Smith & Libby: Two Rings, Seven Months, One Bullet”to open at Reynolda House September 9
“Smith & Libby: Two Rings, Seven Months, One Bullet” will open at Reynolda House Museum of American Art on Sept. 9 and will be on view through Dec. 31, 2023. This exhibition presents a fascinating look through archival objects, news articles and other primary sources of an unsolved shooting that rocked the Reynolda estate and made national headlines in 1932.
Like most family homes, Reynolda House witnessed its share of tragedies, none more shocking than the death by gunshot of Zachary Smith (“Smith”) Reynolds, youngest child of R.J. and Katharine Smith Reynolds. Soon after midnight on July 6, 1932, Smith was shot on a sleeping porch at the family’s country estate. Smith died later that morning. Smith’s wife Libby Holman was ultimately charged with first-degree murder and Smith’s childhood friend and secretary Albert “Ab” Walker was named as accomplice. In a stunning reversal, the case was dropped before coming to trial. To this day, it is not known whether Smith Reynolds, 20-year-old heir and renowned aviator, died by suicide, accident or murder.
Among the items on display will be photographs and letters from Reynolda’s archives; a newly digitized newsreel from Hearst Metrotone News that was seen coast-to-coast prior to Hollywood movies in the summer of 1932; original news service photographs used by newspapers across the United States; oral histories about the case from people that knew Smith Reynolds personally, including his sister Nancy and employees of Reynolda; an animated film about the night of the shooting, produced by a Winston-Salem based company Out of Our Minds Animation Studios (outofourmindsstudios.com); and a sketch of the murder scene made by the local sheriff at the time. In addition, posters, programs and other memorabilia from Libby Holman’s theatrical and musical career as well as a replica of a gown made famous by Holman in a musical by Vincent Youmans and Oscar Hammerstein II will be on display. The gown was created by Jenna Sais Quoi LLC, an atelier located in Winston-Salem focused on custom apparel, costumes, dancewear and limited-edition collections. Jenna Sais Quoi (jsqdesigns.com/home) was founded by Jenna Anderson, a graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) School of Design and Production.
To complement the exhibition, Reynolda is offering several related events:
Reynolda On the House
Sept. 21, 4–7 p.m.; Oct. 15, 1:30–4:30 p.m.; and Nov. 18, 1:30–4:30 p.m.
Reynolda On the House offers a free opportunity to view “Smith & Libby: Two Rings, Seven Months, One Bullet,” along with exhibitions on view in the historic house and enjoy an art activity as well as other entertainment. In September, Reynolda On the House will focus on the blues with live music. In October, Reynolda On the House will celebrate aviation, Smith Reynolds favorite pastime. In November, attendees can enjoy live jazz with Matt Kendrick and friends.
Films Series: Sirens of the Silver Screen
Sept. 23, 1–4 p.m.; Oct. 28, 1–4 p.m.; and Nov. 4, 1–4 p.m.
Included with Museum Admission
Several major Hollywood films were related to or inspired by the story of Smith and Libby. In September, Reynolda will screen “Written on the Wind,” (1956)starring Rock Hudson and Lauren Bacall. It will be introduced by Dale Pollock, dean emeritus of the UNCSA School of Filmmaking. “Reckless,” (1935) starring Jean Harlow and William Powell. will be shown in October. It also will be introduced by Pollock. In November, the film “Sunset Boulevard”will be introduced by David Lubin, the Charlotte C. Weber Professor of Art History at Wake Forest University. The Sirens of the Silver Screen film series is presented by Mike and Debbie Rubin.
Reynolda Noir Matinée
Sept. 30, 3–5:30 p.m.
$100 per person
Attendees will experience an afternoon of music and storytelling exploring the life and music of Libby Holman. Holman was sultry, smart and bluesy. It is said she changed the way America sang and then promptly was forgotten. Or, perhaps, she was remembered for the wrong reason. For 40 years, she was known as the woman indicted for the murder of her husband, Smith Reynolds, in a case that was never solved. Reynolda Noir Matinée shines a spotlight on Holman—the wife, mother, civil rights activist and “smokiest torch on Broadway.” Dr. Michele Gillespie, historian and provost of Wake Forest University, and Phil Archer, curator and Betsy Main Babcock Deputy Director at Reynolda, will discuss some of the lesser-known truths of Libby’s life, including details of her activism during the civil rights movement and the undeniable impact she made as a Broadway performer. As the story unfolds, enjoy several of Libby’s hit songs performed by soprano Jodi Burns with arrangements and accompaniment by Kenneth Frazelle. This event is presented by Ashley and Rick Wimmer.
