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Death of Gone With The Wind collector mourned

Collector Herb Bridges shares a laugh with Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau interim President Frenda Turner at the opening of an exhibit of movie posters from Bridges’ collection in August. Bridges, 83, died Tuesday from a heart attack. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

Collector Herb Bridges shares a laugh with Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau interim President Frenda Turner at the opening of an exhibit of movie posters from Bridges’ collection in August. Bridges, 83, died Tuesday from a heart attack. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

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Collector Herb Bridges stands among his collection of Gone With The Wind memorabilia at the Road to Tara Museum in Jonesboro in this undated photograph. Bridges, 83, died Tuesday of a heart attack. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

NEWNAN — Cinema collector Herb Bridges has passed away.

Bridges, who had a plethora of memorabilia from across film history, died from a heart attack Tuesday at his home in Newnan, Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau spokeswoman Danielle Conroy confirmed Friday. Bridges’ extensive collection of “Gone With The Wind” memorabilia make up the bulk of the items seen at the bureau’s Road to Tara Museum in Jonesboro.

The 83-year-old collector’s funeral was held Friday in Newnan, said Conroy.

“The Road to Tara Museum is deeply saddened by the passing of renowned ‘Gone With The Wind’ expert, author and true friend, Herb Bridges,” CVB officials said in an official statement. “His passion for ‘Gone With The Wind’ showed through his dedication to sharing his vast knowledge to so many. Herb’s legacy will live through his connection to ‘Gone With The Wind’ fans across the globe. He was a true southern gentleman.”

Bridges’ connection to cinema started at an early age. As a teenager, Bridges — who grew up in Sharpsburg — worked as an usher at the Loews Grand Theater in Atlanta. As an adult, he began collecting old movie posters made for the theater by its in-house art department, along with other film-related memorabilia.

Several of those posters, covering a period from the 1930s through the 50s, spent the last two months on display at the Arts Clayton Gallery in Jonesboro. Arts Clayton Executive Director Linda Summerlin said in August that, although she had known Bridges for years through her work on the Clayton County Tourism Authority Board, he had kept the movie poster collection something of a secret until recently.

“Herb has kept it hidden in his old place in Sharpsburg and we are so delighted to have it,” said Summerlin.

Some of the posters showed their age with faded paint and mold spots. But at the exhibit’s opening, Bridges said he intended to use the money he earned from putting the posters on display into having them restored.

“On some of them, you can see the mold and they just need help, so I found this restoration lady and she took a couple and it cost $500 a piece just to get them perked up,” he said at the time. “I just can’t afford it unless I get a lot of exhibits rotating them so I can put my money back into them.”

But it was his “Gone With The Wind” collection for which Bridges was perhaps best known. He had seats and the original movie poster from the Loews Grand, where the film had its world premiere in 1939. The collection on display at the Road to Tara Museum also includes a wide array of items from the book and the movie, ranging from dolls to jars and re-created outfits.

“He’s been an avid collector for years for anything ‘Gone With The Wind,’” said Summerlin in August.

Conroy said the collection will remain on display at the museum for now because of an existing contract to display them, but she said CVB officials intend to address the impact of Bridges’ death on the collection’s future.

“It doesn’t affect us too much right now because we are still under contract, but we definitely plan to approach the family at a later date about what will happen to the collection,” said Conroy. “We won’t do it right away, of course, because we want to let his family have time to grieve.”