By Joel Hall
Seventy years after "Gone with the Wind" hit the silver screen, fans from around the world still flock to the Road to Tara Museum in Jonesboro to get a sense of what the South was like during the Civil War. On Dec. 11 and 12, the museum will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the movie with new exhibits, special discounts and free, weekend access.
According to Megan Spears, director of marketing and communications for the Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the museum's celebration will nearly coincide with the anniversary of the 1939 premiere of the movie, based on Margaret Mitchell's novel, "Gone with the Wind." During that time, the museum will sell digitally remastered DVDs of the movie, as well as the Ultimate Collector's Edition on DVD and Blu-ray, featuring three new documentary films related to "Gone with the Wind."
"The  premiere was Dec. 13, 14 and 15," Spears said. "Our events are Dec. 11 and 12. We planned our weekend as close as we possibly could to the premiere. Without the movie, we [the museum] wouldn't be here. For it to last for 70 years and still be such an iconic movie, with so many hard-core fans, is amazing. The fact that we still get so many people here interested in the film is a testament to how great the film was."
The Ultimate Collector's Edition of the film features the documentary, "1939: Hollywood's Greatest Year," a Turner Classic Movies presentation looking at great films that premiered in 1939, such as "Gone with the Wind," "The Wizard Oz," and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." The edition also includes, "Moviola: The Scarlett O'Hara Wars," a 1980 television special never seen on home video, and "Gone with the Wind: The Legend Lives On," which includes archival footage, visits to historical sites and museums, and interviews with Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau staff members.
"Since Clayton County is the official home of 'Gone with the Wind,' it was a perfect opportunity for the film crew to shoot a portion of their documentary here," said bureau President and CEO Pat Duncan. "The crew shot footage with a few individuals, including Herb Bridges, who is a leading 'Gone with the Wind' expert and collector, and whose collection is housed in the Road to Tara Museum."
Admission to the Road to Tara Museum will be free on Dec. 11 and 12 in recognition of the 70th anniversary. On those days, everything in the museum gift shop will be discounted by 20 percent, and visitors to the museum will be able to take the Peter Bonner "Gone with the Wind" Tour for the discounted price of $10. Normally $24.95, the tour takes visitors through Jonesboro and explores the city's ties to Mitchell and her most famous literary work.
The tours will be offered every hour, on the half hour, starting at 10:30 a.m., on those two days, with the last tour leaving at 4:30 p.m.
According to Beth Bailey, Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau vice president of sales and promotions, the Road to Tara Museum will also feature several new exhibits, including an expanded showcase of Mitchell's personal items, a Civil War exhibit, and Vivien Leigh's original pantalets from the iconic movie in which "Mammy," played by Hattie McDaniel, tightens the corset of "Scarlett O'Hara," who is holding onto a bedpost.
"We'll have some guns and uniforms and bullets that have been found in Clayton County," Bailey said. "The pantalets actually belong to Herb Bridges and they are on permanent loan to the museum. Any time you can have an original prop from a movie, it really adds a lot to the museum experience."
Bailey said that even by 2009 standards, "Gone with the Wind" was a movie of epic proportions.
"It was really the first epic," Bailey said. "Just the number of extras they had was unheard of. It was something Hollywood had never done. To people who are from the South and were raised on it, it is a part of who they are. If you are not from the South, it kind of epitomizes what the South is."
The 20-percent discount on gift items during the 70th anniversary weekend excludes the purchase of the collector's DVD and Blu-ray discs of "Gone with the Wind." For more information about the event, call (770) 478-4800 or visit www.visitscarlett.com.