Oct. 4, 2:30 p.m.; Nov. 15, 2:30 p.m.
$15; $12 for Members of Reynolda
Jenna Anderson will discuss the significance of Libby Holman’s dress and the fashion of the 1920s and 1930s in the context of the exhibition “Smith & Libby: Two Rings, Seven Months, One Bullet” and fashion history. Anderson is a graduate of the UNCSA Costume Design and Technology program and chief executive officer of Jenna Sais Quois Designs. For the exhibition, she recreated the strapless evening gown worn by Libby Holman in the 1920s.
Moonlight Curator Tours
Oct. 24, 7:30–9:30 p.m.; Oct. 25, 7:30–9:30 p.m.
$125; $100 for Members, Ages 21+
An evening tour led by Phil Archer, Betsy Main Babcock Deputy Director, follows the events of the fateful night of July 6, 1932, when Smith Reynolds died inside Reynolda. Earlier that evening, Smith, Libby, and their friends gathered at the Boathouse on Lake Katharine for an intimate birthday celebration complete with BBQ and moonshine. How did this revelry end in tragedy? This immersive tour begins at the Boathouse and follows Smith’s path back to the bungalow and includes specialty cocktails from Winston-Salem cocktail bar Fair Witness and BBQ. Following the tour, attendees can visit the exhibition in the Babcock Wing of Reynolda House. The Boathouse is not set up to accommodate walkers, wheelchairs or anything of that nature. Walking shoes are suggested.
Drinks @ Dusk
Nov. 4, 6–8 p.m.
$25, Ages 21+
After the sun sets, Reynolda opens its doors to visitors 21+ for an evening of music, drinks and art. Visitors can tour Reynolda’s current exhibition “Smith & Libby,” view the Historic House featuring highlights from the permanent collection and enjoy on a scavenger hunt for a chance to win a prize. There will be cocktails and onsite food trucks.
Drinks @ Dusk is presented by Leonard Ryden Burr Real Estate.
Visit reynolda.org/visit/calendar for details about these events and to register.
Reynolda House is grateful for the support of the following sponsors of “Smith & Libby: Two Rings, Seven Months, One Bullet”:
Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation
Howard Upchurch and John Hoemann
Pam and Fred Kahl
Our State Magazine
Lynn and Barry Eisenberg
Tom Lambeth and Jock Tate
The Robert and Constance Emken Fund of The Winston-Salem Foundation
Leigh and Gray Smith
Mary Craig and Andy Tennille
Verger Capital Management
The oral history stations are generously supported by Bruce and Anne Babcock.
Hours and Admission
Reynolda House Museum of American Art, located at 2250 Reynolda Rd., is open to visitors Tuesday–Saturday from 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 1:30–4:30 p.m. Admission is charged, though several free admission categories apply. Reynolda Gardens is open from dawn to dusk daily, free of charge. The Greenhouse is open Tuesday–Friday from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Reynolda Village merchants’ hours vary. No ticket is needed to shop at the Reynolda House Museum Store.
Reynolda is set on 170 acres in Winston-Salem, N.C. and comprises Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Reynolda Gardens and Reynolda Village Shops and Restaurants. The Museum presents a renowned art collection in a historic and incomparable setting: the original 1917 interiors of Katharine and R. J. Reynolds’s 34,000-square-foot home. Its collection is a chronology of American art and featured exhibitions are offered in the Museum’s Babcock Wing Gallery and historic house bedrooms. The Gardens serve as a 134-acre outdoor horticultural oasis open to the public year-round, complete with colorful formal gardens, nature trails and a greenhouse. In the Village, the estate’s historic buildings are now home to a vibrant mix of boutiques, restaurants, shops and services. Plan your visit at reynolda.org and use the free mobile app, Reynolda Revealed, to self-tour the estate.
Original release date: August 29, 2023