Ava Gardner and James Mason star in Pandora & The Flying Dutchman….and it’s filmed in Tossa de Mar!
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At one of the most spectacularly astounding viewpoints of the Vila Vella, there is a magnificent bronze statue of the renowned American actress, Ava Gardner.
The statue, the work of Spanish sculptress, Ció Abellí, was erected in August 1998 with a ceremony attended by many townspeople and guests, amid much accolade in the Spanish media. It sees the actress immortalised for eternity as ‘Pandora’, from the acclaimed and intensely romantic 1951 film, ‘Pandora and the Flying Dutchman’, which was filmed in Tossa de Mar.
In the spring of 1950, Ava Gardner and James Mason arrived in Tossa de Mar to film the haunting and intriguing film ‘Pandora and the Flying Dutchman’.
Whilst she was there, her down-to-earth charm won Ava the hearts of the people of Tossa de Mar. She also fell in love with the whole country of Spain, and she even went to live in Madrid a few years later, staying there for around eight years.
Mario Cabre was another co-star of Ava Gardner in the film, and he fell in love with her, as much as Pandora fell for The Flying Dutchman. Mario was a matador and an actor, and one of many Spanish matadors who tried to win the heart of ‘the world’s most beautiful woman’.
Ava at the time was married to her second husband Frank Sinatra, so when Mario Cabre let the world know about his feelings for the actress, she was desperate to proclaim that she only had eyes for Sinatra. This was perhaps true, as Sinatra was known as ‘the love of her life’, but this was just one of the many problems that the couple’s relationship experienced before they divorced in 1957.
When "Pandora" was released in 1951, the quaint and lovely Tossa de Mar became a tourist attraction. To watch the film now is an amazing experience: it reveals an amazingly untouched resort. Where hotels and restaurants now stand, and roads snake into the mountains, were sheer, craggy rock faces and unending pine-topped natural scenery.
Almost half a century after the film was released, sculptress Ció Abellí came to Tossa de Mar with an idea which she presented to the board of commissioners. She asked if they would commission her to create a statue of ‘Pandora’ in memory of Ava Gardner, who was so loved by the people of Tossa.
The proposition was met with great enthusiasm, and in 1998, her magnificent sculpture was unveiled and dedicated.
The sculpture stands within the Vila Vella, looking over a spectacular view of the bay of Tossa. Here, Pandora is imagined watching and longing for the sight of her true love, the Flying Dutchman, and Ava stands gazing lovingly at the place she took so fondly to her heart.
The famed legend of ‘The Flying Dutchman’ forms the basis of this acclaimed film, written and directed by Albert Lewin.
Pandora Reynolds was an intensely beautiful woman who men felt compelled to love so profoundly that they would sacrifice everything for her. But Pandora’s heart looked set never to be captured. Until that is, after hearing of the legend of the Flying Dutchman and intrigue getting the better of her, she swam out to a mysterious boat moored in the bay of ‘Esperanza’ and met Hendrick van der Zee, a wonderfully handsome, yet ghostly, yachtsman played by James Mason.
Esperanza, meaning ‘hope’ was, of course, Tossa de Mar.
The story begins in the 16th Century when the Dutchman suspects that his wife has been unfaithful to him and kills her in cold blood without giving her a chance to state her case.
He is tried and sentenced to death. In an incensed courtroom speech, he declares that he could wander the seas for all eternity, and would still never find a woman to be trusted!
On the night before he is to be put to death, he wakes from an unsettled sleep to find his cell door open and the guards asleep. His boat is docked nearby and his crew are waiting to help him escape.
They set sail and the Dutchman finally settles down to sleep.
He wakes the next morning and finds himself totally alone. The crew have disappeared. The realisation descends on him: the mad courtroom speech, the unsettled sleep, the effortless escape. He has sealed his own doom. The ship he is on is a ghost ship. He is condemned to sail the seas for eternity, unless he can find a woman who loves him enough to give up her life for him. Then he will be able to die in peace. Every seven years, he is allowed to dock and search for this woman.
So he docks in the bay of Esperanza, and so the tale ensues. Would Pandora, the woman who would never give her heart to any man, be the woman who would love him enough to give up her life for him?
The film is compelling viewing. It is one of those that requires undivided attention so as not to lose the plot. But you cannot help to allow your eyes to wander off into the incredible scenery where although you’ll see differences, they are not stark, and you’ll be delighted at how much the overall backdrop of Tossa has remained intact.