A Visit to the Ava Gardner Museum: One More for My Wish List

Was anyone else a big fan of Rachael Ray’s tv show “$40 a Day?” If you’re not familiar with it, it was a show on the Food Network where for each episode Rachael would spend 24 hours in a certain city with only $40 per day to spend on meals and snacks. The cameras would follow her around each city, and she would give tips on what local attractions to see, how to find bargains, and how to eat on a budget. That brief description doesn’t really do the show justice, but I’ll just say that I absolutely loved watching it, and it inspired me to want to travel more and take short trips to various cities throughout the United States.

My Classic Movie Trip Wish List

I’ve only taken one such trip so far – a  three day visit to Boston a few years ago, but I plan on going on many more in the years to come.  One thing I dream about doing on those trips is visiting as many classic movie related attractions and events as possible. It may be a while before I can fully realize that dream, but in the meantime I’m assembling a wish list that seems to be growing bigger every week. Some examples of the places I would like to visit and the events I would like to attend include the Jimmy Stewart Museum in Pennsylvania, the Warner Brothers Museum in California, the Clark Gable Museum and Bed & Breakfast in Cadiz, Ohio, and the annual Noir City Film Festival in San Francisco.

The newest place that has come to my attention recently that I intend to visit someday is the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, North Carolina. Now, I have to admit that I don’t really know much about Ava other than what I just read about her on the museum’s website. As big of a star as Ava Gardner was, I have never even seen one of her movies. I don’t even really know how to explain that one! So it may seem strange that I want to visit a museum that is exclusively devoted to her, but I’m always looking to learn more about classic movie stars and the museum looks like a wonderful place to visit.

A Visit to the Ava Gardner Museum

When you visit the Ava Gardner Museum, you have the option of going on a self-guided tour of the 5,000 square foot exhibit space where you can view over 20,000 pieces of Ava Gardner memorabilia. Pieces include costumes, movie posters, and awards as well as personal items such as china, jewelry, and clothing.  According to the museum’s website, each object in the museum was either owned by Ava Gardner or her family, used in her films, or had a special meaning or relationship to Ava.

The museum also offers group packages which include a tour of important places throughout Ava’s hometown such as her  birthplace, the Teacherage where she grew up, and the Howell Theater where Ava’s mother took her to see her first movie. One thing I found very interesting is that the first movie she saw was Red Dust (1932) starring Clark Gable and Jean Harlow. Ironically, Ava would later star in a remake of that movie, 1953’s Mogambo with Clark Gable reprising his original role. The tour ends with a visit to her gravesite which is located a short drive from the museum. Ava requested that she be laid to rest next to her parents and siblings, which I find very touching.

The Ava Gardner Festival – October 7-9

If you happen to be in the area on October 7-9, you can also attend the museum’s annual Ava Gardner Festival, which is being held that weekend. This year, the festival will pay tribute to Frank Sinatra, the man Ava once declared as the love of her life. Festivities will include a cake and champagne reception, new Frank & Ava exhibits, and screenings of classic Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner films such as “From Here to Eternity”, “Ocean’s Eleven”, and “Pal Joey.”

To learn more about the Ava Gardner Museum, you can visit their website where you will find information about exhibits, tour packages, and a gift shop where you can buy Ava Gardner merchandise.

Which classic movie related attractions have you visited in the past or would you like to visit in the future?

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  1. Audrey says:

    Wow, that museum sounds really fun! I think every classic actor and actress needs that kind of treatment! 😀

  2. Ginny says:

    I totally agree! I’d love it too, because then there would be several places in my home state and I could just take a bunch of day trips. But sadly there are none. :-( At least not that I know of.

  3. […] set on ocean liners (Part I and Part II), one of my favorite movie settings, and a post about the Ava Gardner Museum, another name I added to my ever growing list of classic movie related places I’d love to […]

  4. John says:

    My fantasy trip was always to attend at least one game in ever major league baseball park. I don’t think that would ever happen today. Now that most ballparks have modernized, they have become less alluring to me. I guess Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are the only two ballparks I would want to visit now.

    As far as visiting sites, I have tons of museums here in NYC. I wish there were some actor or actress museums near me to visit.

    Regarding Frank Sinatra, he is one of my favorite singers. I have many CDS by him. In regard to his acting I thought it was pretty underrated. My favorite Sinatra film is Suddenly. Other Sinatra films I really enjoyed include: From Here To Eternity, On The Town, The Manchurian Candidate. Anchors Aweigh, Pal Joey, Guys And Dolls, It Happened In Brooklyn, A Hole In The Head, The Devil At 4 o’clock, Von Ryans Express, the Miracle Of The Bells and High Society.

    Frank Sinatra with all his films, music and concerts combined is easily the greatest entertainer of all-time. Nobody is even close. He also did a lot of charity stuff you never knew about. I like people who do this stuff anonymously. It shows they are really good people and have a lot of class.

  5. Ginny says:

    I used to have a goal of visiting every major league ballpark, too! I still do want to visit as many as possible but probably won’t get to all of them. I have been to Wrigley many times since the Cubs are my favorite team, and I also had the pleasure of attending a Red Sox game at Fenway when I took a trip to Boston a few years ago. It was a great experience and I’d love to go back.

    I am also a big fan of Frank Sinatra! I love his music and have seen about half of the movies you listed plus a few others.

    • John says:

      I am wondering if you ever listened to the CD or viewed the DVD of Sinatra’s called The Main Event? It’s taped from 1973 with a great introduction by Howard Cosell before Sinatra enters? It takes place in Madison Square Garden in NYC.

      It is only about 54 minutes in length but it is Sinatra at his best. The live version here of The House I live In is priceless. Sinatra made so much good music from his first days with Harry James to the Columbia Years with Dorsey to then his own label at Reprise. From his young voice to his old, I just can’t decide which I like best. He definitely evolved as a singer and is just a legend now. I have grown to appreciate him so much more in the last twenty years.

      The one CD he made late in his career I would love to recommend is LA IS MY LADY. It is a superb collection of great songs that feature Mack The Knife, LA IS MY LADY and THE BEST OF EVERYTHING. It was recorded in NYC under the arrangement of Quincy Jones and features such jazz greats as Lionel Hampton, The Brecker Brothers, George Benson and many more. A really great CD and listen. They even made a video that I have where they show the making of this CD. All the participants knew it was such a special recording and even Michael Jackson stopped by to meet Frank. This was in 1984 during Jackson’s meteoric rise as a performer.

  6. […] most extensive memorabilia collection dedicated to her. The museum is one of the locations on my wish list of classic movie related places to […]

  7. […] The Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, North Carolina […]