In old Hollywood, movie stars were treated like royalty, a mistake that led to mass political confusion and a profusion of knighted cameramen. Immerse yourself in cinema's heyday with today’s Groupon: for $6, you get admission for two people (up to a $12 value) to the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield.
The Ava Gardner Museum allows visitors to inspect memorabilia and absorb the personal details of one of the silver screen’s most enduring figures. Amble through more than of 5,000 square feet of exhibit space on a self-guided voyage of discovery. Artifacts unearthed by Tinseltown archaeologists include costumes and movie posters, plus the actress’s own china, clothing, and other personal possessions. Some materials, such as a watch she presented to Frank Sinatra, shed light on Gardner’s relationships with her three husbands, and others—including those in the soon-to-close exhibit _Hemingway and Ava_—examine her most significant and well-known friendships. A collection of 40 portraits by artist Bert Pfeiffer confirms the theory, long debated by scientists, that Gardner’s image can cure hiccups and stop cats in their tracks.
Round out your Ava understanding by visiting the exhibit about "The Most Photographed Woman in the World," who was born in Grabtown in 1922. A one-of-a-kind resource for the actress’s fans and for those enchanted by the glamour and 50-foot-tall, leather-winged directors of Hollywood’s Golden Age, the Ava Gardner Museum offers guests a well-rounded view of a woman who possessed one of the world’s most visible faces. The museum is open seven days a week, including most holidays, making it accessible to even the busiest cinephiles, movie buffs, and Gardner groupies.
- The collection is displayed in an engaging way without being overwhelming, and is well worth a visit. – rockyhillgal, TripAdvisor
Ava Gardner Museum
Ava Gardner was studying to be a secretary at the Atlantic Christian College when 12-year-old Thomas Banks met her while playing at the school's campus in 1940. A year later, the young boy learned his friend had signed a movie contract with MGM to become a movie star. From then on, he collected newspaper clippings and memorabilia tracing her film career, from her breakout role in 1946's The Killers to her lauded work in 1953's Mogambo with Clark Gable. Tom and Ava remained friends over the years, and, at her request, he unveiled his collection—more than 50 years in the making—in 1979 in Smithfield, her birthplace and eventual resting place.
Tom amassed more than 20,000 artifacts from Ava's career and private life, which now, among other pieces, fill the 6,400-square-foot Ava Gardner Museum. Among movie posters and awards stand the silk satin cape that Ava wore in publicity shots for The Barefoot Contessa and the black dress she donned in The Great Sinner. Her personal items include china, jewelry, 40 portraits of her by Bert Pfeiffer, and the engraved watch she gave to her third husband, Frank Sinatra. In addition to its permanent collection, the museum celebrates the starlet with its annual Ava Gardner Festival, which includes screenings of her classic films and heritage tours.