“[There are] countless small shrines in the hometowns or the adopted towns of native sons and daughters who went away to become famous, though some of the stars are barely remembered today. These museums are mostly special for their focus and usually reflect an undying care for their subjects by true keepers of the faith….
“In 1996, the little town of Smithfield, N.C., bought the extensive collection of Ava Gardner memorabilia from a childhood acquaintance of the actress, who lived for about 10 years of her childhood in the rural eastern North Carolina town. A movie siren of the 1940s and 1950s who was married for several tumultuous years to Frank Sinatra, Gardner died in 1990.
“ ‘There is no question that part of having the museum is economic development, bringing people to our town, at least for a little while,’ said Todd Johnson, the museum’s executive director. ‘But movie channels like Turner Classics now give another generation a sense of who Ava was, so I think people enjoy having a museum to see her things.’ ”
Most recently the Gardner Museum has installed a “Hemingway’s Heroine” exhibit, showcasing her roles in three movies based on Ernest Hemingway’s fiction.
I do wish the museum had been able to assemble its souvenir hand fans without stapling Ava’s classic countenance.
“In Hendersonville… Today I am in comparative affluence, but Monday and Tuesday I had two tins of potted meat, three oranges and a box of Uneedas and two cans of beer… and when I think of the thousand meals I’ve sent back untasted in the last two years. It was fun to be poor — especially if you haven’t enough liver power for an appetite. But the air is fine here, and I liked what I had — and there was nothing to do about it anyhow….
“But it was funny coming into the hotel and the very deferential clerk not knowing that I was not only thousands, nay tens of thousands in debt, but had less than 40 cents cash in the world and probably a deficit in the bank….
“The final irony was when a drunk man in the shop where I bought my can of ale said in voice obviously intended for me, ‘These city dudes from the East come down here with their millions. Why don’t they support us?’ ”
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, writing in his diary, autumn 1936
Scott vs. Ernest over fame’s long haul
“[On being introduced to Ernest Hemingway at his home in Cuba in 1955] I was eager to steer the conversation around to Miss Redmon’s class in American literature at the University of North Carolina. I had always been a bit skeptical of her ability to see into the minds of authors and extract hidden meanings that routinely went over my head.
“I recalled vividly one lecture in which she had explained the exquisite symbolism she discerned in this brief preface to ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’: ‘Kilimanjaro is a snow covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and it is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai “Ngàje Ngài,” the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.’
“Could we not see, she wondered, the beautiful metaphor therein expressed: the leopard, sensing impending death, climbing the mountains as if reaching out to God? Hemingway was alluding to the bond that exists between God and nature. I quoted Miss Redmon as best I could remember and asked Hemingway if this was what he had had in mind.
” ‘Bulls——!’ he said. ‘She doesn’t know what she’s talking about! I just thought it was a hell of a good story, that’s all. If you ever see her again, Lieutenant, you tell her what I said.’ ”
— From “My Day with Hemingway ” by Wallace Paul Conklin in American Heritage, December 1995
Just curious: Is Miss Redmon remembered on campus?
“It was in the textile mills of North Carolina [in 1934 that Martha Gellhorn, a 25-year-old investigator for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration] found the writing voice she had been looking for. It was clear and simple, a careful selection of scenes and quotes…. What made it her own was the tone, the barely contained fury and indignation…..
“Returning from a mill town where those fortunate enough to still have jobs were forced to pay half again as much for their food at the company store, she added: ‘It is probable — and to be hoped — that one day the owners of this place will get shot and lynched.’
“In Gastonia, among those who had lost everything, she at last had her subject. For the next 60 years, in wars, in slums, in refugee camps, she used this voice again and again…. It became her hallmark.”
— From “Gellhorn: A 20th Century Life” by Caroline Moorehead (2003)
Martha Gellhorn’s celebrated career as a foreign correspondent stretched from the Spanish Civil War to the invasion of Panama, although she is perhaps more widely remembered as Ernest Hemingway’s third wife — a distinction she abhorred.