Sunday, June 19, 2011

Gone with the Wind - 75th Anniversary



Above is the poster for the movie Gone with the Wind in French as it was in theatres in Paris and Brussels in the early 1940s. Friday, June 17th, was my husband and my 44th wedding anniversary. We had thought of going on a trip out of state to celebrate but instead we decided to visit the Margaret Mitchell house in Atlanta which is celebrating the book 75th anniversary this year.




My grandmother bought me subscriptions to the girls’ magazine “La Semaine de Suzette” when I was a little girl. I remember, maybe in 1947 or 1948, reading in this magazine a story happening in the American South. There was an illustration showing a little girl in front of a large mansion with columns. The story talked about a war in the southern states of that country, called in France “La Guerre de Sécession” (Secession War.) I thought that since the land was covered mainly with cotton fields there would have been fewer houses to destroy like in the war we had in France just a few years before – I saw some badly damaged houses on our trip to Normandie. Back then I would have never believed that one day I would live in the south of the USA and in the very state (Georgia) where the story was set.




It took us about 45 minutes to drive to the house now known as the Margaret Mitchell House. It is located in Midtown Atlanta, at the corner of 10th Street and Peachtree.


Click on collage to enlarge then click on each picture

After Margaret’s second marriage to John Robert Marsh on July 4, 1925, the couple moved into the ground floor apartment shown on the picture below. Behind the three tall windows on the left was an alcove where Margaret liked to sit and read.



This is what is written on the sign shown below, on the lamppost: “1965 Shining Light Award honoring Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949) author of “Gone With The Wind” for her contribution in portraying Atlanta and the Historic South to the World. Atlanta Gas Light Company – WSB Radio.”


This was one of the first brick homes in Atlanta, built in 1899. First a single family home it became “The Crescent Apartments.” After being abandoned and boarded up it deteriorated and was set afire by arson in 1994. The German industrial company Daimler-Benz AG restored the apartment house. I remember well watching on the news, in May 1996, that the house had caught fire again, just as the $4.5 million renovation was about to be completed in time for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. (It was arson again.)



The Daimler-Benz company started the cleaning and rebuilding immediately. Luckily, Margaret Mitchell’s apartment had escaped with minor damage. The restored house opened to the public in 1997 - it is included on the National Register of Historic Places. We entered through the back entrance, the same entrance Margaret would have used when she lived in Apartment no. 1. A docent took us first to a large room with exhibits on the life of Margaret Mitchell. Next to it is a small side room showing Margaret's desk at the Atlanta Journal where she was a reporter. Many pictures in the museum show Margaret from childhood all the way to her untimely death in 1949.



The docent explained that Margaret had been quite a tomboy and an uninhibited young lady, dancing the tango with bells tied to her garter-belt making noise as she danced.



Some of the pictures were for sale as postcards in the gift shop and I purchased several.



Passing a lion carving we went up the stairs. There were just two empty rooms and a painting of Margaret Mitchell. I looked through the curtains and we walked back downstairs to Apartment no. 1.



Margaret and her husband John lived in Apartment no. 1 from 1925 to 1932. It is small, about 650 sq. ft. There is a living room, a bathroom, a bedroom and a kitchen. The apartment is furnished in the style appropriate for the period when Margaret lived there and wrote Gone With The Wind. The couple had obtained some heirlooms from their families but it was mostly hand-me-downs and second-hand furnishings.



There they entertained many friends. They had decided not to live with Margaret’s widowed father in the large house where she grew up. Margaret’s mother, Maybelle, was a strong supporter of woman suffrage. She was the president of one of Atlanta’s most militant groups of suffragettes. Her grand-father Phillip Fitzgerald had emigrated from Ireland and settled on a small plantation near Jonesboro (now Clayton County about 25 miles south of Atlanta.) Maybelle had married Eugene Mitchell, a prominent lawyer and President of the Atlanta Historical Society. Unfortunately she died during the influenza epidemic of 1919. Margaret came back home from school then to be with her father. Later she became the first female columnist in the South’s largest newspaper under the name Peggy Mitchell. Margaret’s family home and her father are pictured below.

