As most of you know, I’m in the middle of a Virtual Book Tour for my historical fiction novel Shades of Gray, with a drawing to be held next Tuesday, Dec. 15., for a basket full of Civil War goodies. What you may not know not know is that Dec. 15 is a very important date – it’s the anniversary of the 1939 release of the movie Gone with the Wind.

Calvin E. Johnson Jr. was kind enough to provide me with this post on the movie’s anniversary.

When Gone with the Wind came to Atlanta

Do you remember when and where you first saw Gone with the Wind?

Gone with the Wind premiered during the Christmas season of 1939, just 74 years after the end of the War Between the States. December 15, 2009, marks the 70th anniversary of that wonderful, classic movie that begins with:

“There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South. Here in this pretty world, Gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a Civilization gone with the wind.”

Gone with the Wind won 8 Oscars for 1939, including Best Picture. Additionally, Hattie McDaniel, the first Black American to win an Academy Award, expressed her heart-felt pride with tears of joy, upon receiving the 1939 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her memorable role as “Mammy.” See her acceptance speech here.

Victor Fleming won the Academy Award for Best Director and even though Max Steiner did not receive an award for his excellent music score, the Gone with the Wind theme song has become the most recognized and played tune in the world.

Vivien Leigh, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a leading role, humbly and eloquently summed her appreciation by thanking Producer David O. Selznick.

And, who can forget Olivia De Havilland as the pure, sweet Melanie Hamilton, Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes and Clark Gable as Rhett Butler?

Friday, December 15, 1939, was an icy-cold day in Atlanta but people warmed to the excitement of the world premiere of Gone with the Wind – the Selznick International Pictures “technicolor” production of the Metro Goldwyn Mayer release of Margaret Mitchell’s novel about the Old South at the Loews Grand Theater.

We remember Thomas Mitchell who played Gerald O’Hara telling daughter Scarlett:

“Do you mean to tell me, Katie Scarlett O’Hara, that Tara , that land doesn’t mean anything to you? Why, land is the only thing in the world worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for, because it’s the only thing that lasts.”

The cast of Gone with the Wind stayed at the historic Georgian-Terrace Hotel.

Anne Rutherford, who played Scarlett’s sister Carreen, took time to visit the Confederate Veterans at the soldier’s home and the stars toured the famous “Cyclorama” at Grant Park.

The festivities surrounding the premiere of Gone with the Wind included a parade down Peachtree Street with 3,000 folks cheering the playing of Dixie , waving Confederate flags and shouting Rebel Yells.

And, many witnessed the lighting of the “Eternal Flame of the Confederacy,” an 1855 gas lamp that survived the 1864 Battle of Atlanta. The lamp remained for many years on the northeast corner of Whitehall and Alabama Streets. Mrs. Thomas J. Ripley, president of Atlanta Chapter No. 18 United Daughters of the Confederacy, re-lit the great light with Mr. T. Guy Woolford, commandant of the Old Guard by her side.

My Mother remembers the great spot lights lighting up the night sky.

The house where Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone with the Wind is still standing. See information on the Margaret Mitchell house.

Time Magazine wrote:

“The film has almost everything the book has in the way of spectacle, drama, practically endless story and the means to make them bigger and better. The burning of Atlanta, the great ‘boom’ shots of the Confederate wounded lying in the streets and the hospital after the Battle of Atlanta are spectacle enough for any picture, and unequaled.”

The 70th Anniversary of Gone with the Wind was recently celebrated with a re-premiere showing at the beautifully restored Strand Theater located on the square in Marietta, Georgia.

Calvin E. Johnson, Jr. is a freelance writer, author of the book: “When America Stood for God, Family and Country” and member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.


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