Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize novel, Gone With The Wind has sold Thirty-three million copies since it first hit bookstores in 1936. This historical romance is the 8th most read book in the world.
I am one of that thirty-three million. I love the book and the 1939 movie that won 10 Academy Awards in 1940. Scarlet O’Hara was one of my favorite characters growing up. My Granny gave me a Scarlet O’Hara Madame Alexander doll for my ninth birthday, and on that very same year I also had a Scarlet O’Hara birthday cake. Of course, when I was nine, I had not read the book yet but had seen the movie, which was enough for me to reenact the romantic drama in my pretend world with my Scarlet Doll and Ken Barbie.
With such fond memories, the first place I decided to visit on a scheduled business trip to Atlanta was the Margaret Mitchell House. So a week ago today, I arrived a half a day early for my meeting, braved the rain and navigated the Marta from my downtown hotel to the Birthplace of Gone With The Wind.
Apartment # 1
Margaret Mitchell and her second husband John Marsh lived in the Crescent Avenue apartment in the 1920′s. In 1926, Mitchell left her job as a journalist for the Atlanta Journal to recover from ankle surgery. While homebound in Apartment # 1 (which she referred to as “the dump”) and bored with reading, her husband suggested that she write her book. As we know today, that is what she did over a three-year period.
A week has passed since my visit, and I am still excited that I spent time in the very apartment which she lived and penned one of my favorite stories. The apartment was pretty small and crowded with furniture with a desk near the front window where she wrote the famous novel. When I say small, I mean like Manhattan apartment small. There was no eat in kitchen, and the breakfast table was actually in the only bedroom. Apparently, she didn’t mind, because she didn’t like to cook for guest.
Margaret Mitchell: A Passion for Character Exhibition
This exhibit focused on Mitchell’s life as a writer and ranged from her early childhood to her time as a reporter at the Atlanta Journal. The exhibition also looked at how the book affected her life. She never had any children and referred to her novel as her child. I enjoyed this exhibit and found myself fascinated by the interesting facts about her family that came out in her writing. For instance, Mitchell returned home from college one day after her mother died from influenza, just like Scarlet returned home to Tara one day after her mother died. I also wondered like many others if she based Rhett on Red, her first husband and if she based Ashley on her second husband, John. She claimed that the characters were a combination of many people she knew and not one person. I also got a kick out of learning that after dancing to ragtime at the Georgian Terrace Hotel in the 1920s, Margaret Mitchell was denied membership to the Atlanta Junior League. In 1939, the league asked her to be the guest of honor at a costume ball for the premiere of “Gone With the Wind,” but she declined their invitation.
The Making of a Film Legend: Gone with the Wind Exhibition
The first thing I saw when I opened the doors to this exhibit was the original doors from Tara which had been stowed away in a Georgia barn after being removed from the movie set. When I turned left the next thing that I saw was the original portrait of Scarlet that hung in Rhett and Scarlet’s Atlanta Mansion. The whiskey glass damaged the painting that Clark Gable threw at it while filming the movie but now has been restored. It would have been cool if they had left it in its original state. There was also a short film in the exhibit that detailed the transformation of the novel to the classic movie.
It’s hard to believe that after reading 1037 pages and watching a four-hour movie numerous times that I only spent about an hour in the home where Gone With The Wind began. Although it was only an hour, it was a happy time which was actually around noon and not five o’clock. Learning about Margaret Mitchell has given me an even greater appreciation of Gone With The Wind and it is something that I would never have imagined as a nine-year-old girl when I use to play with my Scarlet O’Hara doll quoting lines like “Fiddle-dee-dee” in my most southern voice.
When is the last time you have seen