Photos Courtesy Pullen Library, Georgia State University

As an anniversary present to ourselves we purchased the paperback 75th anniversary edition of Gone With The Wind as pictured at the beginning of this post. It was published in May 2011 by Scribner and features the book’s original jacket art. Years ago I had purchased, as another anniversary present for my husband, a good second-hand 1940 motion pictures edition of the book.




In 1936, when the first edition of Gone With The Wind was published it sold more than a million copies in the first six months. It is on the list of best-selling books, selling more than 30 million copies in 38 countries. It has been translated into 27 languages. In 1937 it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Margaret Mitchell started writing the book in the apartment pictured above. She was staying off her feet after an ankle injury. It is said that Margaret wrote the first draft of her book from memory. She had been brought up listening every Sunday since she was a wee child to stories about the “War of Northern Aggression.”


Maybelle Mitchell with Margaret and brother Stephen (courtesy Wikipedia)

She would listen to the tales of Confederate War veterans visiting her home and did not realize that the war had been fought a long time ago. She knew about the burning and looting of Atlanta as other children know about fairy tales. Many years ago I read the book “The Road to Tara: the life of Margaret Mitchell” by Anne Edwards where she explains how Margaret grew up listening to all these battle and war stories which became part of her life.


Click on picture to enlarge

Going through the small garden we entered an annex building containing more memorabilia and exhibits on the 1939 motion picture of Gone With The Wind.


A large portrait of Scarlett O’Hara from the Butler Mansion in the film is also displayed there.



In the back of the room there are several seats in front of a large television screen which continuously runs a 90 minutes documentary film on the making of the movie. I did not know that the US public had offered names of actresses who they felt would be a perfect Scarlett. The film shows several of the actresses auditioning for the part – Paulette Goddard was a favorite. It took two years for Mr. Selznick to decide on Vivian Leigh as his Scarlett. It was also interesting to find out that “the burning of Atlanta” was the first scene that had been shot at the Culver Studio in Los Angeles for this movie. For this scene many sets and backdrops of older movies, like the 1933 King Kong movie set, were used. Below are several shots I took from this GWTW documentary.






The actual front door of Scarlett’s home “Tara” is exhibited in the room. It was Betty Talmadge, the former wife of governor and US Senator Herman Talmadge, who purchased in 1979, for $5,000 what was left standing of the GWTW set (doorway, windows, cornice, etc.)



Margaret Mitchell was not pleased with the way Tara had been depicted in the movie. In a letter to a friend Margaret said that compared to other sections of the South, Atlanta and North Georgia were new and crude at the time and white columns were the exception. Director Selznick turned the house into an elaborate white mansion. Below is the first sketch for Tara in 1938 then the extended sketch for the 1939 film and a scene with Scarlett.



In the years leading to the Civil War most of the plantations in that part of Georgia were small and extremely rural, in the backwoods. There are some large Greek revival mansions, like we have in Marietta, but they were built by rich merchants and military men. Below is Tranquilla built in 1849 in Marietta by General Andrew J. Hansell.




Below is another Marietta historical house. It was built in 1848 for John Glover a successful businessman and the first mayor of Marietta. Originally on 3,000 acres it encompassed only 13 acres when my friend from the Rose Society owned it. Most of the land now surrounding the house has been sold to build condos.




A plaque in the movie museum explains this myth:

Over time Hollywood’s romantic interpretation of the South blurred the images so carefully crafted by Margaret Mitchell. The O’Hara family members were Irish immigrants living in the poor North Georgia Hills country one generation removed from log cabins. Selznick transformed the family into Southern plantation aristocracy and created a Tara which existed neither in the mind nor in the book of Atlanta journalist Margaret Mitchell. For millions around the world the movie Gone With The Wind defined the South for much of the 20th century. Images from the film, not the book , have fostered stereotypes that have shaped public expectations about the people and landscape of the South particularly Atlanta. …”

Rich owners now build what they believe are Tara style mansions in subdivisions down my road – examples below.



Margaret Mitchell died on 16 August 1949 following injuries received when she was struck by a speeding taxi as she crossed Peachtree Street. I show the picture I took of her grave in my post Historic Atlanta Cemetery.




