It’s enough to make Scarlett O’Hara herself swoon.
Decades after the publication of Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and the filming of David O. Selznick’s 1939 Academy Award-winning film, Georgia has officially established the Gone With the Wind Trail. Unfurling from Marietta to Jonesboro with stops in Atlanta en route, the trail links key sites relating to both.
“I honestly can’t think of a more interesting way to spend a day than seeing, hearing, feeling and touching the very core of Margaret Mitchell’s novel,” said Connie Sutherland, executive director of the Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum. Sutherland grew up hearing about Mitchell and Gone With the Wind and has read every book written about the author. “You virtually walk in her footsteps on this trail – and those of Rhett and Scarlett and so many other memorable characters.”
In the footsteps of Margaret Mitchell – and her characters
With the movie’s 75th anniversary right around the corner in 2014 and the anniversary of the author’s birthday coming up on Nov. 8, fans of Gone With the Wind and Civil War and history buffs will want to pack their rucksacks and reticules and head to the trail’s can’t-miss sights.
At the trailhead sits the Marietta Gone With The Wind Museum-Scarlett on the Square, located in the circa 1875 A. Fletcher & Company cotton warehouse. With its exposed brick walls and rough-hewn beams, the museum is a fitting home for the richly hued GWTW-related paintings, posters and advertisements that cover the walls and Mitchell’s personal volumes of the novel, rare press and publicity books, cast member contracts, actress Ona Munson’s (“Belle Watling”) working script and more that fill the glass cases.
See original seats from Loew’s Grand Theatre, where the movie made its star-spangled Atlanta premiere, and dining room chairs from the movie set – possibly the very ones at which Rhett threatens to crush Scarlett’s skull like a walnut. The pièce de résistance? The original Bengaline honeymoon gown worn by Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind – an absolute coup as it is the only permanent display of a costume created for and worn in the movie.
New to the museum are 14 original photographs taken at the 1939 premiere and the personal GWTW memorabilia of the late Ann Rutherford (“Carreen O’Hara”). This includes her working script, a china tea set presented to her by the City of Atlanta and a necklace with heart-shaped pendant Rutherford insisted on wearing when filming her scenes.
“She was such a love,” said friend and fellow cast member Mickey Kuhn (“Young Beau Wilkes”). “Any time there was an event, if Ann was there, the place would be jammed. She drew so many to her.”
Rutherford was such a faithful and enthusiastic friend that a memorial tribute – a Glowing Embers Japanese maple tree – was planted in her honor just outside the front door.
Also in the Marietta area is Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, the battleground where the Confederate army temporarily stopped General Sherman’s troop advance before the fall of Atlanta. A Visitors Center showcases exhibits relating to the history of the Atlanta Campaign and the battle that took place there on June 27, 1864.
Burning for Atlanta
In Atlanta, about 25,000 visitors make the pilgrimage annually to the Margaret Mitchell House, the humble digs the author dubbed “The Dump,” where, from 1925 to 1932, she lived and wrote her masterpiece.
“Visitors are eager to trace the footsteps of Margaret Mitchell,” said Brandi Wigley, senior manager of community initiatives. “They want to see how she lived and where she wrote the novel. They feel as though literary magic happened in these small, cramped rooms.”
“It is a sacred spot,” said Kuhn. “Standing in Apartment #1, you are there – back when she was writing the book. I could see her there, sitting at the typewriter.”
Visitors to this trail landmark can also tour a Gone With the Wind movie exhibition as well as one showcasing the life and times of the world-famous author once denied membership in the Atlanta Junior League.
See the Remington typewriter on which Mitchell composed Gone With the Wind at the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System’s Central Library. Besides the typewriter, it holds a vast collection of Mitchell’s photographs, books and personal items – some 1,500 pieces – including the author’s Atlanta Public Library card and hundreds of personal photographs documenting her life and work.
At the Atlanta Cyclorama & Museum, visitors will see the July 1864 Battle of Atlanta roll across 358 feet in a three-dimensional panorama augmented with music and narration – a place cast members Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh visited during the movie’s 1939 Atlanta premiere and one that Patrick Curtis, who played “Baby Beau Wilkes,” ranks among his favorite stops on the trail.
“The diorama, the Civil War uniforms, the weapons – it really holds your interest,” he said.
“It’s magnificent,” added Sutherland, who remembers going on field trips as a kid. “It’s billed as the largest oil painting in the world, and there is a Confederate soldier among the dead and wounded in the three-dimensional section who has Clark Gable’s face – very cool.”
Other Atlanta sites: The Atlanta History Center maintains one of the country’s largest Civil War exhibitions, with 1,400 original artifacts, give or take, in its collections. The Victorian Oakland Cemetery, home to a sculpture garden, botanical garden and wildlife habitat, is the final resting place of Margaret Mitchell.
Tara, Tara, Tara
Gerald O’Hara said it best: “Land . . . it’s the only thing that lasts.” Jonesboro, the fictional setting of Tara – designated in 1969 as the “Official Home of Gone With the Wind” by the Mitchell family – is home to the Road To Tara Museum.
Like the Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum, it is a treasure trove of memorabilia relating to the book and movie, including the blue settee from Twelve Oaks and Scarlett’s pantalets from the classic scene wherein Mammy is cinching Scarlett’s corset as she holds tight to the bedpost.
“We also have an area in the museum dedicated to the three-day premiere in Atlanta,” said Beth Bailey of the Clayton County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We have seats, carpet and stations from Loew’s Grand Theater. The highlight is the original brass marquee with a rare original Gone With The Wind poster with hand-cut letters.”
Jonesboro is also the backdrop for the 1839 Stately Oaks Plantation, a Greek Revival antebellum home in the style – and the land – of Tara and Gone With the Wind. The home and grounds, populated with old school house, cookhouse, country store and other outbuildings, may be toured, with both offering a snapshot of a bygone world.
Seventy-five years after the movie was made – and even more years since the book was published – Gone With the Wind continues to resonate.
“I think if Gone With the Wind were filmed today it would still hold the same magic it has held all these years,” said Sutherland. “People identify with the survival message more than anything, with Margaret Mitchell’s message of ‘gumption.’”
VIP trail treatment
If Scarlett were to sweep into the various attractions along the trail, you can bet she’d also seek out places to pamper her. Pop into the Georgian Terrace Hotel, the circa-1911 luxury hotel that gave refuge to the movie’s cast members during the 1939 premiere, for weekend brunch or for dinner or dessert.
To achieve Scarlett’s “Georgia peach” glow, check into the Mandarin Oriental Atlanta for a Peaches-and-Cream Journey. The hotel is an absolute haven amidst the hustle-bustle of Atlanta’s Midtown and the hour-plus spa treatment is sheer indulgence, with warm cream and peach oil to buff, polish and restore calm and balance to your body.
You can bet Scarlett would treat herself before retiring to one of the hotel’s plush rooms in their muted color palette and luxury appointments.
If You Go
Mark your dance card for the 75th anniversary event at the Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum, June 6-8, which will include a re-creation of the movie’s bazaar scene with the ball and Scarlett and Rhett dancing together; “she, in her mourning clothes, as the gentlemen bid for a dance with the lady of their choice,” noted Sutherland.
Visit the museum’s website and Facebook for updates on celebrity appearances, activities and more. www.GWTWMarietta.com, www.facebook.com/pages/Marietta-Gone-With-the-Wind-Museum/183338465150, 770-794-5576.