Ava Gardner’s Secret About Her Secret Jew

Ava Gardner and Artie Shaw at the Stork Club in New York, March 5, 1945.

Ava Gardner and Artie Shaw at the Stork Club in New York, March 5, 1945.

In 1988, Ava Gardner sat down with British author Peter Evans to write a Hollywood memoir. But Evans quickly discovered that Ava was a hopeless alcoholic who, when drunk, told juicy tinsel town tales. But when Ava sobered up, she ordered Evans not to use any of “the good” material.

Ava knew where all the bodies were buried. But too many of her Hollywood crowd were still alive. Settling scores would not settle anything for Ava. The aging star was in desperate need of money. In the end, Ava abandoned the project. Rumor says that Frank Sinatra paid Ava not to write the book.

Ava died just two years later. Evans went to his grave with his Ava Gardner book unpublished. But his notes have finally seen the light of day as Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations. Ava was a natural storyteller with a great eye for the telling detail. Her rich store of memories could have made for an invaluable piece of Hollywood history. However, what remains of those fragmented sessions is compelling and compulsively readable.

For Seraphic Secret, one of the most fascinating anecdotes in Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations, concerns Artie Shaw. (born Arthur Jacob Arshawsky; 1910 – 2004). Shaw was a wildly popular bandleader and a brilliant Jazz clarinetest. A rigid man who emotionally abused his wives, Shaw was married an astonishing eight times.

Ava was his fifth wife. Her conflicting emotions about Shaw are on full display.

“Artie was very conscious of being a Jew, you know,” she said. He once told me a story that showed how vulnerable he was. I don’t know whether  he was married to Jerome Kern’s daughter [Betty] at the time, or who, because he was married to everybody, but he was at a posh Hollywood dinner party when they started talking about Jews. It turned out that they were all anti-Semitic. He said he sat there in silence for a while—apparently nobody knew he was a Jew—then he joined in with their snide remarks about Jews. He said he’d never forgive himself for his cowardice.

“I felt such sadness for him when he told me that story. All my protective instincts came out. I really felt his pain. It made me love him even more. I was still mad about him at that time. I decided I wanted his baby. But he was very wise. He was protecting me—and I’m sure he was thinking of himself, too—he said this is not the time to have a child.

“I don’t think in my heart I genuinely wanted a baby at all. I don’t think I really did. I just thought: I’m going back to school, I’m getting an education, I’m being a good wife, to make it perfect I’ll have a child. Maybe I was playing a part, who the hell knows?

“What the f—, a few months later, he ditched me and married Kathleen Windsor, the woman who wrote Forever Amber—a f—ing potboiler, he called it. He snatched it out of my hands and tore it to shreds when he caught me reading it. It was part of my self-improvement program. What did I know?”

Karen and I wish all our friends and relatives a lovely and meaningful last day of Chanukah.

Karen and I wish all our friends and relatives a lovely and meaningful last day of Chanukah.

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27 Comments

  1. Barry
    Posted December 8, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    For anyone interested. A permanent online site. Search Claude Marie Lane. Obituary, comments and thirty or so pictures.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • kishke
      Posted December 9, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      How long were you married?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      • Barry
        Posted December 9, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

        From November 2, 1973 through July 21, 2012. But, for me, it doesn’t end. There is an ongoing spiritual component.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

        • kishke
          Posted December 9, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

          A long time together. I can see how it would have been very difficult for you when she passed on.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

          • Barry
            Posted December 9, 2013 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

            Other people, as you can imagine, have passed in  my life, but other than wishing it were otherwise, nothing much happened to or for me. In this instance, and I have concern about the terminology, there has been some personal growth. I suppose one could say I think that I am a better man for all this. An imperfect process. Claude liked me anyway, but I would have liked, in hindsight, to have been more worthy.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. Posted December 7, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    This post has been included in&nbsp;<a href=”http://shilohmusings.blogspot.co.il/2013/12/plenty-to-read-in-this-jewish-blog-stew.html”>Shiloh Musings: Plenty to Read in This Jewish Blog Stew of Havel Havelim and Kosher Cooking Carnival</a>.
     
