different people based on personal experience, culture, interests, etc. We believe “classic” film should not be stagnant and finite. The term is dynamic and fluid, evolving as viewers evolve.

Over her five-decade career in the entertainment industry, Ava Gardner amassed a broad résumé that spanned nearly every genre—along the way working on productions with small-to-large budgets and with some of Hollywood’s leading directors. Some of her movies might have received mixed or even poor receptions upon their initial release, only to later be rediscovered and reevaluated by more contemporary reviewers and audiences.

CMBA: Why should people care about “old” black and white movies, and about Ava Gardner's films, in particular?

AVA GARDNER MUSEUM Official Blog: Films are a window into the eras in which they were made. They can enable us to explore the best aspects and the more challenging elements of the past. One can learn a great deal about a time period’s cultural trends, current events, societal concerns, fashions, and more, by watching a motion picture.

We are fortunate today to be able to view Ava Gardner’s career in totality. We can watch her develop from a young ingenue—appearing in small, bit parts in an assortment of MGM films—to a seasoned actor—starring in compelling lead roles and impactful character parts. Viewers can witness Ava become more comfortable on screen over time—finding confidence in her own unique voice and captivating screen presence. Because her filmography is so diverse, there’s also an Ava film for almost anyone—whether you like epics, horror, musicals, romance, or westerns. By watching her films, you can see why Ava has never lost her relevance and why her work continues to be influential today.

CMBA: What classic films do you recommend to people who may not have seen many older films?

AVA GARDNER MUSEUM Official Blog: Inspired by Ava Gardner’s wide-ranging career, we would recommend that someone new to older films take a “sampling” approach by watching films from a mix of genres. Start with some universally beloved films like: The Kid (1921), The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), Dodsworth (1936), The Wizard of Oz (1939), Rebecca (1940), Gaslight (1944), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Red River (1948), All About Eve (1950), Seven Samurai (1954), Forbidden Planet (1956), Twelve Angry Men (1957), Pillow Talk (1959), La Dolce Vita (1960), A Raisin in the Sun (1961). Once you’ve explored a bit to determine what resonates with you, then do a deeper dive into the specific genre you prefer.

CMBA: Which of Ava Gardner's films would you recommend to people who don't know a lot about her film career?

AVA GARDNER MUSEUM Official Blog: If you want to get a full breadth of Ava Gardner’s filmography, we recommend you watch the following films:

·         The Killers (1946): Ava’s electrifying performance as Kitty Collins in this classic film noir was her breakout role, setting her on the path to international stardom. The film was the first of three movies she made based on the works of Ernest Hemingway.

·         Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951): Ava starred opposite James Mason as the beautiful and enigmatic Pandora Reynolds in this surreal, romantic fantasy. This film marked Ava’s first starring role in a Technicolor production and her first time working with master cinematographer Jack Cardiff. While filming Pandora, Ava fell in love with Spain, and she would eventually move there in 1955.

·         Mogambo (1953): Ava received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for the role of Eloise “Honey Bear” Kelly. This film marked Ava’s third appearance with Clark Gable and her only role opposite Grace Kelly. Ava and Grace became instant friends on this production and remained close the remainder of their lives.

·         The Barefoot Contessa (1954): Film audiences most identify Ava with the character of Maria Vargas, and, to this day, it is considered her signature role. The film’s tagline, “The World’s Most Beautiful Animal,” became a designation that would haunt Ava for the rest of her life.

·         On the Beach (1959): Ava’s studio contract with MGM ended in 1958. On the Beach was the first movie Ava made as an independent star. The film was also her last on-screen pairing with her favorite co-star and close personal friend, Gregory Peck.

·         The Night of the Iguana (1964): Ava’s role as Maxine Faulk proved that she could take on a dramatic character and make it entirely her own. The production gave her the opportunity to work with her favorite director, John Huston. For her performance, Ava was nominated for Best Foreign Actress at the BAFTA Awards and Best Actress at the Golden Globes. She won Best Actress at the San Sebastián International Film Festival.

·         Earthquake (1974): Made during the height of the “all-star” disaster film craze of the 1970s, Earthquake was Ava’s highest grossing film at the box office and was an international hit with audiences. The movie featured innovative special effects and sound effects. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning in the Best Sound category and receiving a Special Award for Achievement in Special Effects.

CMBA: What is the most rewarding thing about blogging for you?

