Ava Gardner Movies: 'The Night of the Iguana' & 'Ride Vaquero!'

Ava Gardner Clark Gable Broderick Crawford Lone Star
Ava Gardner, Clark Gable, and Broderick Crawford in Lone Star.

Ava Gardner: Thursday, Aug. 21, highlights on Turner Classic Movies:

Sexy or sensual? In all honesty, I don't know if there's a difference between the two, but in case there is I'd say that, when it comes to women, Marilyn Monroe and Anita Ekberg would be sexy whereas Catherine Deneuve and Ava Gardner would be sensual. Why? I wouldn't be able to explain.

In any case, you can decide for yourself if Ava Gardner was sexy, sensual, or both next Thursday. I've seen quite a number of her films, but, surprisingly, only a handful of the ones scheduled to be shown on TCM. Of those, I'd particularly recommend The Night of the Iguana, a beautifully directed (John Huston), shot (Gabriel Figueroa), and written (Anthony Veiller, from a play by Tennessee Williams) psychological drama set in a Mexican beach resort. (The ending of the Night of the Iguana film adaptation, I should add, is a letdown; I'm not sure if it had to do with censorship or box office considerations.)

Ava Gardner, who could be truly excellent (The Barefoot Contessa, Seven Days in May), is disappointingly mannered in the film (also, her beauty had all but faded by then – she was 41, but looked considerably older). However, Richard Burton is excellent as the renegade pastor, and so are Deborah Kerras a quiet spinster and Academy Award-nominated Grayson Hall as a – oh no!lesbian who doesn't quite grasp her sexual inclinations.

Ride Vaquero! is an agreeable Western; the best performance in that one comes from an unlikely source: Howard Keel. Bhowani Junction is a potboiler, one of George Cukor's weakest films, while The Hucksters is a stiff drama about the world of advertising.

Schedule (Pacific Time) and synopses from the TCM website:

21 Thursday

3:00 AM Three Men in White (1944)
Young doctors compete for a prestigious position as Dr. Gillespie's assistant. Cast: Lionel Barrymore, Van Johnson, Marilyn Maxwell, Ava Gardner. Dir.: Willis Goldbeck. Black and white. 85 min.

4:30 AM 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, Ava Gardner. Dir.: Harry Beaumont. Black and white. 90 min.

6:00 AM The Bribe (1949)
A sultry singer tries to tempt a federal agent from the straight-and-narrow. Cast: Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton. Dir.: Robert Z. Leonard. Black and white. 98 min.

7:45 AM East Side West Side (1949)
A chic New York couple is torn apart by a seductive model. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, James Mason, Ava Gardner. Dir.: Mervyn LeRoy. Black and white. 108 min.

9:45 AM The Hucksters (1947)
A war veteran fights for honesty in the advertising game. Cast: Clark Gable, Deborah Kerr, Ava Gardner, Edward Arnold, Angela Lansbury. Dir.: Jack Conway. Black and white. 116 min.

11:45 AM Lone Star (1952)
A frontiersman helps out with Texass' fight for independence from Mexico. Cast: Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Broderick Crawford, Lionel Barrymore. Dir.: Vincent Sherman. Black and white. 95 min.

1:30 PM Ride Vaquero! (1953)
Ranchers in New Mexico have to face Indians and bandits. Cast: Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Howard Keel. Dir.: John Farrow. Color. 90 min.

3:15 PM The Angel Wore Red (1960)
A priest and a prostitute fall in love during the Spanish Civil War. Cast: Ava Gardner, Dirk Bogarde, Joseph Cotten. Dir.: Nunnally Johnson. Black and white. 99 mins. Letterbox Format

5:00 PM Bhowani Junction (1956)
An Anglo-Indian beauty falls for a British officer as her country fights for independence. Cast: Ava Gardner, Stewart Granger, Bill Travers. Dir.: George Cukor. Color. 110 mins. Letterbox Format

7:00 PM 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. Black and white. 134 mins. Letterbox Format

9:30 PM The Night of the Iguana (1964)
A defrocked priest surrenders to the sins of the flesh in a Mexican hotel. Cast: Richard Burton, Deborah Kerr, Ava Gardner, Grayson Hall, Sue Lyon. Dir.: John Huston. Black and white. 118 mins. Letterbox Format

11:30 PM The Cassandra Crossing (1976)
When a train's passengers are exposed to a deadly virus, it triggers an international incident. Cast: Sophia Loren, Richard Harris, Burt Lancaster, Martin Sheen, Ava Gardner. Dir.: George P. Cosmatos. Color. 129 mins. Letterbox Format

1:45 AM My Forbidden Past (1951)
A beauty with a skeleton in her closet seeks revenge on the suitor who jilted her. Cast: Ava Gardner, Melvyn Douglas, Robert Mitchum. Dir.: Robert Stevenson. Black and white. 70 min.

TCM website.

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3 Comments to Ava Gardner Movies: 'The Night of the Iguana' & 'Ride Vaquero!'

  1. Joao Soares

    Hi Andre, I know what you mean — and actually, remembering back to “Show Boat”, I'd been so taken by Ms. Gardner's performance that I hunted for years for a picture of the last scene, where she blows a kiss to the departing boat as the image turns hazy… (could never find it, though).

  2. Andre

    Joao,

    Perhaps “mannered” wasn't quite the right word. It's just that I felt that her “Night of the Iguana” performance was a *performance* — unlike, say, those of Deborah Kerr, Richard Burton, and Grayson Hall, whom I found fully believable.

    My two favorite Ava Gardner performances are those in “The Barefoot Contessa” and “Show Boat.”

  3. Joao Soares

    Hmmm…. You found Ava Gardner mannered in “The Night of the Iguana”? I found her irresistible, her craving for a life her age (and fate) had denied her, somewhere in that mexican coast… Truly beautiful.