When I was 15, I fell in love with Rhett Butler. That's how old I was the first time I saw the movie, "Gone With the Wind." Of course, what girl didn't fall in love with Rhett? The tall, handsome, charming rogue whose cynical attitude actually hid a desperate desire to be loved and accepted. When I saw the movie, and the scene appeared of Scarlett at the top of the stairs at the barbecue, and the camera panned down to Rhett staring up at her, a collective "ahhh" could be heard from all the women in the theater. Rhett, portrayed by actor Clark Gable, was the quintessential "bad guy" that good girls loved. I was hooked and I saw the film dozens of times over the years. The novel, written by Margaret Mitchell, turns 75 years old this year, and the movie came three years later in 1939. This epic saga of the American Civil War and destruction of the south took Mitchell ten years to write, from a table in front of a window in a corner of her living room. The novel has been criticized for its' racial stereotyping, although Mitchell herself was surprised by this, saying her black characters "were the most honorable in the book."
Margaret Mitchell won the Pulitzer Prize for "Gone With the Wind" in 1937.
Hattie McDaniel won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the movie, making her the first African American actress to win an Oscar. However, she was prevented from attending the movie's premiere, due to Georgia's Jim Crow laws, which would have been prevented her from sitting with the white members of the cast. When actor Clark Gable heard of this, he threatened to boycott the event, but Ms. McDaniel convinced him to attend.
Gone With the Wind has been published into 35 languages. Approximately 75,000 copies of the book are still sold annually in North America.
Margaret Mitchell never went on a book tour and gave very few interviews. She died in 1949 at age 48, after being struck by a cab in Atlanta. She'd never written another book.
Until next time,