The fire is out, the wind is cold. What better time to warm ourselves with the memory of Ava Gardner, as we raise a toast to the actress whose often crowded life began on December 24th, 1922 as a Christmas Eve baby? The youngest of seven children born on a tobacco farm in Grabtown, North Carolina, as she grew up it was a bit of a shock to the girl that it "appeared that there was this whole other person Jesus Christ whose birthday a lot of people tended to confuse with mine. I was personally outraged. It was a long time before I forgave the Lord for that."
Despite that early brush with blasphemy and display of innately irreverent humor, Gardner's destiny seemed charmed. Her unvarnished natural beauty on display in a New York photographer's window caught the eye of someone with ties to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, leading to a contract with the studio in 1941. The kind of work she did there involved softening a pronounced Southern accent, learning to blend seductiveness and purpose under the tutelage of Lillian Burns, and posing for pictures like the one above, for all the holidays, some of which graced the walls of garages and barber shops throughout the land. Many walk-on parts and a couple of missteps down the marital path later (Mickey Rooney and Artie Shaw), the writer-producer Mark Hellinger spotted her in the low budget Whistle Stop (1946), and he just knew--this was "Kitty O'Shea."