International film festival to honor Ava Gardner

From News ReleaseFebruary 17, 2014 

An international classic film festival in Granada, Spain, will honor Hollywood legend Ava Gardner, a Johnston County native.

The 10-day event, Retroback 2014, will take place Feb. 21 through March 2. It will feature screenings of Gardner’s movies and other classic films. An opening ceremony will include a tribute to Gardner and a concert by Granada’s philharmonic orchestra.

An added attraction will be an exhibit of memorabilia from the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield. Museum director Todd Johnson will travel to Spain with movie posters and movie costumes from the Ava Gardner collection.

Retroback has been held annually since 2009 and to date has honored Hollywood greats Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando.

Hepburn’s son, Sean Ferrer, is honorary president of the film festival. “Miss Gardner’s life and own ‘Cinderella’ arc are almost a carbon copy of my mother’s life story of ‘poverty to legend,’” Ferrer said.

His father, Mel Ferrer, co-starred with Gardner in “Knights of the Round Table” (1954) and “The Sun Also Rises” (1957). “He always referred to her as a ‘true lady’ and the most classically beautiful woman he had ever met,” Sean Ferrer said.

Festival organizers decided to honor Gardner because they consider her “one of the great myths of cinema.” She first visited Spain in 1950 while filming “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman” and moved there in 1955 to escape constant media scrutiny in the United States. She embraced Spanish language and culture and spent much of her leisure time dancing the Flamenco and attending bullfights.

“Her free spirit and her passion for life made her love Spain and Spain love her,” a recent Retroback new release stated.

Although she retained her American citizenship, the Spanish government tried to collect huge sums in back taxes from the actress, so in 1968 she moved to London, where she lived until her death in 1990.

Today Gardner is memorialized with a bronze statue by sculptress Cio Abelli at Tossa de Mar on the Mediterranean coast in northern Spain. It was commissioned in 1998 by leaders of a grateful community who recognized the vital role Gardner played in bringing tourism to the area after her unforgettable portrayal of the enchantress Pandora Reynolds in 1951.

More information about Retroback 2014 is online at

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