AVA GARDNER MUSEUM Official Blog: We enjoy discussing and exploring topics that we are passionate about, like Ava Gardner's world away from Hollywood, her long-lasting legacy, and how her films fit into a larger historical context. We find it most rewarding when we receive feedback from a reader or Ava fan who connected with something we wrote, learned something new, or otherwise enjoyed our blog post. The process of blogging in itself though is also rewarding—the research and preparation that goes into each article always teaches us something new about the subject at hand, so even if no one else was to read it, we are always glad we put in the effort to learn more about Ava’s life.

The Ava Gardner Museum blog is very unique in that we are able to share items from the Museum’s vast collection of artifacts and archives. We love incorporating our collection into our storytelling. This ability helps readers better visualize the history we are interpreting. Also, our readers are able to connect with Ava more directly on a personal level, through items she once owned or materials related to her films.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

CMBA Fall Blogathon: Laughter is the Best Medicine

This season, our blogathon theme is “Laughter is the Best Medicine.” Feel free to write about a person, performance, or film of interest to you that is a fitting prescription for lots of laughs and comedic entertainment.


Just a few rules. Only one film, acting team, director, etc. If your selection has already been claimed, you will be notified to make another selection. As always, be creative. If you’re not sure about something, please ask!


The Laughter is the Best Medicine Blogathon runs from Oct. 19-Oct. 22.

Here is our outline of CMBA member participants thus far:

We look forward to an exciting Fall blogathon!

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

CMBA Profile: The Cinema Century

Each month, the CMBA profiles a classic movie blog. For September, we’re featuring Steve Jarrett of The Cinema Century.

CMBA: What makes a film a “classic” in your opinion?
THE CINEMA CENTURY: Time is the ultimate arbiter of value. If a work is still able to touch people, to entertain them, to add meaning to their lives decades after its creation, then it has earned the right to be called a classic. Critics in Charles Dickens's day disdained his writings. They were wrong, and the proof is that his books are still widely read and appreciated today. Similarly, films that continue to be sought out and enjoyed many years after their release by volunteer viewers (that is to say, viewers who are not assigned to watch them for a class) are entitled to be called "classics."

CMBA: Why should people care about “old” black and white films, especially those that are one hundred years old?
THE CINEMA CENTURY: Anyone who claims to care about cinema should be interested in older films. After all, current films didn't just spring out of nowhere. Tarantino’s films look the way they do in part because Jean-Luc Godard’s films looked the way they did. And Godard’s films, in turn, owed much to Alfred Hitchcock. And Hitchcock’s work was deeply influenced by the work of Sergei Eisenstein. And Eisenstein’s work was influenced by D.W. Griffith’s films. It’s no different than any other art form in that respect. If you read MOBY DICK without having read Shakespeare, you won’t get where Melville’s language came from. If you listen to Mozart’s symphonies without having listened to Bach, you won’t know what inspired those exquisite fugal passages. Paying attention only to today’s art is the unmistakable mark of the dilettante.

CMBA: What do you find especially intriguing about film history?
THE CINEMA CENTURY: I’m fascinated by the interplay between the development of cinema as an art form and the development of the motion picture industry. Making films is so expensive that it was necessary for it to emerge in an industrial context as a commercial art form. I don’t think it’s possible to adequately tell the story of the development of the art form without simultaneously telling the story of the development of the industry. Garson Kanin famously remarked that the trouble with movies as a business is that it’s an art, and the trouble with movies as an art is that it’s a business. These two aspects have developed in parallel, and in a state of perpetual tension—sometimes to the detriment of the art and sometimes to its benefit.

CMBA: What classic films do you recommend to people who may not have seen many older films?
THE CINEMA CENTURY: From the silent period, I recommend Buster Keaton’s films. SHERLOCK JR. is a good one to start with. Also Fairbanks in THE MARK OF ZORRO. From the 30s, probably screwball comedies like BRINGING UP BABY. From the 40s, something by Preston Sturges—probably SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS. And Huston’s THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE.

CMBA: What is the most rewarding thing about blogging for you?
THE CINEMA CENTURY: My blog draws heavily from the many industry trade papers from a century ago that have been digitized and made available online. Paging through those publications provides a real education. You can learn as much from the ads as you can from the articles. The fun of it for me is to pull out a clipping from a century ago and then put it into historical context—explaining, for example, how a minor story from the back pages would soon help to bring about front-page news. It’s great fun to come across a fleeting mention of a name that will eventually come to dominate the industry. Reading these trade papers in their original form vividly brings to life the history of the industry in which the cinema took root and flourished.