5 February 2014

Gregory's proposal to Ava

Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner starred together in three films: "The Great Sinner" (1949), "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" (1952) and "On the Beach" (1959).  On 13 April 1956, after having done two pictures together, Gregory Peck wrote a letter to Ava Gardner with a proposal for a new film. Earlier that year, Gregory had founded Melville Productions with screenwriter/producer Sy Bartlett, and he wanted Ava (who was a good friend of his) to be part of their first project. 

Ava Gardner fell in love with Spain during filming of "The Barefoot Contessa" (1954); a year after the film's completion she moved to La Moraleja, the Spanish version of Beverly Hills in northern Madrid. In the letter Ava is wooed by Gregory in suggesting the film will be shot in her beloved Madrid and not Paris. In the end, however, the film was never made. The 1959 "On the Beach" would be Gregory and Ava's next and final film together.


1426 Summitridge Drive 
Beverly Hills, California

Dear Ava:

Enclosed you will find a script called "The Blind Mirror" by Liam O'Brien. Sy Bartlett and I are about to purchase it for our Independent company, Melville Productions, which will be producing one picture a year for a United Artists release starting next year.

I know that you get a lot of scripts along with a lot of promises and a lot of something else which I hear the French call merde thrown your way. So I will keep it simple and hope that this script will interest you without any sales talk from me.

There are just a couple of things that should be said. One is that we are going to make the picture in Madrid. The main reason being that we feel the Paris background has been used a great deal lately and does not provide the right kind of atmosphere and character for this particular story. As you will see, it is a melodrama and a love story. The obvious comparisons would be "Casa Blanca" and "The Maltese Falcon". We hope to make as good a picture as either one of those and feel strongly that for our purposes modern Madrid will provide a fresher, tougher and more intriguing background than Paris. One samll [sic] example of this would be the use of an authentic Madrid night spot, perhaps a Flamenco place instead of the Paris night club described in the script. We will use Spanish players in a number of the roles and focus a great deal of interest throughout on the faces and character of modern Madrid. The painting which is stolen will be one of the great Spanish masterpieces, a Goya or a Velasquez instead of a Van Gogh.

I won't say more about this as I feel sure that if the script interests you at all you will share our feeling that this story can be told to much greater advantage in Madrid.

Now comes the part where I say the the [sic] script needs more work. It does indeed, but that is always the case with any good story at this stage of its development. It has too much plot now and the chase is too frantic. We are going to settle it down and concentrate more on Ginette and Dagan and get them so that they are exactly right. We are going to go through the whole script so that it is to our liking and yours, if you are as taken by its possibilities as we are.

I won't toss any directors names around as we have not yet come to that point, but we will try for the best and he would, of course, have to be acceptable to you. 

We would like to make it next winter, say in December, or if that is not possible, then the following Spring. I really think it is a good thing or I would not be promoting you in this way.

Would you drop me a line or send a telegram when you have given it a read. Meanwhile, be a good little girl......

Miss Ava Gardner
La Moraleja
Al Cobendos
Madrid, Spain

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