To Ava Gardner Frank Sinatra ” was the one love of my life.”
And yet their relationship spawned crises, self-destruction and, eventually, Sinatra’s amazing show business comeback. Their romance didn’t last, but they remained friends for the rest of their lives.
The relationship between Gardner and Sinatra is the theme of the 2011 Ava Gardner Festival, opening this weekend. It features a new exhibit at the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, N.C. That’s the small town where she grew up as a farmer’s daughter before going to high school in Hampton Roads, Virginia…then to Hollywood to become an international legend, founding member of the jet set and the epitome of the liberated woman.
The festival runs through Sunday and will include a musical tribute to Sinatra in the theater where Gardner saw movies as a child. Tours will be offered through the tobacco country where Gardner ran barefoot. Stops include her birthplace, the boardinghouse where she grew up and her grave site.
While Gardner mostly abandoned her Hollywood career, she fought to help Sinatra make a comeback.
She offered to do a film for Columbia to secure a role for Sinatra as Maggio in “From Here to Eternity,” which led to an Academy Award for him. His record sales soared and he started a new movie career. Within two years, he was a multimillionaire and, as the press put it, “Chairman of the Board.”
They divorced in 1957. She never remarried. He married actress Mia Farrow, then Vegas ‘showgirl’ Barbara Marx.
The festival will feature mementoes from their romance, including a watch given by Gardner to Sinatra inscribed “To Francis,” and an unreleased demo called “You’re My Thrill” that he recorded for her.
“Frank Sinatra would risk everything to love Ava Gardner during a time in his life he struggled with his career”, said Donna Bailey-Taylor, museum board member. “It was not an easy relationship and ultimately it would crumble under the pressure from the press, the studios, and their own jealousy. But the fascination of their lives, love and their friendship continues to be written about over 50 years later, and the museum is thrilled to open this new exhibit at the 2011 festival.”
At the reception on Friday, October 7th, the museum unveiled its newest exhibit, Frank & Ava: Their Lives, Love and Friendship, as well as a newly designed main gallery exhibit. Attendees were treated to a one-of-a-kind cake from Carlo’s Bakery, A.K.A. The Cake Boss, all the way from Hoboken, NJ, Frank’s hometown.
“A museum board member remembered seeing the cake featuring Frank Sinatra, commemorating the 100th showing of the Broadway musical “Come Fly Away”, so we contacted the bakery to have a Frank & Ava cake made especially for this year’s celebration,” stated Bailey-Taylor. “Involving the local bakery brings a bit of Frank’s hometown to Ava’s hometown.”
On Saturday, October 8th, heritage tours will be scheduled throughout the day at 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Visitors will be given a guided tour of points of interest in Ava’s hometown, including Ava’s birthplace, the Teacherage where she grew up, the Howell Theater where Ava first went to the movies, and will end with a visit to her gravesite at Sunset Memorial Park. Heritage tour passes are $12.00 per person. All-day admission to the Museum on Saturday and Sunday will be $7.00 for everyone.
During the Festival, classic Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra films will be shown at the Smithfield Cinema 10, and titles tentatively scheduled are: “From Here to Eternity”, “Ocean’s Eleven”, and as well as “Bhowani Junction”, and “Show Boat”. Films will run Friday night through Sunday, and movie goers will receive a festival gift bag with museum admission passes valid for six months.
The Ava Gardner Museum partner is the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation as they host the 5th Annual Ava Gardner Independent Film Festival. The Independent Film Festival is separate from the Museum activities, and runs concurrently with museum events in Downtown Smithfield. For more information about the 5th Annual Ava Gardner Independent Film Festival, please call Chris Johnson, Executive Director of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation, at 919-934-0887.
The Ava Gardner Museum is located in downtown Smithfield, at 325 E. Market Street. More information may be found on the museum website, www.avagardner.org, or please call directly to purchase advance tickets, 919-934-5830. The museum is open Monday-Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Sunday 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. with admission of $7.00 adults, $6.00 seniors, military, teens and groups, and $5.00 children 6 to 12.
For the full schedule, call (919) 934-5830 or visit www.avagardner.org.