Ava knew how to pose for the camera, she’d slit her eyes, throw her head at an angle, and the photographer would somehow catch something about her, something that was strong, sexual, and almost animal, as if she were zeroing in on you, weighing your merits, and readying to pounce.
Ava was born to poor North Carolina cotton and tobacco farmers. Her ancestry was said to include Native American from the Tuscarora tribe, the “People of the Hemp”. Ava was known as hard-drinking, she was broke, alone and usually drunk, a one-time Hollywood goddess.
Her “Secret Conversations”, reveals that “Robert Mitchum” turned her (She was crazy about him) on to marijuana on the set of “My Forbidden Past”, when in the front of reporters he asked his makeup man to bring him somePot.
“Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios Inc.” (MGM) realized it had a huge star on its hands, immediately casting her in a string of pictures. MGM chose Ava in 1950 over several screen legends to portray the role of “Julie Laverne” in “Show Boat”, one of the greatest musicals of all time.
At age 33 Ava moved to Madrid, where she resided for more than 10 years. In 1964, Ava received a Golden Globe nomination for her role in the film version of Tennessee Williams’ Night of the Iguana, which starred Richard Burton. In 1968 she moved to London, England, where she lived the rest of her life.
After starring in successful disaster films during the 1970s such as Earthquake and The Cassandra Crossing, Ava begin working in television in the mid-1980s, including one season on the popular CBS drama Knots Landing.
During her years abroad, she returned to America often to continue her film career and to visit her family in Smithfield, NC. Ava’s last public appearance in NC was in 1978 at the Rock Ridge High School reunion, with North Carolina’s Governor James B. Hunt.
Her last visit in Smithfield was in May of 1985. In 1986 she suffered a stroke, and died of pneumonia on January 25, 1990. She is buried in Sunset Memorial Park, US Highway 70, in Smithfield. If you visit her “Museum” (5,000 square-feet of exhibit space), you’ll see extraordinary costumes, movie posters and awards that represent Ava’s 50-year career as a leading Hollywood actress.
On the way home Ava & Mitchum stopped at a bar - dry martinis were the thing in those days and once she’d had a martini, she felt as if she was sitting two feet above the stool. Everything she reached for was a little off, a little to one side. Mitchum did his best to convert her toGanga. She tried, but she did not get into it.
She didSmoke back in the day when she was married to bandleader Artie Shaw, but it didn’t impress her. Server, who wrote a biography of Mitchum, says Ava nearly broke up the “Richard Burton-Elizabeth Taylor” romance while filming “Night of the Iguana in Puerto Vallarta”, when:
She threw parties many nights, and the beach boys would fill the villa drinking, smoking marijuana, and dancing twist.
In reality Ava was a lifelong cigarette smoker, and suffered from emphysema. Two strokes in 1986 left her partially paralyzed. In the last years of her life, Ava asked Evans to ghostwrite her autobiography. After his death in 2012, Evans’s notes, which he based on their taped conversations, were published in “The Secret Conversations”/ Listen free !
It’s too bad Ava lived in a time whenMarijuana wasn’t accepted like alcohol, and husbands could rule their wives. It seems that her husband Shaw, didn’t think his wife could handle what he called “reefers” in a 1938 interview, he said:
The hysterical articles about marijuana do more harm than good. A mature, well-balanced individual is not apt to play around with reefers. They get a kick out of trying something dangerous, unpredictable. The more they read about wild orgies held while 'walking on air,' the smarter they think it is to play around with reefers.