I love old movies and reading about Hollywood's Golden Era. I lived in North Carolina for a number of years and regret that I never made it to Smithfield to visit the Ava Gardner Museum.
Although I admire her work, I'm not a huge Ava Gardner fan and I haven't seen too many of her movies, but there's certainly no doubt she was a superstar and a true beauty! Nowadays people talk about certain types of "privilege." Ava had what I'll refer to as beauty privilege.
Wikipedia says: Gardner was visiting her sister Beatrice in New York in 1941 when Beatrice's husband Larry Tarr, a professional photographer, offered to take her portrait. He was so pleased with the results that he displayed the finished product in the front window of his Tarr Photography Studio on Fifth Avenue.
A Loews Theatres legal clerk, Barnard Duhan, spotted Gardner's photo in Tarr's studio. At the time, Duhan often posed as an MGM talent scout to meet girls, using the fact that MGM was a subsidiary of Loews. Duhan entered Tarr's and tried to get Gardner's number, but was rebuffed by the receptionist. Duhan made the offhand comment, "Somebody should send her info to MGM," and the Tarrs did so immediately. Shortly after, Gardner, who at the time was a student at Atlantic Christian College, traveled to New York to be interviewed at MGM's New York office by Al Altman, head of MGM's New York talent department.