The 62-year-old Ava Gardner left London for Hollywood in 1985 to make her dramatic television debut on the series, 'Knots Landing'. Ava told the press, "There comes a time when you've got to face the fact that you're an old broad. I've done that. So my face looks, well, lived in. I don't resent a thing. You won't find me standing in front of the mirror weeping.
"Work is healthy for you, I guess. Capricorns are supposed to be gifted with self-discipline, but I think I missed out somehow. It takes someone else to crack the whip. Then I jump. My manager, Jess Morgan talked me into it. It's not the same thing as working in movies. These 7 episodes (Ava made her debut in episode 21 of the 1984-85 season) are enough to last me a lifetime. I couldn’t keep up with the fast TV pace. It’s tough for an old gal of 62.
"It takes me a little more time to get things together these days. They have a different writer and director every week. It's like having strangers on the set and I can't keep the continuity. I play a bitch in 'Knots Landing', but it seems to me there isn't one nice human being in any of the soaps. Still, I love to watch them. We get 'Dallas' and 'Dynasty' in England and they're very popular. I never worked with Howard (Duff), but he and I had a little flirt for a while."
Olivia de Havilland was initially approached to play the role of Ruth Sumner Galveston. The 7 episodes Ava guest starred in were written by Joyce Keener, Parke Perine, Michael Russnow, Melanie Mintz, Loren Reichman and directed by David Jacobs, Bill Duke, Robert Becker, Nick Havinga, John Patterson. Filmed on the MGM lot, Ava told the press, "It's a bit sad to go back to MGM today (back in 1985). The contrast between movies and TV was really brought home when I reported to MGM where I began my acting career at 18 (back in 1941).
"It had been 17 years (back in 1968) since I was there. It was an experience. A shock. All 3 of the back lots are gone. It was sad. I remember the great ones who used to walk those streets and have lunch in the commissary – Gable, Garbo, Hepburn. I remember when Clark Gable would walk into the commissary and sit down at the middle table (with Spencer Tracy, Robert Taylor and others). That was sheer magic. And when Lana Turner would sweep into the office of Lillian Burns, the drama coach. Now there was a real star!
"Every one of the 29 stages was busy with great casts, stars like Mickey (Rooney), Spencer Tracy and Astaire. They were all memorable faces and talents. I'm grateful to MGM. They made me a movie star – you notice I don't say 'actress'. Otherwise I might be a secretary, which is what I was trained for, or a housewife, or both, back in North Carolina. I was a frightened little girl from Smithfield, North Carolina, who was thrown into the Hollywood scene at 18. I had no doubt I'd be a movie queen. The stupidity of youth. I was much better equipped for having babies."
Artie Shaw remarked, "It's ironic that Ava's one chance (to have a baby) was endangered by her work. While making 'Mogambo' (1953) on location in Africa, she discovered she was pregnant by Frank (Sinatra). But the strenuous conditions led to a miscarriage. Shortly after the picture was completed, she and Frank (Sinatra) broke up (they divorced in 1957). Ava never saw fit to marry, or apparently to be serious about motherhood again."
Ava Gardner continued, "At the studios, we were told what to do, when to do it and how … You can only do a starring role. We seemed to make a lot of news with our marriages and divorces, but we were never really scandalous. We weren't into drugs. Now (in 1985) the studio is a ghost town. Well, I don’t want to dwell on the past. But I do want to get this all over with and return to London. I fell in love with England the first time I saw it (in 1970).
"The countryside reminded me of North Carolina – the English even sounded like people back home. Did you know there are parts of North Carolina where they talk pure Elizabethan? London to me is a 'safe' city, and I don't mean just in terms of muggings. There is a coziness to each little area, with its own neighborhood grocery stores. There have been changes, I’m sorry to say. The supermarkets are taking over. And the pubs are moving in jukeboxes. Now there's a phrase that dates me – 'jukeboxes.'"
In the 1984-85 season of 'Knots Landing', the Empire Valley project storyline was introduced. Empire Valley was described as a model residential city of the future. With enormous growth projected in the next 10 years (to 1994), Paul Galveston of Galveston Industries approached environmentalist Gary Ewing of Ewing Enterprises to become partner in the design and construction of the model community of the future. The planned development would see an industrial complex be built in the south of the valley - a communications mecca used for military intelligence gathering.
Abby's role in the project was "vital to national security." "You expect to use my TV as a cover up for your electronic Disneyland?" Abby told Greg. Greg required Abby to expedite the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) licenses to enable satellite dishes be installed and used for sending, collecting and storing of information. Madison Mason as John Coblentz told viewers, "Now the rewards for the free world with its communications network that can intercept messages of war, of missile and troop deployments, of sabotage by terrorists. This is vital to our security.
"There are hundred of satellites orbiting in space carrying messages, some important, some essential to the security of the world. With our installation at Empire Valley, we would be able to send such messages and to receive them and to monitor messages between parties, between countries. Think of it, imagine knowing virtually everything that been said everywhere at anytime."
In London, Ava Gardner walked her Welsh corgi Morgan every day in Hyde Park. "Most people don't recognize me, or if they do, they don't bother me. But what does amaze me is the number of English men and women who strike up conversations and tell me their life stories. I must say I enjoy that. I'm still as scared of the camera as I was the first day I appeared in a movie. I'm more terrified of the whole idea of acting and celebrity than ever.
"I've only watched 2 of my episodes in 'Knots Landing'. I thought it would be fun to be a movie star. That's why I worked in films. Of course, the realization of that dream turned out to be something different than I expected. But acting gave me an exceptional way of life and an opportunity to meet powerful, interesting and dashing men. Elizabeth Taylor enjoys her work. She took the pressure off me when I did 'Night Of The Iguana' (1964) with Richard Burton in Mexico. She had nothing to do with the picture, but she talked to the press, and I didn't have to."