Silver Screen: Gone with the Wind Museum

 

By Carla Charter

MARIETTA, GA.-   Gone with the Wind, that sweeping Civil War saga, with characters such as Rhett Butler, Scarlett O’Hara and Tara itself has resonated throughout the years for many. Whether someone first discovers her story through the pages of her novel or on the big screen, Gone with The Wind is a memorable classic for generations.

When Margaret Mitchell was asked if Gone with the Wind was a love story or a story about the Civil War she replied that her book was a novel about people with gumption. “It is a message about survival, about people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps in the face of adversity.  It’s a golden thread which winds through the story, according to Connie Sutherland, director of the Gone with the Wind Museum in Marietta Georgia. “It’s amazing how many people identify with the book and movie.”

After Hurricane Katrina, Sutherland continued, she received a call from a woman who had lost everything but was interested in purchasing a music box with the scene from the movie where Scarlett throws her fist in the air and says with God as my Witness, I will get through this. The woman explained that when she was younger she had read Gone with the Wind and it made her feel like everything was going to be okay. Seeing the rubble around her made her again think of Scarlett. “A lot of people have gained strength from that book,” Sutherland said.

Margaret Mitchell wrote the majority of her novel while living in a first-floor apartment of a home located on Tenth and Peach Street in Atlanta, which is now known as the Margaret Mitchell House. The book was released on June 30, 1936 and by the end of that year it sold 1 million copies at $3 a copy which was a lot of money then, according to Sutherland. “I have to believe the book ended the way she wanted it to. Each person will have their own ending,” she continued.

The movie version of Gone with the Wind, premiered in Atlanta at Loew’s Grand Theater on December 15, 1939. Clark Gable almost did not attend the event as he was upset that African American cast members were not invited to the premiere.  Hattie McDaniels, who received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1939 for her portrayal of Mammy in the film, persuaded him to attend. McDaniel’s was the first African American to receive an Academy Award. Vivian Leigh also received an award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara.

Sutherland herself, remembers when she first saw the movie.  “It was November 27, 1967. It was Thanksgiving and I was invited to go see the movie with my sister and boyfriend and several others at the Loews Grand Anniversary showing.  “I remember it was cold that night and the line was long and I was thinking this had better be worth it. It was so crowded inside that we had to split up. Then the lights dimmed and the letters came across the screen.  I don’t think I blinked for four hours.  Gone with the Wind went home with me that night and has been in my system ever since. I read the book in my twenties and I fell in love with Margaret Mitchell. “

The Gone with the Wind Museum in Marietta has recently moved to Brumby Hall which was built in 1851.  “It is a pre-Civil War house with its own civil war history,” according to Sutherland. “The home is surrounded by 15,000 square feet of gardens. We have a beautiful new home.”

The collection at the museum belongs to Dr Chris Sullivan of Akron, Ohio who saw Gone with the Wind for the first time when he was in high school and fell in love with the movie, said Sutherland. Memorabilia on display includes a full library of foreign editions of the book, original copies of the script as well as Vivian Leighs contract, a Copy of Gone with the Wind, rebound in in black leather and owned by Lana Turner who wanted to test for the role of Scarlett.  Clothing and jewelry on display include an original dress worn by Vivian Leigh in the movie and sapphire cuff links worn by Clark Gable. Photos from the premiere are also on display.

More information on the Gone with the Wind Museum can be found at www.gwtwmarietta.com. The museum is also listed as part of the Georgia Official State Gone with the Wind Designated Trail. More information on that trail can be found at www.gwtwtrail.com

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