Gone with the Wind Exhibit, Georgia

_Margaret-Mitchell
Margaret Mitchell with her novel “Gone with the Wind”

We drove from our hotel to downtown. Since this was a big city, I was careful about my driving and we noticed they have a lot of things about “peaches,” from the design on their plate numbers to street names and so on. It took us a while to get there because of the traffic and unfamiliar road but when we got there it seems to be in the middle of the road. We came to the house of Margaret Mitchell, the author of the Southern classic “Gone with the Wind.” We parked around the area and had to walk a block or two to reach our destination. As we walk to her house and museum here is an introduction to her.

Margaret Mitchell wrote the bestselling 1936 novel Gone With the Wind, which was made into an enduring film classic. Margaret Mitchell was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in November 1900. After a broken ankle immobilized her in 1926, Mitchell started writing a novel that would become Gone With the Wind. Published in 1936, Gone With the Wind made Mitchell an instant celebrity and earned her the Pulitzer Prize. The film version also lauded far and wide, came out just three years later. More than 30 million copies of Mitchell’s Civil War masterpiece have been sold worldwide, and it has been translated into 27 languages. Mitchell was struck by a car and died in 1949, leaving behind Gone With the Wind as her only novel.

Gone with the Wind

So now, we have a background from her. We explored the Gone with the Wind gallery first and what greeted us was the front doorway use in the set of Tara.  So here is a brief summary of the movie and after that is the information behind this doorway.

“Epic Civil War drama focuses on the life of petulant southern belle Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh). Starting with her idyllic on a sprawling plantation, the film traces her survival through the tragic history of the South during the Civil War and Reconstruction, and her tangled love affairs with Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable).”

The Tara Set

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Tara

“For filming the motion picture, a Tara set was created in Selznick studio’s backlot in Culver City, CA. Some of the interior such as the entrance hall was created behind the facade, but most of the interior were assembled in sound stages located elsewhere the lot. The Tara facade was used in several scenes but only at the beginning with Scarlett and the Tarleton twins which shows the doorway fresh. The postwar scenes, the glass was broken, boards nailed across window sashes, and the facade looked neglected.

After wrapping up the doorway remained standing for another 20 years and was used in another movie. In 1959 when the facade was finally taken down, the Tara doorway was badly damaged from exposure to the elements. Nevertheless, the woodwork was salvaged and in 1959 Georgia Governor Ernest Vandiver held a ceremony to welcome the doorway at the Georgia State Capitol.

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Front Door

For the next 20 years the Tara doorway was stored in a barn in Fulton County. In 1979 it was purchased by Betty Talmadge, once Georgia’s First Lady, whose antebellum house near Lovejoy, Georgia is part of the region that inspired the fictional Twelve Oaks. In 1989, for the 50th anniversary of the movie premier, the Tara doorway was restored by the Atlanta History Center utilizing virtually all of the original materials. (It is currently loaned to the museum by Herman Eugene Talmadge, Jr.)”

Next to the doorway was an exhibit on the wall. The giant drawings aka sketches of costumes of the film where hang up against the wall. Of course if you saw the movie some of the clothing is already familiar to you.

Costume Sketches, 1939 (Walter Plunkett, artist)

“Walter Plunkett was not only responsible for designing the several hundred costumes required for Gone With the Wind, but he was also actively involved in the fitting of actors, actresses, and dress extras. Plunkett meticulously attended to almost 5,500 indiviudals costume pieces including undergarments, hats, parasols, and other accessories. David O. Selznick allocated $154,000 for costumes, hundreds of which were rented.

The studio created 27 versions of the calico dress Scarlett wears during the siege of Atlanta and her return to Tara. The dresses were variously aged and patched to indicate extensive wear and use. At least one costume was outfitted with thorn fasteners during a time when buttons would have been difficult to acquire.

Plunkett produced hundreds of costume design sketches, 6 of which are reproduced in this exhibition. His contract with Selznick included four months of research prior to production. Plunkett located a textile mill in Philadelphia that continued to print 1840s fabrics. In addition, he travelled to Paris to study hoop skirts and bustles. As a result, his costumes reflect the dramatic shift from bell-shaped skirts of the antebellum era to bustled styles of the late Reconstruction period. In addition, Plunkett designed the black velvet dress Vivien Leigh wore to the Junior League Ball in Atlanta and the gold lame gown she wore the following evening to the film premiere.”

Then we passed those gigantic sketches in another gigantic portrait. This one was easily recognizable and memorable.

