The most beautiful actress classic Hollywood ever produced? The best actress?

We’ve written a lot about Ava Gardner in other blogs, and generally take the position of yes to the first but not necessarily to the second. Gardner was excessively insecure about her acting abilities, but she needn’t have been.

She was so good looking that audiences often didn’t care how good a performer she was or wasn’t.  Just being there, up on the big screen, was more than enough.  For the record, Gardner, a country tomboy from rural North Carolina, compiled a 45-year acting career covering nearly 70 movie and tv credits.

She was always worth watching since she remained a beauty almost until the end of her life; she died in 1990 at age 67.  She was legendarily bad at marriage — her feckless three husbands were among the most famous names in show business. She was bracingly foul-mouthed, a “man’s woman” who held her liquor as well as the next guy and who luxuriated in pleasurable idleness.

Yet she had exquisite taste in most things, and generally improved the work she chose to do.  And she was just so astonishingly — unforgettably — beautiful. How much do you you know about this great star?  Take our Ava Gardner Quiz, and find out. (Answers tomorrow.)

1) Question:  Ava Gardner’s father was — if not a wealthy businessman — a reasonably successful tobacco farmer.  a) True; or b) False.

2) Question:  Which one of the following was often cited along with Gardner as “the worst pickers of men in Hollywood?” a) Donna  Reed; b) Esther Williams; c) Lana Turner; or d) Elizabeth Taylor.

3) Question: Gardner was a lifelong jazz fan, and was said to have an occasional fling with some of the art’s most famous practitioners. Which one of the following was most bowled over by the actress?  a) Trumpeter Roy Eldridge; b) drummer Gene Krupa; c) Crooner-actor Herb Jeffries; or d) Miles Davis.

4) Question: Gardner’s singing voice was famously dubbed for her role as the racially-mixed Juli Laverne in the 1951 MGM version of “Show Boat.” Which one of the following actually sang the part?  a) Kathryn Grayson; b) Lena Horne; c) Annette Warren; d) Jane Powell.

5) Question: Gardner made her first big Hollywood splash playing Kitty Collins in the 1946 film noir thriller, The Killers. So did her leading man who made his movie debut in the picture.  Who was he?  a) Burt Lancaster; b) Tyrone Power; c) Kirk Douglas; or d) Yves Montand.

6) Question:  Who was Gardner talking about when she said, The meanest man on earth. Thoroughly Evil. Adored him!? a) Second husband Artie Shaw; b) Director John Ford; c) Director John Huston; or d) First husband Mickey Rooney.

7) Question:  Gardner was sexually deflowered by first husband Rooney, and talked negatively about the experience for the rest of her life.  a) True; or b) False.

8) Question: Gardner had a sexy, alluring older sister who was a role model for young Ava and was instrumental in getting her into the movies.  What was Gardner’s pet name for her sibling?  a) Missy; b) Bea; c) Bappie; or d) Sadie?

9) Question: Gardner made three pictures with Clark Gable, and despite their 21-year age difference reportedly had an affair with the actor on the set of 1953’s African adventure, Mogambo.  a) True; or b) False.

10) Question: Gardner had a widely publicized affair with actor Robert Mitchum.  a) True; or b) False? 

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