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"Windys" flock to Jonesboro

By Ed Brock

"Star Trek" has its "Trekkies" and "Gone With the Wind" has its "Windys."

On Friday, the "Windys" were out in force at the Road to Tara Museum on Main Street in Jonesboro, GWTW memorabilia in hand, to meet one of the remaining stars of the movie.

"I collect a lot of foreign editions of the movie and books," said Peggy Ford of Hartselle, Ala.

Twin sisters Joan Broughton and Jane Hinton of New Hope and Toney, Ala., which like Hartselle is near Huntsville, were planning to wear matching antebellum dresses during a bus tour on Saturday that is part of the museum's anniversary celebration.

"She's the ?Windy' and I'm the back up," Hinton said.

They were all there to see actress Ann Rutherford.

Rutherford, now 84, who played Scarlett O'Hara's sister Carreen O'Hara entered the museum with the style of a grand dame and the energy of a debutante.

She regaled the crowd with stories of her days on the set of the movie, her experiences with "Gone With the Wind" producer David O. Selznick and her attendance of the premiere of the film in Atlanta 65 years ago. It's the celebration of the diamond anniversary of that premiere on Dec. 15, 1939 that brought Rutherford to town.

"Who knew, who ever knew, that ?Gone With the Wind' would have such legs," Rutherford said. "No other publication has captured the imagination of every country into which it's gone."

But even then, Rutherford said, she knew they were doing something special because at that time you couldn't go into a drugstore to get a milkshake without seeing someone with the book propped up on the counter for reading.

Rutherford has come to Atlanta several other times in the past for celebrations of the film based on Margaret Mitchell's best selling 1936 novel. It was her first time at the Road to Tara Museum that is inside the historic Jonesboro train depot.

"I love the little sets," Rutherford said, referring to the layout of the museum. "It's like going through the studio."

Upon Rutherford's entering the museum Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Stacey Dickson guided the actress to the display of a reproduction of the dress she wore in the movie. Jonesboro seamstress Arcadia Simmons had created the meticulously detailed antebellum dress with a pattern she created based on pictures, film notes and footage from the movie.

The size is approximately what I remember," Rutherford said.

After the first premiere in 1939 Rutherford and some of the other stars went to eat dinner at Mitchell's house. Mitchell praised Clark Gable for his portrayal of Scarlett's leading man Rhett Butler, but said she had argued against Gable being cast for the role.

"She said she was envisioning Basil Rathbone," Rutherford said.

Rutherford went on to talk about Selznick, who only recently received a star on the "Walk of Fame" in Hollywood. She said she once recommended to the producer that he make his makeup artists "throw their tweezers away" so they would stop plucking the actor's eyebrows down to a thin line. And she said how happy she was that her scenes stayed in the movie, considering the fact that Selznick had shot 12 hours of story and then had to pare it down to 222 minutes.

And then there was the time when Rutherford and her husband, on vacation in Europe, met Selznick for dinner. As they were waiting for their meal the Rutherfords told Selznick that they would not have time to go to Venice, something Selznick apparently found unacceptable.

He excused himself supposedly to call the studio. A moment later the captain of the waiters came and asked Mr. Rutherford to come with him, leaving Ann Rutherford alone and worried at the table. Finally the captain came back and urged Rutherford to hurry and come with him.

She went outside to find Selnick's limousine waiting with the couple's luggage on the roof. He had also booked a special compartment usually reserved for Italian politicos on a train for Venice to send the Rutherfords to the city of canals.

"He made things happen," Rutherford said. "I've had a wonderful life. Thank you, David O. Selznick."

Also in the crowd of fans stood George Terrell, a professor of history and geography at Gadsden State Community College in Gadsden, Ala., with a bouquet of flowers and a box full of memorabilia in hand. Terrell had recently organized an exhibition of GWTW items in Gadsden that many of the other people in line had attended.

"We think it was the biggest show in the United States," Terrell said.

Terrell had brought with him a memo from Selznick about his original pick for Rutherford's role, Georgiana Young, sister of actress Loretta Young and later wife of actor Ricardo Montalban.

Terrell's bouquet of orchids and roses he had grown in his greenhouse did not include a more special bloom, a pink thalia orchid that he was holding in reserve to bring to a brunch this Sunday with Rutherford.

In 1989 when Rutherford came to Atlanta for the movie's 50th anniversary she wore a thalia orchid that he had given her, Terrell said. What is special about the flower he will give her Sunday is that the thalia orchid usually blooms around Christmas or New Year.

"I've never seen one bloom so early," Terrell said. "It was just meant to be."

Lost in the crowd of Windys stood 23 year old Ed Reichley of Stockbridge with a DVD of the movie and a picture he hoped to have autographed as birthday presents for his girlfriend. He had originally come to the museum on Thursday to buy her a book.

"They said we can't find the book, but Ann Rutherford will be here tomorrow," Reichley said. "I said how early do I have to get here."