‘Print The Legend’Gone With The Wind as Myth and Memory

Eras Journal – Anderson, D.,: “Print the Legend” – Gone With the Wind as Myth and Memory

‘Print The Legend’
Gone With The Wind as Myth and Memory[1]
David Anderson
(University of Dundee)


Olivia de Havilland (1916-), still spry and lively in her mid-eighties, is the only surviving principal cast member remaining from Gone With the Wind . The actress is all but retired in Paris since appearing in the television mini-series North and South in the mid-1980s. However, on the sixtieth anniversary of the premiere of Gone With the Wind in Atlanta, on 15 December, 1939, de Havilland was shaking hands and receiving kisses in the back of a screening room, greeting guests with mellifluous purrs of familiarity. ‘We are not alone tonight,’ she told them at the end of the intermission, when she took the microphone for a few moments. ‘We have company’. Her voice, deep and honeyed, named her fabled co-stars Clark Gable (1901-1960) and Vivien Leigh (1913-1967), her producer, David O. Selznick (1902-1965), and ‘the whole cast that has gone before us to the great plantation in the sky. They have assembled on the great veranda for a mint julep, and they are raising their glasses to you’.

She remembered 1939. The actress ‘sensed that Gone With the Wind would live much longer than any other film made to date’. Yet, she claimed, ‘I never dared imagine that it would last for sixty years and still be going on strong, that wish and hope and dream of mine was confirmed. It lives’.[2]Certainly, nobody in the movie was better loved than de Havilland’s Melanie, the sweet-tempered, saintly foil to Leigh’s hot-tempered, ‘fiddle-de-dee’ scheming Scarlett O’Hara, and Clark Gable’s ‘gentleman from Charleston,’ Rhett Butler; all archetypes now, stock characters who hold us still in their thrall.[3] Even the most celebrated plantation in the American South never existed. The legendary Tara was a series of iconographic images evoked from fact and fiction, a celluloid dream for some and a fantastical caricature for others. Mementos and mis-remembering, pride and prejudices, were mixed together and served up as legend to hungry fans. Every year hundreds, perhaps thousands of visitors flock to Atlanta and inquire, ‘Where’s Tara?’ ‘Where are Scarlett and Rhett buried, and are they next to each other?’ ‘What do you tell them?’ asks one frustrated tour guide. ‘I try to break the news gently. ‘Honey, you know it’s a movie, don’t you?’ Then I have to explain that the whole thing was filmed in California. . . . It’s sad to shatter people’s illusions’. Without doubt,Gone With the Wind has done more to keep the Old South and the Civil War alive, and to mold their memory, than any history book or event since Appomattox.[4]

This essay is not an endeavor to find Tara or to locate the graves of Rhett and Scarlett but to re-locate their legends in a tangled interweaving of history, myth and memories. Taking our cue from this emphasis, an important and influential essay by historian Pierre Nora proposes that the divide between history and memory may well mirror broader social impulses. At the heart of Nora’s essay, titled ‘Entre Mémoire et historie’ (Between Memory and History), is his belief that the decline of traditional rural societies has entailed a radical transformation in the form and function of memory and, especially, in its relationship to history and to the individual. In the past, he asserts, memory was a collective phenomenon. Transmitted from one generation to the next, memory provided a powerful existential link with the past – a link connecting people to their ancestors and, beyond them, to the ‘undifferentiated time of heroes, origins, and myth’. Spurred on by an ‘obligation to remember,’ insists Nora, groups and individuals seek to preserve every shred and fragment of the past, to keep memories alive. A paradox arises, however. For these very efforts to entomb and preserve the past creates a distance between past and present. The lived and spontaneous link with the past that characterised traditional societies – where memory was passed down from one generation to the next and the past was relived in the present – has vanished. ‘The past,’ writes Nora, ‘is seen as radically other; it is the world from which we are forever cut off. And it is by showing the extent of this separation that memory reveals its essence’.

