The Birthplace of “Gone With the Wind”

“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…”

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The opening title cards of “Gone With the Wind” always make me nostalgic for a time in which I never lived. While this story was only fiction, it shared a glimpse of the South as it really was in that time — grounded on tradition, beauty and charm — before the destruction of the Civil War. (Although, it doesn’t quite portray the horrors of what they were fighting for — slavery — which reminds me how grateful I am to be in the 21st century). Despite watching the movie dozens of times growing up, I read the book for the very first time when I was 15 years old. Mitchell’s words came to life in a way I could never have imagined. I knew I had to visit the place where it all began, the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta. My dad, knowing the “Gone With the Wind” junkie that I was at 15 — and still am — agreed to plan a trip.

After arriving in Atlanta, my one and only mission was to visit the museum. As we approached the property, we were greeted by a white sign posted on the column of the home that read “Margaret Mitchell House – Birthplace of Gone With the Wind.” The ruddy, red brick of the house exterior complemented three tiers of charming white balconies that lined the front of the house, which was converted into apartments in 1919, we read. Apartment No. 1 is where Mitchell and her husband lived from 1925 to 1932, and more notably where Mitchell famously penned the majority of the 1,037-page novel on her Underwood typewriter.

We entered the first room of Mitchell’s three-room apartment, bright with natural light; my first thought was that it was much smaller than I had anticipated. Mitchell seemed to feel similarly; upon entering the house, one sign noted that she affectionately nicknamed the space “The Dump” because of its small space and “basement shabbiness.” The main room was quaint and comfortable. There in the corner sat Mitchell’s most precious piece of furniture: her desk, along with the typewriter that laid on top. The desk seemed exceptionally tiny, with room only for the typewriter, a few scraps of paper and a cup of coffee, but perhaps that’s all a writer really needs.

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As we navigated through the rest of the museum beyond apartment No. 1, more “Gone With the Wind” props, photos and other items were scattered throughout the house. The iconic, life-size painting of Scarlett O’Hara in her royal blue gown hung on a wall on the first floor. My mind immediately pictured the scene in the movie where the portrait hung in Rhett’s bedroom in their Atlanta mansion. Swoon.

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Various photos and artwork from the movie set and film lined the walls. Arguably my favorite photo, though, was a black and white shot of Clark Gable (who starred as Rhett Butler) and Margaret Mitchell. Gable grinned from ear to ear. My heart fluttered. What “Gone With the Wind” fan wasn’t in love with Rhett Butler?

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I quickly woke up from my “Gone With the Wind” fantasy and realized we were nearing the end of the museum tour. I left with a tin film poster from the gift shop of one of my favorite scenes from the movie in hand. My visit was undoubtedly a memorable experience, but until I travel back to the 1860s, I’ll never truly have my “Gone With the Wind” fill.

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7 thoughts on “The Birthplace of “Gone With the Wind”

  1. Hi, Ashleigh –

    First, I wanted to tell you I love your blog & this post. I’m a new follower. I also love history & visiting historical sites, & your blog is really lovely. I’ve been to the Margaret Mitchell House a few times. I LOVE the magic there. Especially her doll-sized beg! John (her husband) was over six feet. Whenever I visit I wonder how in the world he could have been comfortable there. 🙂

    I do want to say one thing…

    The opening title cards of “Gone With the Wind” always make me nostalgic for a time in which I never lived.

    It’s not popularly known. I’m only aware because I’ve read a lot of her letters and the biographies about her. However, Mitchell & her husband John (editor & professor from Maysville, KY, which Mitchell visited, by the way) HATED this opening sequence when they saw the film. As in, squirmed in their seats. Mitchell was a realist, and her novel was intended to interrogate this romanticized version of Southern history, not add to it. Her novel even remarks on the ladies who wrote this completely false version of the South after the war. As in, this stuff was completely fictionalized by grieving mothers and widows. It isn’t real.

    GWTW is my favorite movie as well (well, one of them. I also love Chaplin) 🙂 — but this opening sequence wasn’t written by Mitchell. It was written by Hollywood.

    In the subtext of the novel [i]Gone with the Wind[/i], she is criticizing the very opening people praise in the film version.

    (She also squirmed at Hollywood’s version of Tara. Tara was a run-down house in the book. And Twelve Oaks! She thought their romanticized depiction hysterical. And she felt that the casting of Leslie Howard as Ashley was unfortunate. From what I’ve read. She LOVED Vivien Leigh as Scarlett though.)

    Cheers.

    Like

    1. Hi Jillian! Thank you so much! That is all so interesting — thank you for sharing! I’m surprised how much I still have to learn. I have to admit, I did know that Mitchell did not write the opening of the movie, but I wasn’t aware she hated it. Definitely noted. I love even more that she hated the romanticization of the south. A realist she definitely was! Thanks again for all your knowledge and feedback!

      Best,
      Ashleigh

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re very welcome! If you’re curious about her response to the film and her thoughts on the South, I can recommend the book Gone with the Wind Letters, edited by Richard Harwell. There are some excellent biographies out there on her, but that collection is in her own words. You will love her personality. She’s very frank and funny. I can’t think of a character in her novel exactly like her, but if I had to choose one of the four principle characters to compare her to, I’d say she is the most like Rhett. (If you say her first name, you’ll notice he is there.) 😉 She was gentle like Melanie, frank like Scarlett, quiet and a little retiring by nature — like Ashley, and cynical and blunt, like Rhett. But she was also simply Margaret. And a reporter before it was socially acceptable for a married woman to be one. She interviewed Rudolph Valentino! She said he seemed tired and kind of dull compared to what she expected, but he still toted her around the rooftop where she interviewed him, as one might expect, ha ha. 🙂

        I also STRONGLY recommend Dynamo Going to Waster: Letters to Allen Edee. I don’t link it since this comment might go to spam if I do, but it should be easy to Google. It’s a collection of letters she wrote in her early twenties, after her mother died and she lost her fiancé in the First World War. She was sad but also crazy smart. She shares her woes about wanting to write, as well as stories about her dating and a little bit about her home life after her mother died. In Dynamo she’s more candid than in the Harwell collection, because she wasn’t a public figure yet. So you get a better sense of her personality. But of course she hadn’t written Gone with the Wind yet, so she doesn’t mention it.

        Of the biographies I’d recommend Margaret Mitchell and John Marsh: The Love Story Behind Gone with the Wind by Marianne Walker. It’s extremely readable & well-researched, and offers more insight on her views as a writer and woman of her time. Also, you get to meet her husband John, the J.R.M. of her novel’s dedication page. You probably heard about him during your tour of the M.M. House. I find him extremely excellent. 🙂

        Cheers! Again, I love your blog. I wish I could travel more. 🙂

        Like

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