Twelve O’Clock Tales with Ava Gardner

Photo credit Frank Ishman

Married to Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw, and Frank Sinatra, and divorced from all three of them, Ava Gardner was fodder for 20th-century gossip columnists and a signature component of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Indeed, Ava Gardner was listed as number 25 on the American Film Institute’s tally of greatest female screen legends.

Ava Gardner had an abundance of beauty and charisma, though (as she admitted) not much talent as an actor, as studio boss Louie B. Mayer once exclaimed regarding the brunette beauty, “She can’t sing, dance or act — she’s perfect!” Nevertheless, she stirred much allure and controversy during her 67-years of life. In the 80-minute solo-show sensuously performed with wit, suggestive gestures, and verbiage by a silkily attired Alessandra Assaf who, along with Micheal Lorre and Michael A. Shepperd, wrote the script for Twelve O’Clock Tales with Ava Gardner, Ms. Gardner is, under the straightforward direction of Michael A. Shepperd, brought back to life. 

Not only do we learn of Gardner’s multiple marriages, we also learn of her many love affairs with the likes of Howard Hughes (whom Gardner proclaims was an unrepentant racist) and the abusive, alcoholic Oscar-winning actor George C. Scott, with whom she played Sara to Scott’s Abraham in John Houston’s epic The Bible. Having befriended Ernest Hemingway, Gardner, like Hemingway, became a huge devotee of bullfighting. More than the bulls, however, Ava Gardner was an adoring fan of matadors, such as Luis Miguel Dominguez, who became one of her many lovers. She referred to that period of her life as “a sort of madness…”

Biographical plays are a good source of learning, and that’s the reason I’m a devotee to such stories. Plus, it’s interesting to see the skills an actor can bring to such a reincarnation. Ms. Assaf’s embodiment of Ava Gardner is credible and, at times, even magnetic. If there’s a complaint to be had with Twelve O’Clock Tales with Ava Gardner, it’s with the murky relationship with the off-scene assistant with whom Ms. Gardner is supposedly conversing as she sits in her dressing room. Still, what is brought to light is well worth knowing as her views on religion as an unabashed atheist and her passion for civil rights and desegregation are revealed.

What: Twelve O’Clock Tales with Ava Gardner.

When: 2 p.m., Sundays, through March 5.


Whitefire Theatre

13500 Ventura Blvd.

Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

Call (818)687-8559 or go to