Twenty four years ago on January 25 in London, at the age of 67, Hollywood lost of one of their top named actresses. Ava Lavinia Gardner was born December 24, 1922 around Smithfield, North Carolina. A small town approximately two hours west from the Atlantic Coast and four hours east from the Blue Ridge mountains.
She appeared in several high-profile films and television prime time shows from the 1950s to 1980s, including well known movies such as Show Boat, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Barefoot Contessa and The Night of the Iguana. Ava was nominated in 1930 for an Academy Award in Mogambo.
Gardner's family background met the hardships of many families of the time in rural areas of the United States. Her family lived in the farming communities of Johnston and Wilson Counties, North Carolina as well as for a short time in Virgina until her father died. Prior to her fame, Gardner returned with her family to North Carolina to attend Atlantic Christian College in Wilson, NC for a secretarial education. Her new career took off from a professional photograph noticed and sent to MGM.
The history of her life and stardom can be found in the Ava Gardner Musuem on Market Street in downtown Smithfield, North Carolina. On our visit, we took a self guided tour through the displays of clothing, jewelry, movie props, and everyday items of Ava Gardner's personal life from her beginnings to her life in fame.Throughout our experience at the museum, it was very easy to feel the pride of her friends, family and community who created this memory to share with the world.
Sometimes we take places for granted when you live amongst them. It took a trip back to Smithfield to visit friends and family, after moving to Illinois for my husband and I to visit the Ava Museum for the first time. We were very impressed with the history and displays of her Gardner's life. I highly recommend the museum as a stop on your travels and if you live within local miles, take time to check it out if you haven't already.
Ava Gardner is buried at the Sunset Memorial Cemtery in Smithfield, North Carolina. You will find her very simply grave at the end of a short sideway in the center of the cemetery with her family surrounding.
The website www.avagardner.org explains more about Ava Gardner's history and museum as well as upcoming events and photographs. Keep history alive by supporting the museum. Information can be found at the website for fundraisers and donations. There is an admission price.
The museum hours are Monday through Saturday: 9 am – 5 pm; Sundays: 2 pm – 5 pm.
Closed Dec 24-26, Easter Sunday,
The Museum is handicap accessible.