In a weak moment, I have written a book." - Margaret Mitchell



36 comments:

rosaria said...

Gone With the Wind was a favorite movie of mine. I saw it a few times; read the book a few times too. There is so much to enjoy in this post, the "insider" tour, so to speak.
Happy Anniversary!

alwaysinthebackrow said...

Happy Anniversary to you and your husband. What a romantic outing you took to celebrate.
I am not a big fan of the movie "Gone with the Wind", but I don't believe I have ever read the entire book. Maybe I should add it to my list of vacation reading.

marciamayo said...

Vagabonde, I live at One South Prado, which was formerly Della Manta apartments, where the Marshes lived when Mitchell died. According to legend, John Marsh burned at least part of the manuscript for GWTW in our furnace there. I have some pictures but they are at home in Atlanta and I am in Portland.

The Broad said...

I love both the book and the motion picture. Thank you for a very interesting and informative post about both. And -- Happy Anniversary -- the 17th of June is a very special day to me as it was my father's birthday. He would have been 93.

Fennie said...

Well, all that is fascinating. I must buy the book now, I suppose. I wonder if she (or you) ever visited the real Tara - the seat of the kings of Ireland which, when I visited it maybe twenty years ago, was still just a hilltop, albeit one from which it appeared you could see the rest of the known world and where you had to keep a keen eye lest you trod on a member of some species of fairy folk hidden in the grass. A truly magical place.

Kay Dennison said...

Love the the book! Love the film! Love you're sharing both with us!

Happy Anniversary!!!!!!!!!

Pat said...

Congratulation on your anniversary and thank you for the wonderful post.
I always reckoned reading 'Gone with the Wind' got me through School certificate. It was my reward, to read it after nights of swotting.
What an epic book. I always wanted to be Scarlet.

Darlene said...

Oh my goodness; has it really been 75 years since Gone With The Wind stirred the romantic dreams of this old lady? I begged, cajoled and pleaded with my grandmother to buy the paper back edition when I was in Junior High (now called middle school). I had my nose stuck in that book everyplace I went. It seemed so racy to me and I now realize it was quite tame.

I have read the book several times since them and seen the movie more times than I can remember. While the movie Tara may not have been as authentic as Margaret Mitchell would have liked, it filled the yearning of many young ladies for the glamor that Selznick added.

I only have one doll and it is the Mattell one of Scarlett in her spring dress worn for the party outlined in the beginning of the book.

"Gone With the Wind" was the first adult book I read and I still consider it, along with another Southern book, "To Kill A Mockingbird", to be high on my favorite list.

Congratulations on your wedding anniversary.

DJan said...

This post is so timely for me, as I am currently reading "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett about the Southern experience in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s. Not a pretty place.

And it does seem impossible to believe that "Gone With the Wind" is now 75 years old...

Ann said...

Vagabonde..Happy Anniversary!!!
This is my favorite movie of all time. I have seen it more than 40 times. The first was when I was young,at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood with my mother. I will never forget the emotions that ran through me the first time.Did you know that Margaret mitchell though Groucho Marx would be a good choice for Rhett Butler? It's true! I am lucky enough to own a copy of the book from one of the early printings. This was a wonderful post. thank you so much for sharing with words and photos!!! :)

blee said...

I love it too! Happy Anniversary!

Pondside said...

As for so many others, this film is a favorite of mine. I remember my mother telling me that when she was a girl the movie was condemned by the Catholic church, and she didn't see it until it was re-released in the 70's.

Pierre BOYER said...

75 ?!
Happy birthday !
Greetings from France,

Pierre

Friko said...

I must have read the book half a dozen times when I was a lot younger. My parents also took my grandfather to see the film, one of the few films he saw in his entire life. He couldn't get over the war scenes and thought the burning of Atlanta was real.

He kept asking why nobody thought to extinguish the flames.

I wonder if I'll ever again pick up the book.

Ginnie said...

There are so many things that blow my mind about this post, Vagabonde, the first being that I passed this house hundreds of times in my 25 years in Atlanta but never once visited it! How can that possibly be.

