Creativecommons.org/Public Information Office, City of Marietta
Fans of the Margaret Mitchell’s rich, vibrant novel of the last days of the old south are looking forward to celebrating the 75th anniversary of the equally compelling movie that follows the story of Scarlett O’Hara and the Civil War. The Gone With The Wind Trail in Georgia offers visitors a chance to see the historic south and learn about the woman who brought it all back to life.
Scarlett on the Square
Creativecommons.org/Public Information Office, City of Marietta
The trail starts at the Gone with the Wind Museum-Scarlett on the Square in Marietta, Georgia. Located in a cotton warehouse that dates from 1875, the exposed brick-and-beam building is a fitting home for the memorabilia from Margaret Mitchell, her novel and the film that captured so many fans. Posters, paintings and advertisements cover the walls and glass cases are filled with Mitchell’s personal copies of the novel along with publicity books, contracts from the film cast, “Belle Watling’s” script and more.
Throughout the museum visitors will get to see the original seats from Loew’s Grand Theatre - the site of the movies Atlanta premiere, pieces from the original movie set and the gorgeous Bengaline honeymoon gown worn by Vivien Leigh in the film. The gown is the only permanent display of a costume piece created for and used in the movie.
A new exhibit on display consists of 14 original photos that were taken during the film’s premier in 1939 and personal memorabilia from Ann Rutherford who played Carreen O’Hara in the movie. Among the effects are her script and a heart-shaped pendant that she wore while filming her scenes.
Also in the Marietta area, the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park preserves a Civil War battleground from the Atlanta Campaign. From June 19 to July 2, 1864, opposing forces fought there in one of the many bloody battles of the war. The Confederate army was able to stall General Sherman’s forces on their way to the siege of Atlanta. The visitor’s centre has exhibits that tell the history of the Atlanta campaign and the details of the regional fighting.
Visitors to Atlanta can visit the Margaret Mitchell House, the home where the famed author lived from 1925 to 1932 – when she was writing the historic novel. The turn-of-the century Tudor Revival building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and it is run by the Atlanta History Center.
Margaret Mitchell was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Gone with the Wind and it was all written there. Many feel that the small, cramped rooms of the humble digs that Mitchell affectionately called “The Dump” still holds the magic that led to the creation of the novel.
Mitchell was anything but an ordinary woman of her time. As a child she was fascinated with the Civil War and wrote plays that she directed, using her friends for the cast and the front porch as a stage. While a student at Smith College, her fiancé was killed in World War I and a few months later her mother died of the flu. She left college and returned home to take care of her father and older brother. Echoes of her own scandalous action of provocative dancing at a debutante ball can be seen in Scarlett’s behavior while in mourning for her first husband, and Mitchell’s marriage to a bootlegger at 21 is curiously similar to Scarlett’s attraction to gunrunner Rhett Butler.
Mitchell divorced her first husband and quickly remarried, this time to an editor. Shortly after this she began to write the novel that would give her fame and financial security. Following the success of the novel and film, Mitchell turned her attentions to philanthropic interests, creating scholarships for students of Morehouse College and leading war bond drives during World War II.
In 1949, Mitchell was struck by a car while crossing the street and never recovered from her injuries. On August 16 she was laid to rest in Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta.
One of the most extensive collections of Mitchell’s books, photographs and personal items is in the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System’s Central Library’s Special Collection Department. With nearly 1,500 pieces, including 500 of Mitchell’s personal research books, 73 editions of Gone with the Wind in 35 languages and 400 photographs, the exhibit is a must-see for visitors to the area. There are also movie stills, Mitchell’s Red Cross uniform, her 1937 Pulitzer Prize and the Remington typewriter that was used to write the famous novel.
Although not strictly part of the trail, the Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum has an incredible three-dimensional panorama that presents the July 1864 Battle of Atlanta, enhanced with music and narration. The museum was visited by cast members during the Atlanta premiere of Gone with the Wind and was a favourite of Patrick Curtis, the actor that portrayed Baby Beau Wilkes in the film.
The Atlanta History Center is also worth seeing. With 1,400 original artifacts, the centre maintains one of the largest Civil War exhibitions in the country. A working farm on the grounds is open for tours and gives a real-life picture of life in the antebellum south.
Oakland Cemetery holds the history of the south beneath its peaceful, green lawn. Industry leaders lay beside Civil War soldiers and Civil Rights pioneers. It is also an example of the rural garden cemetery movement of the 19th century and this is reflected in the winding paths and flowering greenery that create a park-like atmosphere. In this lovely, quiet place, Margaret Mitchell’s gravesite is a pilgrim site for her devoted fans. Civil War buffs will appreciate the guided tours that point out soldiers and slaves that were part of the war.
South of Atlanta in the old Jonesboro Train Depot, the Road to Tara Museum is filled with props, manuscripts, costume reproductions and other memorabilia from the film. Wardrobe items, a doll collection and an extensive photo collection fill the museum that sits in Clayton County, the inspiration for the setting of Tara and Twelve Oaks. The blue settee from Twelve Oaks and Scarlett’s pantalets are also part of the display. Keep an eye out for other memorabilia from Loew’s Grand Theatre, including an original Gone with the Wind poster.
The Mitchell Trust and the Georgia State Legislature have designated Clayton County and Jonesboro as the official “Home of Gone with the Wind”. Within Clayton County, the 1839 Stately Oaks Plantation built in the Greek revival antebellum style was one of the plantations that inspired the look of Tara. The grounds still hold the old schoolhouse, cookhouse and other outbuildings that reflect the period before the Civil War.