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BackStory

Frankly, you should give a damn about Gone With the Wind' museum

By MARY ANN ANDERSON - McClatchy-Tribune News Servive
MARIETTA, Ga. - Pop quiz for all the Windies out there. What is the "flaming embrace?" Which of these lines is correct? "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" or "My dear, I don't give a damn." And what or who are the Windies?

Windies, my dear, are most faithful fans of Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind," the book and the movie and everything in between (like "birthin' babies" and such). In case you are a newbie to the planet, the 1936 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the most famous story ever about life before, during and after the Civil War, is one of the most widely-read books in America.

Then there's the beloved 1939 movie starring Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh. As a Windie, I've read the book no fewer than 10 times. The movie? All the way through, I've seen it at least that many, bits and pieces of it more times than that. It's what a Windie does.

Now to that flaming embrace. It's the scene where Rhett Butler is practically ravishing Scarlett O'Hara, her "buzzum" (Mammy's word) heaving as Atlanta blazes in the background. Rhett is leaving Scarlett, now a Confederate going off to fight "The Cause" against the Yankees near the end of the Civil War in 1864.

That answered, which of Rhett's now famous "don't give a" well, you-know-what, is correct? Both are. "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" is from the movie, while "My dear, I don't give a damn" is from the book. And "Frankly, Scarlett, I don't give a damn" is an amalgamation of the two and considered a malapropism of an entire sentence used most often by anyone who isn't a true Windie.

In any case, flaming embraces, heaving buzzums and that single curse word were pretty risque for Dec. 15, 1939, when the movie first premiered at Atlanta's Loew's Grand Theater. Producer David O. Selznick came, as did Mitchell and most of the cast, including Gable and Leigh. A good time was had by all and cinema history was made.

And Loew's, in an ironic twist, burned to the ground in 1978.

(As another aside, a friend once said that his Southern gentleman grandfather refused to let his grandmother to see the movie because it flat-out wrong for a proper lady to hear such things as that "d" word. Where, oh, where has that Old South gone?)

If you're a true Windie, or even a fan of "GWTW," or just occasionally need a Scarlett and Rhett fix, then a visit to the Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum: Scarlett on the Square is in order.

The museum, located in an 1875 former cotton warehouse, is a veritable circus of "GWTW" and Margaret Mitchell memorabilia from the private collection of Dr. Christopher Sullivan of Akron, Ohio. Sullivan began amassing these items from the time he was a teenager, and now on display are foreign editions of the book, original scripts and costume pieces, movie posters from around the globe and in every language, autographed copies of the book that belonged to Mitchell, and the piece d'resistance, the original Bengaline honeymoon gown that is one of only eight original costumes still known to exist.

Connie Sutherland, director of the museum, says that if there is one thing that gets more "ooohhs and aaahhs" than anything else, it's the gown. "It's the most talked-about item in the museum," she says, "mainly because it's the only original dress worn by Vivian Leigh in her role as Scarlett that's on display to the public."

Fiddle-dee-dee! There's more than nostalgia and memorabilia here. Not only will you feel that you have been personally introduced to all the characters with all the items on display, but also the movie runs continuously throughout the day. Windie or not, I have to say firsthand that's it's nearly impossible to leave the gift shop without picking up some sort of trinket or even a copy of the flaming embrace poster.

Just don't go expecting Tara, because Tara it's not. It is simply an extraordinary museum devoted to an extraordinary writer, book, and movie.

"For the most part, our visitors are fans of 'Gone With the Wind,'" says Sutherland. "But you don't have to be a die-hard fan to appreciate history. The memorabilia and the building in which it's displayed bring about a real feeling of yesteryear. And who isn't nostalgic enough to appreciate that?"

Now with the 70th anniversary of the premiere of the movie just months away, the museum, in partnership with Marietta's historic Strand Theatre, Warner Home Video and Turner Classic Movies, and with a little help from the Marietta Welcome Center & Visitor's Bureau, has scheduled a "re-premiere" of "GWTW" for Nov. 13-14.

The ticket-only events include museum events and a "GWTW" authors Q&A session at the Strand with a host of writers including Herb Bridges, who wrote among other books "Gone With the Wind - The Definitive Illustrated History of the Book, the Movie and the Legend"; Cammie King Conlon, who played Bonnie Blue Butler in the movie and who penned "Bonnie Blue Butler: A Gone With the Wind Memoir"; Mollie Haskell, who wrote "Frankly, My Dear: Gone With the Wind Revisited"; and Kathy Witt, author of "The Secret of the Belles."

Also at the Strand during the event is an evening with a few remaining cast members, including Conlon, Ann Rutherford (Carreen O'Hara), Mickey Kuhn (Beau Wilkes), Mary Anderson (Maybelle Merriwether), and Patrick Curtis (Baby Beau). Olivia de Havilland, forever known to Windies as "Miss Melly" (Melanie Wilkes), also has been invited.

A "Belles and Beaus" costume ball slated for the event is fittingly complete with "Virginia Reel" dance instruction. Black veils are optional for the Virginia Reel (Windies will understand). If you're too young to have seen "GWTW" on the big screen or if your grandpa refused to have let you see it because of the bad word, matinee and evening showings of the movie will be at the Strand.

And if you can't get tickets today, don't worry. There's always tomorrow for the museum. After all, tomorrow is another day.

IF YOU GO:

Dates and times of operation of the museum, as well as tickets for the re-premiere, are available by visiting the Gone With the Wind Museum: Scarlett on the Square at www.gwtwmarietta.com or call (770) 794-5145. Visit the Marietta Welcome Center & Visitor's Bureau at www.MariettaSquare.com or call (770) 429-1115. Visit the Margaret Mitchell House at www.MargaretMitchellHouse.com or call (404) 249-7015.

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM MARY ANN ANDERSON
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