Ava Gardner, The Naked Maja
Ava Gardner returns to Turner Classic Movies this evening. TCM's Star of the Month will remain on TV all the way to late afternoon Friday.
The movies themselves may not be exactly great, but Gardner's presence should be more than enough to make them worth at least a look.
Henry Koster's The Naked Maja (1958) has Anthony Franciosa as Spanish painter Francisco Goya. Perhaps Francisco Rabal was unavailable? (Luis Buñuel's deliciously sacrilegious Nazarin came out in 1959, so Rabal may have been busy working on that, who knows?)
You may think that in order to make the two Americans – Gardner is the other one – less absurd as Spaniards, the production opted to cast equally incongruous Italians in supporting roles, among them Amedeo Nazzari, Lea Padovani, Massimo Serato, and the usually excellent Gino Cervi. But no. The Naked Maja was actually shot in Italy. Hence, the Italian contingent.
Stanley Kramer's On the Beach (1959) is another message movie – about the end of the world thanks to all those nuke nuts out there – whereas 55 Days in Peking (1962) may well be Nicholas Ray's very worst effort. A badly miscast Charlton Heston stars.
Jack Conway's The Hucksters (1947) isn't one of the director's best, but some of the drama is good and the cast is mostly impressive. In addition to Ava Gardner, this tale of love and ambition in the world of advertising also boasts Deborah Kerr, Clark Gable, Sydney Greenstreet, and Edward Arnold.
Among the "Find Ava" offerings are She Went to the Races, Three Men in White, Two Girls and a Sailor, and Music for Millions. I've seen the last two, but don't recall spotting Ava Gardner in them.
Schedule (PT) and synopses from the TCM website:
5:00pm [Romance] Naked Maja, The (1959)
Romantic biography of the Spanish painter Goya and his relationship with the Duchess of Alba.
Cast: Ava Gardner, Anthony Franciosa, Amedeo Nazzari, Gino Cervi Dir: Henry Koster C-113 mins
7:00pm [Horror/Science-Fiction] On the Beach (1959)
After a nuclear war, U.S. sailors stationed in Australia deal with the end of civilization.
Cast: Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Anthony Perkins Dir: Stanley Kramer BW-134 mins
9:30pm [Romance] Angel Wore Red, The (1960)
A priest and a prostitute fall in love during the Spanish Civil War.
Cast: Ava Gardner, Dirk Bogarde, Joseph Cotten, Vittorio De Sica Dir: Nunnally Johnson BW-99 mins
11:15pm [Epic] 55 Days At Peking (1963)
An American major leads the defense against Chinese revolutionaries in 1900 Peking.
Cast: Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, David Niven, Flora Robson Dir: Nicholas Ray C-162 mins
2:00am [Drama] Hucksters, The (1947)
A war veteran fights for honesty in the advertising game.
Cast: Clark Gable, Deborah Kerr, Sydney Greenstreet, Adolphe Menjou Dir: Jack Conway BW-116 mins
4:00am [Comedy] She Went To The Races (1945)
A pretty scientist with a system for horse-race betting falls in love with a trainer.
Cast: James Craig, Frances Gifford, Ava Gardner, Edmund Gwenn Dir: Willis Goldbeck BW-86 mins
5:30am [Musical] Two Girls And A Sailor (1944)
Singing sisters create a World War II canteen and become rivals for the same man.
Cast: June Allyson, Gloria DeHaven, Van Johnson, Tom Drake Dir: Richard Thorpe BW-124 mins
7:45am [Comedy] Three Men In White (1944)
Young doctors compete for a prestigious position as Dr. Gillespie's assistant.
Cast: Lionel Barrymore, Van Johnson, Marilyn Maxwell, Keye Luke Dir: Willis Goldbeck BW-85 mins
9:15am [Musical] Music For Millions (1944)
A pregnant musician awaits her husband's return from World War II.
Cast: Margaret O'Brien, José Iturbi, June Allyson, Jimmy Durante Dir: Henry Koster BW-118 mins
11:15am [Comedy] Maisie Goes To Reno (1944)
On a trip to Reno, a Brooklyn showgirl tries to stop a soldier and his wife from divorcing.
Cast: Ann Sothern, John Hodiak, Tom Drake, Marta Linden Dir: Harry Beaumont BW-90 mins
Photo: Doctor Macro