Ava Gardner, the Flying Dutchman and a Spanish Dream – Normalitas

I am there doing my topless in the sand when I hear a samba.

Something to catch the eye, because I am not in Copacabana, but in a small bay on the border of Deep Catalonia, in Tossa de Mar, a beautiful Mediterranean seaside resort with historical and medieval interest about an hour from Barcelona, ​​Girona.

I do not resist and I question the woman who plays through loudspeakers on the beach, next to an off screen with the sea in the background.

Brazilian, of course, from Belô.

Brazilian, when he meets his compatriots in the gringa, as a rule, he becomes quite emotional.

“I, eh, where did you know this person from?” I have been asked more than once. “Nothing, I just found out, but when Brazilians cross the world it’s like that, they leave right away asking questions about life, hugging, talking about nostalgia and having a barbecue at them… “.

Clarice, who has lived in Tossa for years, tells me that there will be a film that will be screened at night, taking advantage of the full moon.

Not just any movie: more precisely, the blockbuster that put this low-key fishing village on the path to Hollywood interests exactly 70 years ago.

Opening scene from “Os Amores de Pandora”, 1951 (Reproduction)

The opening scene shows ‘extras’ hired to play the role of local fishermen exchanging an idea in coarse Catalan while hauling an unusually heavy net out of the sea:

–Què crois que hi tenim a n’quí, una ballena (What do you think we have here, a whale)?

-A flock of ballenes!

The “ballenes” turn out to be corpses. End of the opening scene.


“Pandora’s Loves” (Albert Lewin, 1951) stars Ava Gardner and James Mason in the lead roles.

Ava plays Pandora Reynolds, a passionate, man-eating Spanish singer who breaks her legs when she falls head over heels in love with a mysterious and wary Dutchman who moored her ship in Tossa Bay (in the movie Esperanza).

(who never, isn’t)

Ava Gardner in the 1951 film Os Amores from Pandora (Reproduction)

The film is a blend of Greek myth, Hollywood drama, and legend of the Wandering Dutchman, with surreal touches duly co-orchestrated by avant-garde Dadaist surrealist photographer and artist Ista Ista Man Ray.

Ray got involved in the photography for the film, sprinkled the set design with a few headless Roman sculptures here and there, and created the ingenious chessboard that appears in one of the scenes (watch, watch), besides having got their hands on, they say, in the script.

For these and others, it’s worth seeing the production. Pay attention to the modern superrr scene of motor racing and the footage that shows a crazy party of the rich on the beach – you can smell the scent of photomontage, narrative deconstruction, logical Dada-style subversion.

Scene from “Os Amores de Pandora”, 1951 (Reproduction) (Call me at this party, please)

Surrealisms aside, “Os Amores de Pandora” is always a stylized parade of beautiful Mediterranean landscapes, poetic alleys, bourgeois dramas, good food, flamenco dances and bloody bullfights (with the real bullfighter Mario Cabré, with whom, it is said, Ava had an affair during the filming).

The Spain of “Pandora” is naive and stereotypical in the latter, which moreover suited the desire for “openness” (…!) Of the Francoist government in the early 1950s. The caricatural interpretation of Cabré as the bullfighter Juan Montalvo me, it made you feel like cringe lying in the moonlight on Tossa beach.

Ava Gardner and James Mason in the movie “Os Amores de Pandora” (1951) (Press photo) Mario Cabré as the torero Juan Montalvo in “Os Amores de Pandora”, 1951 (Reproduction) Tossa de Mar, Catalonia, in a scene from “Os Amores” by Pandora “, 1951 (Reproduction)

The film was shot in different locations on the so-called Costa Brava, including the beautiful Platja (beach) of Aro and the bullring of Girona.

But it is Tossa, this beautiful Catalan pueblo of less than 6,000 inhabitants, which wins the laurels of Ava’s Little Spanish Town.


Ava, Ava, this was my first time setting foot on Spanish soil, and it wouldn’t be the last – let alone without drama, but that’s for another article. He was then 28 years old and already two divorces behind him, in addition to an emerging flirtation with Frank Sinatra.

Singer Frank Sinatra and actress Ava Gardner, whom he married in 1951 (Reproduction)

The passage of the star in Tossa is omnipresent, starting with the highest part of Vila Vella, where it contemplates the sea, immortalized in a life-size bronze statue. There are also pictures of you in bars, restaurants like Tonet and hotels in the area. Everyone wants a cone of Ava.

And Franck. At the time, Sinatra was the beau da bella. He had left his wife and three children to be with her. And, they say, jealously, he came to look at the set and have a good drink (I imagine).

There he is also immortalized in Tossa in photos and anecdotes interspersed with fleeting conversations with the locals, a very Catalan and at the same time welcoming people, who, for abstract and phlanological reasons, and as far as my totally partial exploration of the territory can conclude, he tends to side with Ava, at the same time as he sees Sinatra as a stalker who has indulged in alcohol and abuse of his wife.

For example, a seaside bar owner commented to me, between tender and amusing, that Ava “was terrible” (hmmm) and spoke of his fleeting affair with Cabré, the bullfighter in the film.

In fact, Ava would later tell a biographer that it was “just one night”, and that the bullfighter was a “diablo guapo”. “After one of those romantic Spanish nights, full of stars, dancing and drinks, I woke up and found myself next to Mario Cabré,” she says in her memoirs.

Tossa, Sua Linda (Susana Bragatto / Folhapress) Tossa de Mar, medieval Vila Vella, Catalonia. I will still have a little house like this (Susana Bragatto / Folhapress)

Prancing, many years later, will admit that he fell in love with the diva “like a ceporro (crawler!)”. Also a poet, in his “Poetic Regime for Ava Gardner” from the 1950s, he wrote: “Rocio sobre apopolas, tus labios guard assombros”….

Three years later, in 1953, Ava would come to live in Madrid. There he would have a hot affair with another bullfighter, the legendary and controversial Luis Miguel Dominguin, friend of Dalí and Franco, brother of Orson Welles and Hemingway (Hemingway, that ubiquitous), dukacete womanizer. Also because of another article.


In the evening, I sit on the cool sands of Tossa Beach, among families, couples and loud groups of xovens, to see “Pandora”. I am alone. I almost always come to Tossa alone. It is my refuge, my fantastic island. One day, I think, I will have a small stone house inside the “Muralla” neighborhood.

Tossa was declared a National Historic and Artistic Monument in 1931 and is today the only preserved medieval fortified pueblo on the entire Catalan coast.

To the right of the screen, a brief shift in our gaze leads us to the towers of the fortified city. The most beautiful thing. With a perimeter of around 300 square meters, the city “Vella” was built between the 12th and 14th centuries to defend itself against piracy.

Full moon, Ava Gardner swimming naked in the sea, medieval ruins. And I think back to Paulo Onça’s simple words in a version of Jorge Aragão taken up a few hours earlier. I admit it’s not on my playlists, but it sows a strange homesickness in my soul:

Wanted the pleasure of amoooor / So wishing soooou
I’m just gonna settle down / When I conquer you ……… ..

(Follow Normalitas on Instagram)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *