Blockbuster Anniversary

Frankly my dear, Georgia's Gone with the Wind Trail connects fans to movie and local history.

When Margaret Mitchell penned Gone with the Wind in 1936, she didn’t realize she created what would become the South’s most legendary power couple, Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler. This antebellum story became the 1939 blockbuster film that continues to spark controversy and conversations while remaining highly popular with an enthusiastic fan base known as Windies.

Since its Atlanta debut nearly 80 years ago, Gone with the Wind fans continue to make the pilgrimage to the greater Atlanta area. They search for sites associated with Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) and Rhett (Clark Gable), places now found along Georgia’s Gone with the Wind Trail.

Marching through Georgia

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park and Marietta are the first stops along the trail. It was the first stop for Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman 155 years ago when he began the Atlanta Campaign. Stop at the visitors’ center for an orientation, then explore nearly 20 miles of trails, historical sites, and monuments.

About 7 miles south of the park is the city of Marietta, Ga. Located a block off Marietta’s town square, Kennesaw House was built as a cotton warehouse in 1845, but today serves as the Marietta Museum of History. Three galleries display a diverse collection of rarities ranging from a Cherokee language Bible dating to 1860 to a 1940s kitchen vignette. 

The Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum has moved into historical Brumby Hall on Powder Springs Street. Originally the home of Col. Arnoldus Brumby, superintendent of the Georgia Military Institute grounds, Brumbry Hall is the institute’s only building to escape destruction during the war.

 Windies flock to the museum to view its eclectic mix of movie memorabilia, including scripts, film props, and promotional lobby posters. Counted among the museum’s most popular items is the bengaline honeymoon gown, the only original costume worn by Leigh in her role as Scarlett that remains on permanent display in the U.S.

Before leaving Marietta, explore the town square and its boutiques, eateries, and curio shops. Many feature Gone with the Wind themes and souvenirs.  

Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum

Brumbry Hall, 472 Powder Springs St.

Admission: $7 for adults

mariettasquare.com

 

Scarlett's honeymoon gown, left; Marietta Square, top. Suzanne Corbett photos

Vivien Leigh dress

Atlanta’s attractions

Atlanta shines the brightest along the Gone with the Wind Trail, for it’s here where the story begins and ends. Begin at the Margaret Mitchell House located on the campus of Atlanta History Center Midtown (979 Crescent Ave.). Mitchell called this tiny two-room basement apartment “The Dump,” but it has been preserved by the Atlanta History Center and furnished circa 1930s. Notice Mitchell’s re-created front room corner work space .

The Margaret Mitchell House includes two upper level galleries featuring the exhibit, “Stars Fall on Atlanta: The Premiere of Gone with The Wind.” It documents the three days surrounding the December 1939 world premiere. Another exhibit, “The Making of a Film Legend: Gone with The Wind,” examines the film’s production and the issues of race. These issues are addressed in the center’s mission statement panel on view as guests enter the site. The panel reads: “Margaret Mitchell House presents exhibitions and programs about history, literature, and art. Both Margaret Mitchell’s novel and the film version of Gone with the Wind are not an accurate representation of much of Southern history, Atlanta history, and the Civil War. The Atlanta History Center Midtown does not accept depictions of enslavement and African Americans that are inaccurate and promote a nostalgic and romantic view of the past. Instead, we examine the popularity along with criticism of the book and film. We encourage open discussion about the content of the film and the evidence from historical reality in an effort to understand the difference of historical fiction from historical fact.”

Pay your respects at Mitchell’s gravesite that’s located in Oakland Cemetery. Founded in 1850, the cemetery also includes a botanical preserve with ancient oaks and magnolias.

Margaret Mitchell House

979 Crescent Ave.

Admission: $13 for adults

atlantahistorycenter.com

 

Margaret Mitchell's re-created work space. Suzanne Corbett photo

 

Margaret Mitchell desk

Finding Tara

Searching to find Mitchell’s inspiration for Tara requires a 30-minute drive south from Atlanta to Jonesboro, Ga. Mitchell’s maternal great-grandparents owned a plantation outside of Jonesboro. Mirroring the fictional Tara, her family’s plantation wasn’t destroyed by Sherman. However, it no longer stands. Only its fireplace remains, which has been reconstructed on the grounds of the Margaret Mitchell Memorial Park. Visitors also can see a cookhouse, a tenant house, a country store, and the park’s centerpiece, Stately Oaks. A Greek Revival mansion built in 1839, Robert McCord purchased the property in 1858. Rebecca McCord, not unlike Scarlett, fought to keep Stately Oaks from capture when Sherman converged on Jonesboro.  

In downtown Jonesboro, check out the Road to Tara Museum, which holds an impressive collection of Gone with the Wind artifacts, along with Civil War rarities, including an authentic “Sherman necktie.” A necktie is a piece of railroad track Sherman’s troops twisted into a loop, thus rendering it useless. Other items on view include personal items owned by Mitchell, costume reproductions, and the recovered character portraits of Rhett, Scarlett, Ashley, and Melanie that were produced for outdoor display on the Lowes Grand Theater during the film’s premiere.

Margaret Mitchell Memorial Park

100 Carriage Lane

Admission: $12 for adults

historicaljonesboro.org

 

Stately Oaks photo courtesy Clayton County Georgia CVB

Stately Oaks Plantation

Where to eat and sleep

Southern hospitality rules Atlanta's hotels and restaurants. When planning an overnight along the Gone with the Wind Trail, consider a stay at Atlanta's Georgian Terrace Hotel (AAA Three Diamonds), located at 659 Peachtree St. NE. During the film's 1939 debut, Gable and Leigh stayed at the hotel.

Scarlett vowed, "I'll never be hungry again," and neither will you. Along the trail, Southern classics are dished alongside trending gourmet plates. To indulge in classic Southern comfort food — such as fried chicken, barbecue, and peach cobbler — stop at Pittypat's Porch (AAA Two Diamonds) in Atlanta. In addition to stick-to-your-ribs meals, diners can taken in the Gone with the Wind memorabilia.

Nearly 80 years since Gone with the Wind debuted, the film remains part of our American cinematic culture. It is regarded by the American Film Institute as one of the most important films of all time, placing in the Top 10 of the institute’s Top 100 movies. The film continues to spark discussion and fascinate its fans. Perhaps that is its greatest legacy.

Suzanne Corbett is a contributor from St. Louis, Mo. 

Pittypat's Porch

25 Andrew Young Blvd.

pittypatsrestaurant.com

 

Jim Corbett photo

Fried chicken at Pittypat's