Monday, November 1, 2010

A Quick Visit to The Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield NC

So, there my lovely wife and I were, traveling from home sweet home to Myrtle Beach SC for a four day week-end, when we pass a sign on the highway telling us that we are near the Ava Gardner Museum.  Apparently Ms. Gardner was born right near there, in Smithfield NC (the town ain't all about the hams ya know!).  Actually she was born in a place called Grabtown, which I think may have become Smithfield at some later date.  Well anyway, check-in time loomed ahead of us and we still had miles to go til we hit the beach, so zooming past the exit we went.  Now if this had been the Joan Crawford or Barbara Stanwyck or Joan Blondell museums (none of which exist btw - I checked when we returned home) or perhaps the Bogart or Cagney museums (these too, do not exist) or perhaps the Ann Dvorak museum (this of course does not exist either!) then the brakes would have been a-squealin' and off I-95 we would have shot.  But alas, it was not, so on we went - deciding to let it up to fate whether we would stop there on the return trip come Sunday Sunday Sunday (did not know if they were even open on Sundays).

Well, after a week-end of frolicking in the rather chilly Atlantic, enjoying some good-ole forties-style beachside boardwalky counter restaurant food (catfish sandwich for me, cheese fries for my Honey), the buying of PEZ (see the post just before this one) and some Jungle Lagoon mini-golf (ask my lovely wife how bad she thumped me!!) we were off on our trip home and our posible destiny with Ms. Ava Gardner (I checked btw, and found out the museum was open 2-5 on Sundays).  After a side-trip to the cheesy capital of the south, South-of-the-Border (and a slew of really cheesy souvenirs and pix of the two of us on various giant animal statues) we went roaring up I-95 N and lo and behold, destiny was on our side as we pulled up to the Ava Gardner Museum in plenty of time to peruse the place.

It is a rather nice little museum.  First we were shown a seventeen minute film about Ava and then we took a tour around the place, seeing costumes and gifts and lots of old movie posters and memorabilia - all the while (of course) Sinatra played on the sound system.  There were some great pieces in the museum's collection, including a tiny watch given to Ava by John Ford (her wrist must have been extremely thin) and pictures of her beloved corgis (the last one, Morgan, was left to close friend Gregory Peck when Ava died in 1990).  We left with some Ava booty (a shot glass to add to my collection as well as some postcards, magnets, a great tee for the missus and a fan of Ava's lovely face - for those hot evenings one needs to cool themselves off from) and went on our way.  Of course this all coincides with TCM naming Ava Gardner Star of the Month for November, so it is a bit like kismet if you ask me.  

The only real problem is I have only ever seen one Ava Gardner film in my lifetime.  Yeah, I said ONE!  The Killers w/ Burt Lancaster (his film debut!) is that one film.  No Mogambo.  No Barefoot Contessa.  No Pandora and the Flying Dutchman.  No 55 Days at Peking.  No Night of the Iguana.  Not even ShowboatYeah, I know, rather shameful for the Film Historian I claim to be, but Ava is just one of those gaps that are in desperate need of filling.  Much like Joan Blondell or Ann Dvorak prior to this past year.  Well, as I stated above, TCM will readily fix all that nonsense.  But, even with that, the museum was great fun - and I have the fan to prove it.


Ava Gardner Museum said...


Great post on the Ava Gardner Museum. I'm glad you enjoyed yourselves and learned a little more about our Ava. As you noted, there are very few celebrity museums and we are incredibly lucky to have the support of her family and several devoted fans that allow us to exhibit a large collection of items (over 20,000+ items are in the collection.) As far as Grabtown goes, its a small community about 8 miles east of Smithfield; not a town, but more a crossroads than anything. Smithfield was the closest town to Ava while growing up, and this is where she would come to watch movies at the Howell Theater (still in operation) or go dancing at the Holt Lake Pavillion.

Kevyn Knox said...

Thank you for having such a great and fun museum to visit.