Did Ava Gardner Make Disparaging Comments About Melbourne, Australia While Filming a Movie There?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Ava Gardner made extremely disparaging comments about filming in Melbourne, Australia.

Ava Gardner (1922-1990) is one of the most famous film actresses in Hollywood history, perhaps known just as much for her famed beauty and celebrated romances with famous icons like Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw, Frank Sinatra and Howard Hughes than for her acting roles.

In 1959, later in her career, Gardner starred opposite Gregory Peck in Stanley Kramer’s adaptation of Nevil Shute’s post-apocalyptic novel, On the Beach, which tells the tale of a United States Navy submarine that is traveling the world following a nuclear war, looking for any vestiges of humanity.

They come across the last remaining human settlement in Australia, but the sad fact remains that the nuclear fallout is headed there, as well, so unless they can find somewhere else safe on the planet, humanity as a whole might be doomed.

The movie filmed where the story was set, Melbourne, Australia.

Melbourne is the second-largest city in Australia, with about 4,000,000 people living in the city today. While always a beautiful looking city, back in 1959 it was not exactly much of a modern metropolis, so when it was reported that Gardner said of the city during the filming that it was:

the perfect place to make a film about the end of the world.

Everyone pretty much believed that she said (and meant) it, and in fact, that quote was the basis for a lot of hurt feelings for decades (you could look through a number of books about Australian history which reference the quote), as it seemed like a perfect expression of Western countries looking down on Australia.

Did she actually SAY it, though?

Well, fairly recently (in the late 90s), the author of the piece in the Sydney Morning Herald that contained the quote, Neil Jillett, admitted that the quote was fabricated. He was writing a tongue-in-cheek piece about the filming at the time, and attributed the quote to Gardner, but did it in a sort of “a friend of a friend of a friend said that Ava Gardner said this” joking manner, and then his editor changed it to a direct quote from Gardner.

So fear not, Melbourne citizens, Ava Gardner did not hate your city!

The legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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