65 years of ?Gone With the Wind'

By Ed Brock

On Dec. 15, 1939, Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind" came to life on the big screen and in the streets of Atlanta and Jonesboro.

The stars of producer David O. Selznick's movie based on Mitchell's 1936 novel, like Clark Gabel and Vivien Leigh, came to town for the movie's premiere. A welcoming committee that included then Gov. Eurith Dickinson Rivers met them at the airport, said Herb Bridges, renowned collector of "Gone With the Wind" memorabilia.

"In 1939, 65-years ago, in Atlanta nobody had seen movie stars," said Bridges.

This weekend one of those stars will return to Jonesboro for the celebration of the diamond anniversary of that premiere. Ann Rutherford, who played Scarlett O'Hara's sister Carreen O'Hara, will be available for a meet-and-greet with fans on Friday at the Road to Tara Museum on N. Main Street in Jonesboro. Rutherford, who recently turned 84, is one of six surviving cast members.

The weekend will also include a tour of the museum, which has added some new displays, a VIP bus tour of "Gone With the Wind" points of interest around Atlanta (including the Margaret Mitchell House) and a Sunday brunch with Rutherford.

"About two thirds of the museum exhibits have been rotated for the event," said Stacey Dickson, president and CEO of the Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Among the new exhibits are a watercolor painting of a dress worn by Rutherford's character and a settee from the Twelve Oaks set of the movie. Bridges acquired the settee and donated it to the weekend exhibit.

Bridges said his interest in "Gone With the Wind" started when, as a 12-year-old boy, he read the book. He's seen the movie twice, but he's read the book five or six times.

"The true collectors really know the book," Bridges said, but he added that the movie displays are what the people want to see when they come to a "Gone With the Wind" museum.

Most of the original costumes for the movie are in storage at the University of Texas in Austin, but the Road to Tara Museum has a tailor-made wool coat worn by Gable in one part of the movie.

They also have a replica of the aforementioned dress, as well as a dress worn by Jonesboro's world-famous Scarlett lookalike, Melly Meadows. It's the same dress Meadows wore to meet the Emperor of Japan.

"Gone With the Wind" is hugely popular in Japan, but the exhibit includes posters and versions of the books from many different languages. And the museum's guest book reflects that global popularity.

"Local people are flabbergasted that people from Sri Lanka come here, but they do," Dickson said.

Rutherford will be signing copies of the recently released "Gone With the Wind" DVD, and fans who are willing to pay the $69 for the Sunday brunch at the Pristine Chapel Lakeside Ballroom near Jonesboro will get free autographed versions of the movie. People interested in the VIP tour or the brunch should call (770) 478-4800 to make reservations.

Also this week, Southern Oaks in Fayetteville will hold a "Gone With the Wind" tea at 11 a.m. Friday at the historic home at 240 N. Jeff Davis Drive, said Michele Cox with Southern Oaks and Victorian Adventures.

Victoria Wilcox, an expert on "Gone With the Wind" history, will be the speaker at the tea.

"She will be speaking on the roots of ?Gone With the Wind' and the real people on whom she based the characters," Cox said.

Attending the tea costs $20 and while attendees can pay at the door they must call Cox at (770) 460-0890 by today to reserve a spot.

Victorian period dresses will be available, Cox said, so "the ladies may dress like Southern belles for the occasion if they like."

Go to www.VictorianAdventures.com for directions to Southern Oaks and more information.