In 2018, the Ava Gardner Museum opened the “Hemingway’s Heroine” Exhibit, which showcases Ava’s close friendship with Ernest Hemingway. This exhibit features, for the first time, a movie costume reproduction. Danielle Lynch, a fashion designer from Raleigh who has been inspired by Ava’s fashions, recreated the iconic black satin, single-shoulder strapped dress Ava wore in The Killers.
The Killers, which in 2008 was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”, is an intense, hard-edged, stylish film noir of robbery, unrequited love, brutal betrayal, and double-cross. MGM loaned Ava to Universal Studios to play femme fatale Kitty Collins with newcomer Burt Lancaster, and critics and movie audiences alike took notice of Ava's performance. Her success in The Killers led to two more roles as Hemingway heroines, including Cynthia Street in The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Lady Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises.
Ava would meet Hemingway through famed bullfighter, Luis Miguel Dominguin, and they remained close friends for the next decade. Ava called him Papa, he called her Daughter, and after starring in her second adaptation from one of Hemingway’s works, he would remark, “Ava, the only two good things in it (Snows of Kilimanjaro) were you and the hyena”.
Fans of the film noir genre and Hemingway will enjoy this new exhibit and the unique way the museum is recreating this iconic costume, as the museum board strives to keep new and innovative exhibits rotating in the museum for visitors to return again and again to Smithfield and to continue to tell Ava’s story.
The Ava Gardner Museum is a 501 C 3 non-profit museum that houses the original Tom Banks Collection and much more in Historic Downtown Smithfield. It is located at 325 E. Market Street in Smithfield, NC, and more information can be found by calling the museum directly at 919-934-5830 or going online at johnstoncountync.org/ava-gardner/.