Scarlett in the Blue Dress, Oil on Canvas (Helen Carlton)

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Scarlett’s self portrait

“This life-size portrait of Scarlett hung on the wall in Rhett’s bedroom in their Atlanta mansion built after the Civil War. Joseph B. Platt, head of the New York decorating firm, coordinated the set interiors for Selznick’s art department, including the selection of appropriate furniture, wallpapers, carpets and accessories for the film. 

 

In 1939, the portrait traveled from California to the motion picture’s premiere in Atlanta where it hung in the window of the downtown Davison-Paxon department store. More recently, the painting hung in the cafeteria of the Margaret Mitchell Elementary School in Atlanta. It is currently on loaned by Atlanta Board of Education.”

Then we moved on beside the portrait where there were a couple of watercolor drawings hanging in the wall. Some of the scenes were created in these beautiful artworks.

Storyboards, Watercolor on Board, 1939 (Dorothea Holt and Joseph McMillen “Mac” Johnson)

“Prior to filming, scenes are designed or “storyboarded” to illustrate a setting or film sequence as it will appear in the motion picture. A storyboard provides visual information, including what characters are in the frame and how they are placed within the scene, how the characters are interacting, and where the camera should be placed, close-up or far away, to film the scene.

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Ruins

Tara in Ruins

This image portrays the desolate, war-scarred Tara, which Scarlett discovers when she returns home from besieged Atlanta. Scarlett then walks into this landscape, leading to one of the most famous speeches in film history. “As God is my witness…they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this, and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again – no, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat, or kill, as God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”

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Scarlett in Tara

Scarlett refugees to Tara

the storyboard depicts Scarlett as she refugees ‘south right quick” back to Tara in the buckboard obtained by Rhett Butler. She is fleeing from burning Atlanta, shortly after delivering Melanie’s baby.

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Overlooking Tara

Gerald O’Hara and Scarlett overlooking Tara

This storyboard led to a film scene that has become one of the most famous cinematic images of all time: the panoramic still shot of Scarlet and her father, Gerald, overlooking Tara against a dramatic sunset.

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Bazaar

Monster Bazaar

This scene depicts the wartime charity bazaar, where Scarlett, accompanied by Melanie and Aunt Pittypat, scandalizes Atlanta society by dancing the Virginia reel with Rhett Butler while she is still in mourning for her first husband, Charles Hamilton.

Finally, we came into a room where they have a documentary about the movie in continuous loop. We didn’t have enough time to watch the whole thing so we just walked along and read some of the information on the nearby wall.

Premiere

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On Set

Gone with the Wind had its premier at Loew’s Grand theater on Peachtree Street on December 15, 1939. The star-studded, three-day event included a parade, costume ball, and a number of receptions as well as city tours for its stars. The theater’s facade was renovated to resemble a columned Southern mansion and Mayor William B. Hartsfield, who had fought to have the premiere in the city when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer threatened to take it elsewhere, proclaimed the day a city holiday.

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Premier night

The crowd of 18,000 that gathered in front of the theater on opening night was anxious to see the stars, including Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland, Leslie Howard and then-unknown Vivien Leigh. Onlookers also caught glimpses of Margaret Mitchell, who was greeted by Mayor Hartsfield and spoke briefly into the radio microphones.

Most of the major actors in the film attended the premiere, though the excitement of the movie’s opening carried its own brand of politics. The film’s African American stars, including Hattie McDaniel, chose not to attend the event since, in the segregated South of 1939, they were not permitted to be seated in the theater alongside their white co-stars. As a result, Selznick halted the printing presses and removed the photographs of the African American cast members from the premiere program so as not to call attention to their absence in Atlanta.

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Vivien Leigh and Hattie McDaniel

The controversy also divided Atlanta’s African American community. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr., appeared on stage at the Junior League ball with his wife leading the Ebenezer Church choir, including their young son, Martin Luther King, Jr. As a result, he drew fire from others in the community. King, however, stood firm and credited Mitchell with putting Atlanta on the map.

On the opening night, the motion picture was a great success with the Atlanta crowd in the theater, many of whom cried and cheered during the film. At the conclusion, however, it was Mitchell who gave the film her blessing. “It was an experience,” she said to the audience from the stage, “and I’m so glad you liked my Scarlett.” She ended by thanking Mr. Selznick and all the film people for “doing such a fine job of bringing my book to life.”

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The Cast

So that is it for a Gone With The Wind enthusiast. This exhibit commemorating the film based on the only novel Margaret Mitchell was a nice place to visit. Most people visit her museum because of this immortal film. After walking around this side of the house we walked across to the other side of the house to learn the life of this author in great detail.

Here is the link for more information:

https://www.biography.com/people/margaret-mitchell-9410340

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Say Cheez!

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