“Gone With The Wind” is, without a doubt, the most famous book and movie about Southern culture….in addition to being one of the top books and films of all time. Last Sunday I met my friend, Dr. Julie Adams, in Atlanta. She is a Psychologist from Washington State and was attending an OCD conference in “Hotlanta.” Both of us are big “Gone With The Wind” fans, so we visited the home of it’s author, Margaret Mitchell. I highly recommend visiting this great home/museum if you are in Atlanta! This rest of this post will be filled with fun “Gone With The Wind” trivia.
“Gone With The Wind” was published in 1936 and was made into a movie in 1939. David O. Selznick bought the rights from Margaret Mitchell for $50,000. Kay Brown, a story editor, alerted him about the possibility of making this book into a movie. The premier of “Gone With The Wind” was held in Atlanta on December 11, 1939, accompanied by international fanfare.
William Kurtz was an acquaintance of Margaret Mitchell. She wrote to him, “I know I am imposing on you and asking a great favor of you but would you read two and a half chapters of my book..and tell me if I am correct?” He would become the man who would be responsible for the historical accuracy of the film. He held the highest standards for Southern authenticity. This was evidenced in the movie when Scarlett writes out a check to pay the taxes on Tara. The check was an exact replica of the time, imprinted with The Atlanta National Bank. A. Ausbell – President .
In the few interviews that Margaret Mitchell gave during her lifetime, she swore that “Gone With The Wind” was not an autobiographical novel. While respecting Ms. Mitchell’s perspective, our tour guide let us decide if there was not a little bit of her life and history woven into the book. For example, Scarlett O’Hara was a fiery feminist. Margaret Mitchell’s mother, Mary Keller, was President of the Atlanta Suffragette Chapter. Like most well-to-do Southern girls of her time, Margaret Mitchell was a debutante. (This was done to please her father. She did not care for this custom.) One of her debutante duties was to perform before the very conservative, staid Junior League matrons. Most debs sang or played the piano. Margaret Mitchell scandalized the old biddies from the Junior League by dancing a sensual tango with a handsome young man in front of their faces. Is this not reminiscent of when Scarlett danced the reel at the ball with Rhett Butler?
Margaret Mitchell did not live during the Civil War. However, growing up she heard plenty of stories about the Civil War and the Reconstruction period from her grandparents and great grandparents. She also loved to write from the time crayons and pens were put into her hands. Her mother saved all of her little books that she wrote as a little girl and one was displayed in the museum/home.
The home that Dr. Julie and I toured was not the home she grew up in. It was an apartment that she lived in with her second husband, John Marsh. It was “the place” where she did write “Gone With The Wind.” It consisted of a tiny living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom. My thought as I toured the place was “It must have been as hot as blazes living there in the days before air conditioning.”
Despite making millions from “Gone With The Wind”, Margaret Mitchell and her husband, for the most part, lived simply. She did donate much of her fortune to charity. One of her favorite charities was college scholarship money for African Americans. As a matter of fact, the schooling of the first African American Pediatrician in Georgia was funded by her.
“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” is arguably one of the most famous lines from a book/movie. Rhett Butler’s line almost did not make it into the movie. For years it was rumored that David O. Selznick was fined $5000 for the use of the word “damn” in the movie by the Motion Picture Association of America. However, prior to the release of “Gone With The Wind”, the Motion Picture Association changed its code to allow the words “hell” and “damn” when it is “a quotation from a literary work, provided that no such use shall be permitted which is intrinsically objectionable or offends good taste.” Thank heaven they did so! Can you imagine Clark Gable in his role as the dashing Rhett Butler declaring “Franky my dear, I don’t really care!”