In our continued effort to share the remarkable life and lasting legacy of Ava Gardner with fans the world over, the Museum recently launched a new virtual initiative. Our new virtual program, called Ava Chats, features in-depth conversations between the Museum’s staff, curatorial team, board of directors, and special guests. Topics for our series will span Ava’s entire life, from her humble beginnings in rural North Carolina to her relaxed final years in London. We will also showcase the Museum’s vast repository of Ava’s personal and professional artifacts which include photographs, jewelry, costumes, memorabilia, papers, ephemera, and much more.
The first episode, which aired live through Zoom on January 16th, featured a conversation between Lora Stocker, Ava Gardner Museum board member, graphic artist, and classic film fan, and Beth Nevarez, the Ava Gardner Museum's collection manager and curator of the new exhibit about Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951). This inaugural episode of Ava Chats took a deep dive into the film, covering Ava's role, the creative team behind the production, and the making of the Museum’s new Pandora exhibit. The episode was hosted by Lynell Seabold, the Museum's executive director.
If you missed the live chat, you can view a full-length recording of the event to hear more about Ava's experience filming Pandora, see related artifacts from our collection, and learn about the film's legacy and impact. To view the recording, simply visit our gift shop and purchase this virtual product.
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We had a wonderful conversation during our first episode of Ava Chats, including some great questions from those who attended live. See the Q&A below for more information.
Q: What happened to the portraits featured in the film and those created by the artist Man Ray?
Unfortunately, we do not know what became of the physical portraits created by Man Ray or any of the art that appears in the film. As we mentioned in the chat, some of the art and costumes for the film were created outside of the confines of the studio and so they are more difficult to track. However, you can see the artwork Man Ray created for the film on the website for his trust. Man Ray Trust has a database of photographs and artwork by Man Ray. For Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, Man Ray photographed Ava in two different outfits, a red dress and a white Grecian-style dress. An image from the series of red dress images does appear in the final film and Man Ray's photographs of Ava have been exhibited in museums around the world. He also painted a portrait using Ava as a model. This portrait ultimately did not appear in the film, but you can see images of it, as well as the photographs of Ava, on the Man Ray Trust site by searching the Image Archive for "Ava Gardner."
While we do not know what became of most of the costumes used in the film, we do know more about this red dress Ava wore in the above photograph taken by Man Ray. This portrait was made in Hollywood, rather than on the set of the film in Europe. The famed costume designer Adrian originally designed the dress for the 1938 film Marie Antoinette. It was then reused by Ava in 1950 when Man Ray photographed her in the dress. One of the photos is used in the film as a miniature desk portrait. The dress was then used again in 1952 for the film Scaramouche. The gown is now in the private collection of Mary Strauss.
You can learn more in this article about the life of the red gown.
Q: What did Ava think about the film and her performance?
Ava Gardner enjoyed working on the film, and while, she considered it an unusual plot, she liked her character. In Living With Miss G, by Mearene (Rene) Jordan, Ava's long-time friend and assistant, Rene said of filming Pandora in Spain, "Miss G adored everything about that journey-the enchanted, unspoiled coastline, the endless wine and booze, the age-old flamenco dancing with feet stamping and heels banging, voices echoing in raucous guitar-inspired melodies, late nights in the dark and in smoky taverns. She had never dreamed such a place existed, and it opened a wonderful new playground for her."
"She also enjoyed her role in the film. Pandora had to cloak her goddess stature under the disguise of an ordinary mortal in order to succeed in her dirty work of teaching males a lesson. She became Pandora Reynolds, a nightclub singer. She even got to sing (with no one else's voice dubbed over, for a change) a soapy love song entitled, 'How Am I To Know?'"
Ava’s co-star in the film, Sheila Sim, said, “[Ava] was rather nervous. She did not have a great faith in her ability. She moved so beautifully [and] had an instinctive gracefulness.”
Ava herself wrote in her autobiography, Ava: My Story, "Of all the damn films I made, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman would probably rank as the most obscure. Yet almost nothing I've done before or since had as much of an effect on me. In fact, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say making it changed my life forever. Because Pandora got me outside these United States for the first time and introduced me to the two countries, England and Spain, where I was to spend much of the rest of my life. One trip abroad, honey, and I almost never looked back." A whole chapter of Ava: My Story is devoted to Ava's recollections of her time on the film.
Q: How can I watch the film?
If you would like to own a copy, we carry the new, restored version of the film from Cohen Film Collection on Blu-ray in our gift shop, as well as an earlier version on DVD. You can also stream the film on Amazon Prime, YouTube Movies, and Google Play.
During the first episode of Ava Chats we also mentioned a few other resources, which are included below:
Guest blog post about Pandora by film curator Laura Boyes
Blog post about the museum's acquisition of jewelry worn by Ava Gardner on the set of the film
Can't get enough Pandora?