    Please let the world know, read and <b>share</b>, thanks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted December 8, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      Batya:

      Thanks so much for including us.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. Barry
    Posted December 6, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    I knew Artie at the time he ran a small, independent distribution company, Artixo.   Believe they handled more than a single title, but the kick off film was a British import, Séance On A Wet Afternoon that was quite well received. He was open and affable. Really impressed as a good guy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • kishke
      Posted December 6, 2013 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      Barry, from your posts I gather you were on close terms, or at least friendly, with many Hollywood personalities. If I may ask, what was your connection?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      • Barry
        Posted December 6, 2013 at 9:07 am | Permalink

        Kishke,
         
        I was all over the map in the theatrical/media world. Actor, sadly in small parts, broadcaster, publicist, producer (The Pleasure of His Company in Toronto with Cyd Charisse and John Ireland)
        and the most pleasant relationship, friend/personal manager for the actor Louis Hayward. As I wasn’t incredibly successful at anything, but have ended up okay (subject to change at any moment) I suppose I was a guy who lived, or lives, by his wits — in other words, within the context of show business, I figure something out.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

        • kishke
          Posted December 7, 2013 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

          Are you still involved in show biz?

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

          • Barry
            Posted December 7, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

            I hope so. I’ve been sorting things out this past year. I do have a plan, but at this time, until I decide where I live, it will be just that. A little tricky for me. My wife passed after a lengthy illness, and by the way, this blog along with some other on-line destinations, helped in my dealing with that, and the devastation of loss and regret. Many of my business friends and acquaintances, have passed, retired or declined, and while I am pretty good for an old man, there are multiple considerations going forward. Thanks for asking.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

            • kishke
              Posted December 7, 2013 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

              Best of luck to you in whatever you decide. It’s been nice chatting here.

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

            • sennacherib
              Posted December 8, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

              Condolences on your wife. Yeah, all the luck on your plan. The only thing hard about getting old is you don’t have to work at it.

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

              • sennacherib
                Posted December 8, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

                I meant to say easy not hard

                Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Brianna
    Posted December 6, 2013 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    I can’t tell whether the award is an emmy or oscar or what, but which script did you get it for?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. Posted December 6, 2013 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    It doesn’t look like Ava and Artie were suffering too much during the war… must have been rough having drinks at the Stork Club 🙂
     

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. Michael Kennedy
    Posted December 5, 2013 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    Poor Ava. Her best comment was about Sinatra during their affair. “He only weighs 100 pounds but 40 pounds is c**k.” She had a sad life although she was famous and envied.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  7. Bill Brandt
    Posted December 5, 2013 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    ‘The fifth draft of Winsor‘s first manuscript of Forever Amber was accepted for publication, but the publishers edited the book down to one-fifth of its original size. The resulting novel was 972 pages long.[”  (From Wikipedia)
     
    Holy cow.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. alterbentzion
    Posted December 5, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Okay, Robert. Wooden microphone?
     
    The symmetry’s nice.
     
    I get the impression that there are as many messed-up musicians as actors. Is it celebrity, or the nature of performance artists?
     

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Larry
      Posted December 5, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      It could be a neolithic pogo stick.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted December 5, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      Alter:

      Sculpture by Phyllis Green, wood and steel.

      Many performers are insecure narcissists. Celebrity exaggerates these personality deficiencies.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. Bill Brandt
    Posted December 5, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    If Ava thought reading Forever Amber was part of the road to self improvement I am speechless.
    Where can you read these notes?

    On Artie Shaw – we all have those moments of regret.

    Simply “regret” doesn’t convey the feeling.

    Years ago, when I was a regular church-goer the minister decided he wanted to bring in a lot more money for the church, so he hired a professional fund raiser.

    He taught the “leadership” how they could extract more money from the membership.

    So week after week these people are up on the dais telling the congregation what they are giving.

    Whether Jew or Christian (or Muslim I suspect) giving silently is the way one should give.

    I always regret not standing up when the minister gave his weekly “any questions?” routine at the end of his strong-armed tactics.

    Maybe with Artie and me it is our conscience – maybe even G*d reminding us – that we should speak up.

    But it was at the time an acknowledged deficiency.
     
     

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

    • Bill Brandt
      Posted December 5, 2013 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      (Bill replying to his own post) I hafta learn to start following the links. Just ordered a copy.
       
      Robert you should be getting a commission from Amazon for all the stuff I have ordered based on your recommendation.
       
      Enjoyed Ride The High Country.
       
       
       

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

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