Yes, our latest Mystery Guest was, indeed, the luscious Ava Gardner. If the adjective "smoldering" hadn't yet been invented, then it would have had to have been coined to describe La Gardner. For our money, she completely surpassed her immediate predecessors and contemporaries (Hedy Lamarr, Rita Hayworth and Elizabeth Taylor) in nearly every department: looks, glamour, elegance and talent. She certainly was never the critics' darling, and never seemed to think much of her own abilities; but given strong material and a capable director, and Gardner brought not only her sensual, sexually-charged presence to the proceedings, but also an earthy honesty and surprising tenderness.
Widely acknowledged as one of the screen's great beauties from the very beginning of her career, by the late 1950's, Gardner was accused of allowing hard living, heavy drinking and rough loving to adversely affect her looks. In our humble opinion, the aging Gardner's looks may have changed, but didn't diminish. If anything, her bearing became more regal, while her allure was made even more erotically powerful by her maturity and experience.
After leaving the protection of her MGM contract in 1958 (she had called Metro "home" since 1941), and only occasionally leaving her adopted country of Spain, Gardner only made sporadic film appearances; On the Beach (1959) and The Night of the Iguana (1964) were worthwhile productions, while the majority of the rest were made "strictly for the loot," as Gardner blithely explained.
In 1985, Gardner had one last glamorous hurrah when she guest starred on five episodes of Knots Landing, still exuding the star power which had led to her being dubbed "The World's Most Beautiful Animal" decades earlier. Five years later, she was dead from pneumonia at age 67 - "The Last Goddess," trumpeted the People magazine cover story on her passing. Few members of Hollywood's fabled golden sorority deserved that sobriquet more.
A visitor from France, Dsata, was the first to guess La Gardner's identity (and we're loving her blog!) - the photo, by John Engstead, was formatted in such a way that we and normadesmond felt it obscured Gardner's instantly recognizable features; the original proof is below.
So, dear Dsata, you have your choice of a prize: would you prefer a Barefoot Contessa, or a Naked Maja? Or perhaps you'd simply like us to Bhowani your junction.