Secondly, I have never read the book and have seen the movie only once. What's wrong with me!

Thirdly, "dancing the tango with bells tied to her garter-belt making noise as she danced" paints a picture of Margaret I have never heard/seen. Unbelievable.

How many times will I repeat myself: you always educate me when I come by for a visit! Thank you.

Ruth said...

A thorough post about this book and film, just wonderful. I had known she attended Smith College, where our mother graduated a few years later. But I didn't know why Mitchell quit after freshman year, until reading your post, explaining that she went home to be with her father when her mother died.

I'm fascinated by the movie expansion and creation of the plantation and house. I have been to Tara in Ireland, a beautiful place where the land stretches so wide you can apparently see all the 32 counties of Ireland.

Mary said...

Bonjour Vagabonde,

What fun I'm having reading back through several of your most interesting posts - you certainly bring us the entire story of wonderful places and people - I love history, and of course anything to do with France! This current post is great - and congrats. on your anniversary!

Thanks for stopping by and leaving such nice comments. I live quite close to you actually, Raleigh, NC, having left Devon in 1962! We must have emigrated around the same time - I came to D.C., supposedly for just a year, but of course have stayed MUCH longer!!

Yes, not enjoying this ongoing heat - we have another week of every day in the 90's - I will never get used to it!

No, don't have a fancy camera, no SLR, just a couple of digital point and shoot - a small Canon Power Shot A1100, and a 26X zoom Olympus. I do not Photo Shop, but do play around a bit with the iPhoto editing program on my MacBook, and a couple of simple programs on the PC - when I have time!

More later - I can see I'll enjoy your posts - I'll be posting later today on the lovely French men I met in May when visiting my home in England! BTW, I love to travel too, have some interesting trips coming up later this year!

Hugs - Mary

Frances said...

A very Happy Anniversary to you and your husband, Vagabonde! Here's to many more years of happiness.

Like Ms Mitchell, I grew up in the South hearing many stories told over and over again about glorious days of the past. If you and I ever do get to actually meet, I could go on for some time about my early history lessons.

Of course, we had a copy of GWTW at home. My father had recovered the book with authentic Confederate currency!

I agree that the movie's settings vere a bit from the book. Yes, V Leigh was a controversial choice for the lead. Perhaps the film was the first, or amongst the first films to have an intermission.

Thank you again for another fabulous post. xo

Tim said...

Gone with the Wind was a wonderful movie.

Sandy said...

Happy Anniversary! Let the romance flow.

Peter said...

Wood be difficult to make a more complete story about Margaret Mitchell and Gone With The Wind! Interesting to learn about the "reality" and the myth the film created! Bravo and thanks!

PEA said...

Happy Anniversary to you and your husband:-) What a wonderful trip to Atlanta you took to celebrate. I'll never forget the first time I ever watched Gone With The Wind, it had been re-released in the movie theaters around 1974 and I sat there totally enthralled. I fell in love with Rhett Butler there and then:-) I would so love to visit the Margaret Mitchell House!! It was so interesting to read what you wrote, so many facts I didn't know about Ms. Mitchell. Thank you so much for sharing all your pictures with us, I truly enjoyed looking at each one of them. xoxo

P.S. I think I still have the paperback book I had bought right after seeing the movie, will have to go check some boxes in the basement to look for it!!

Jeanie said...

Well, as always, you fascinate me with your history and brilliant storytelling.

I feel in love with the book "Gone with the Wind" when I was in seventh or eighth grade. I remember sticking my nose in that book and not taking it out till I was done. In fact, the first speech I ever gave that was passably decent in school was about the book. It wasn't until later I learned about the movie.

But I had no idea about the "actual" plantation so of the era and big, white Tara! You see, I always learn from you! I think this would be on my must-see if I headed to Atlanta!

claude said...

Bonjour Vagabonde
Je n'ai jamais lu le livre mais vu le film des dizaine de fois, et je prends autant de plaisir à chaque. Je crois que je pourrais le voir en anglais que je comprendrais tout.
Vivien Leigh est une très belle et convaincante Scarlett. Je dirais la meêm chose en ce qui concerne Clark Gable.
J'adore ce film.
Voilà un très beau post,Vagabonde. Le livre illustré avec les photos du film doit être très beau.
Les maisons à colonnes ont beaucoup de classe.
J'ai toujours trouvé que la guerre de Secession avait été une guerre stupide. La victoire du Nord a fait avancer les choses concernant les Noirs, enfin un peu.
Merci pour cette excellente publication.
Bises.

