The Ava Gardner Museum

Driving to this museum a question went through my mind, “How did a North Carolina farm girl rise to prominent Hollywood starlet?” Well, the museum visit answered this query.

As friends to Ernest Hemingway, Princess Grace, Gregory Peck, and married to Mickey Rooney and Frank Sinatra, she once said of life, “I’ve had a hell of a good time,” and it seems like she certainly did.

Ava began her life in Grabtown, North Carolina, a place not even listed on a map. She was a tomboy and her family cotton growers. While an adventurer she was always known for strong family ties with her 5 siblings. Both she and her mother loved movies with Clark Gable being their idol.

Fast forward to 17 where upon completion of secretarial studies she left North Carolina to visit her older sister in New York City. Her sister’s husband, a photographer, took several photos of her and these were seen by an MGM talent scout. She was offered a 7 year contract with MGM for $50 a week and was off to Hollywood with her sister in tow. Here she worked for the next 5 years as a picture model. It was during this time MGM gave her acting lessons which included changing her diction and drawl.

Her first major movie role was The Killers in 1946, followed by The Snows of Kilimanjaro, From Here to Eternity, and Mogambo, of which she received an Oscar nomination. The list extends as does the accolades. Visit the museum to learn more.

Here are a few pictures of her costumes from movies she worked in. My she had a tiny waist.

The museum is located at 325 East Market Street, Smithfield, North Carolina, and open Monday-Friday 9:30-4:30, Saturday 9-5, and Sunday 2-5. Admission is charged, but well worth the price. See the movie on Ava’s life and stop in the backroom of the museum for more memorabilia.

Ava was definitely true to her words. She is buried in the family plot several miles from the museum with a simple, inlaid stone marking her grave.

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