Smithfield Herald

This weekend is all about Ava

A 1963 photo of Ava Gardner on the set of “The Night the Iguana.”
A 1963 photo of Ava Gardner on the set of “The Night the Iguana.” AVA GARDNER MUSEUM

This year’s Ava Gardner Festival will have more parties and a miniature fashion show.

The festival, which will take place Oct. 4-6, will focus on one of Gardner’s most famous movies: “The Night of the Iguana.”

In the film, set in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Gardner played Maxine Faulk, a widow who runs a coastal hotel.

The movie is about an Episcopal priest who battles lust and alcohol.

“It’s a great movie,” said Todd Johnson, the museum’s executive director. “It’s one of most peoples’ all-time favorite Ava Gardner movies.”

Gardner made the movie in 1963 after being released from her long contract with MGM. “In this role, she was kind of allowed to let her hair down and be herself – be the Southern farm girl Ava, pour on the Southern charm,” Johnson said.

The festival starts Friday night with satellite parties at nine locations across the county. The venues are turning their normal Friday nights into Ava-themed events, with drinks such as the “Ava-tini.” The museum will host a cocktail party at 7 p.m. The theme is “Mad About Ava,” and the museum encourages guests to dress in 1960s clothing in a tribute “Mad Men,” the TV show. Those with the best costumes can win cash prizes.

The museum will showcase exhibits about “The Night of the Iguana” and display some Gardner movie costumes that haven’t been on public view for more than 20 years, Johnson said. Guests can also enter a raffle to win a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where the movie was filmed.

From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. the museum will show “The Night of the Iguana” throughout the day for free.

On Saturday, people can also go on a heritage tour of Gardner’s childhood hometown and grave.

The museum is at 325 E. Market St. in downtown Smithfield.

New this year to the events is a fashion show based on Gardner’s clothing.

Danielle Wiggins, 27, is a fashion designer in Raleigh and the owner of Dani Oliva.

She began researching old Hollywood fashion this summer and became inspired by Gardner’s clothing. Wiggins created 10 different looks and debuted them at Charlotte Fashion Week.

The outfits have many influences from Gardner’s life, including from the movie “The Killers.” Wiggins used animal-print patterns, the classic A-line cut and also polka-dots.

“Even though a lot of her pictures are in black and white, the ones that are in color, you can see her beautiful green eyes, so I incorporated green into my collection,” Wiggins said.

Wiggins said she hopes to connect to the Smithfield audience. “Being inspired by Ava Gardner, I do want to pay homage to the starlet and celebrate her,” she said.

Wiggins said she wants to recognize Gardner’s footprint in the fashion industry through the clothing the actress chose to wear.

She wants the audience to “see my influence as a young designer and the impact that Ava Gardner has made on me and probably many other designers as well.”

Wiggins will show eight pieces with four models on Saturday.

Golden age of Hollywood

Joyce Adams is co-owner Adams Vineyards, one venue hosting a satellite party.

Her winery will serve Ava-tini martinis. Adams said she grew up watching Gardner’s movies.

“She was a legend in her time,” Adams said. “Everybody who grew up during that era knew Ava Gardner, and there’s still a lot of them living who grew up in that era, and we’re all happy to see it celebrated.”

The festival is the museum’s annual fundraiser, Johnson said.

“It’s just a good way for people who are Ava Gardner fans, who are curious about Ava Gardner and her career, to come and share the excitement of learning about her and about the golden age of Hollywood all in one weekend,” Johnson said.