Lonicera said...

Reading of your visit to Margaret Mitchell's home, I herewith register my envy on my mother's behalf, who saw the film a couple of dozen times and had the original book which was produced after the film, the one with all the colour plates in it, and which I've inherited.
The easiest way to make her laugh was to quote a line from the film in hammed up tones and horrendous Southern accent (along the lines of "Oh Ashley, ah luuurve ya" with hands clasped over bosom and head to one side...). Worked every time. I loved it too by the way.
Caroline

This is Belgium said...

un bonjoue de bruxelles
bonne anniversaire

Vicki Lane said...

A wonderful post, Vagabonde! I read the book many time when I was a teenager -- when I finally saw the movie years later I wasn't impressed -- the pictures in my head were better.

Nance said...

My favorite GWTW trivia bit is Clarke Gabel's decision to play Rhett without a Southern accent. The thinking, apparently, was that people in that period saw movies for the stars, themselves, more than for the arty/authentic qualities and he felt it would take away from his movie star image to stoop to an accent.

Margaret said...

The 1940's film version of the book is the one I read two times while a teenager. My mother still has it, but it is falling apart. I have the whole first paragraph practically memorized ... Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charms as the Tarleton twins were. In her face were too sharply blend the delicate... on and on, really I can even after all these years.

M. Mitchell's gift for story telling is very special. I read the other book you mentioned and also have a book I picked up at a used book store "Before Scarlett - Girlhood Writings of Margaret Mitchell". I thank you for reminding me of that purchase and I just pulled it off my shelf and plan on delving into it!

Yes, the movie is no where near as good as the book, but enjoyable all the same. Thanks for this post and in tribute, I am posting a few photos of the Magnolia flower on my blog today!

Vagabonde said...

Rosaria, alwaysinthebackrow, marciamayo, The Broad, Fennie, Kay Dennison, Pat, Darlene, DJan, Ann, Pondside, Friko, Ginnie, Ruth, Frances, Tim, Sandy, Peter, PEA, Jeanie, Lonicera, Vicki Lane, Vance and Margaret - I appreciate all your insightful comments. Each comment added interest to my post and I thank you all.

Blee, Mary – Hello and welcome to my post. Thanks for stopping by.

Pierre Boyer, Claude, This is Belgium - Bonjour et merci pour votre passage chez moi et pour vos bons voeux pour notre anniversaire de marriage. Le temps a passé bien vite. Amicalement, VB

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Sorry it took me so long to get here...."GONE WITH THE WIND" was a Favorite book of mine for many years....And the Movie is a true Masterpiece, to my way of thinking...That it was released 72 years ago and it looks like it could have been made yesterday...Is a testement to David O. Selznick's ability and dedication as a "Producer". I still have the copy of the book I read as a young person...It sits in my Bedroom in a place of special honor....!
This is a wonderful post, my dear....As always, you give us so much history and background on every subject you choose to write about...This is so rich with history and detail...!
And......
A HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to you and your dear dear Husband!

Filip Demuinck said...

Very nice article, I am laways amazed to see the research and all this information. You must work a lot on your blog.

*Honest Abe said...

I like your mansion photos.

As for Atlanta. It was always a place to get through as fast as possible or to go around as fast as possible. It was always under construction. Interstate 75 was always under construction there.

Kay said...

I almost flunked a phychology class because I picked up Gone With the Wind the week of my final. I thought I'd just use it to give myself some relief. I got so glued to the book, I didn't have enough time to study. I learned my lesson then.

Pamela said...

A little too late congratulations on your anniversary! Beautiful post, I enjoyed so much, not that fond of the movie, but now i want to read the book!

Filip Demuinck said...

A view on Brussels you would not expect, even if you have studied there for 5 years.

Kind regards,
Filip Demuinck

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