‘Places of Memory’

It would be difficult to find terms better suited to describe the memories represented in Gone With the Wind. Many who watched the movie originally desperately needed to remember the past because it offered them not only the warmth and life lacking in the present but a sense of their very identity as well. At the same time, however, in re-creating a world forever lost, such memories emphasised not only the link between past and present but, instead, the absolute discontinuity. Marked by its ‘distance’ from history, memory in Gone With the Wind itself seeks less to recapture the past than to re-create it; it wants not to confront the ghosts of history but rather to establish a place where they may flourish forever. As Nora tells us, ‘places of memory do not have referents in reality. Or, rather, they are their own referent: pure, self-referential signs. This is not to say that they are without content, physical presence, or history: quite the contrary. But what makes them places of memory is that, precisely, by,which they escape from history’. It is this ‘escape’ that is effected in the film. Pulling us into a timeless world of myth and dream, it creates ‘places of memory’ for those whose ‘impossible’ memories have been excluded from history.[5]

Of course, insists Andrew Bergman, ‘[p]eople do not escape into something they cannot relate to. The movies were meaningful because they depicted things lost or things desired. What is ‘fantastic’ in fantasy is an extension of something real’.[6] In other words, the ‘dreams’ of the audience, whatever they may have been, were not mere fallacies or abstractions, but exhilarating, imaginative articulations of their principal hopes and fears, their deepest doubts and beliefs. On this score,Gone With the Wind possesses a significant measure of both historical validity and importance. The fact that it was far and away the most successful film of the decade probably had less to do with the glittering surface that so annoyed some critics than the common ground it shared with the Depression. Indeed, it could be argued that the defeat of the Confederacy and the burning of Atlanta, represented the legend not of the ante-bellum past but of the mid-Depression present.

Gone With the Wind was similarly preoccupied with the problem of survival in the face of financial hardship and social upheaval. In a sense, both eras demonstrated a nostalgic longing for the agrarian way of life which was mercilessly being replaced by the frightful new economic forces of capitalism and industrialisation. By way of extension, both reflect an intense concern for the devastating consequences of these conditions upon self-reliant individualism and family unity, two of America’ most cherished beliefs. In each case, however, serious concern for these implications is dispersed into indulgent sentimentalism so that the audience’s anxieties are alleviated rather than aggravated.[7]

Despite the mists of sentiment which have clouded the ante-bellum Southern past, the creative blending of the truth to suit poetic licence in Civil War literature continues to strike a powerful chord for many Americans. This romantic escapism, however, pales by comparison to the reality of Confederate revisionism, or to put it another way, it is that great desideratum of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, an unbiased history of the war from the Southern point of view. In what has come to be called the Lost Cause, the post-Civil War writings and activities that perpetuated the memory of the Confederacy, to modern eyes, often appears excessively romantic. However, a large number of white Southerners participated in it and took it very seriously indeed: historians must as well.[8]Various post-war institutions, such as memorial associations, the Southern Historical Society, the United Confederate Veterans, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and others, crowded together to sponsor much of the writing and oratory that helped shape Southern perceptions of defeat. As historian Gaines M. Foster asserts, ‘[m]ore Southerners formed an understanding of their past through the ceremonial activities or rituals conducted by these groups than through anything else’. Hence, ‘. . . [t]he tradition developed out of and in turn shaped individuals’ memory of the war, but it was primarily a public memory, a component of the region’s cultural system, supported by the various organisations and rituals of the Lost Cause’.[9] The slow but steady progress of hero worship and memorialisation lifted the Stars and Bars of the Confederate flag out of the ashes and into a defiant stance.[10]

Although the almost blind acceptance of the mythical South is staggering, it is less so when placed in context; Gone With the Wind had many predecessors to sustain the portrayal of the region. D. W. Griffith, a Kentuckian and devout believer in Southern values, which, he was certain, were embodied in The Clansman (1905), a highly sentimental novel of the Lost Cause era, was one such predecessor. In his introduction, the author of the novel, Thomas Dixon, unabashedly described his theme: ‘How the young South, led by the reincarnated souls of the Clansmen of Old Scotland, went forth under this cover and against overwhelming odds, daring exile, imprisonment, and a felon’s death, and saved the life of a people, forms one of the most dramatic chapters in the history of the Ayrian race’.[11]Griffith’s film, The Birth of a Nation (1915) followed the book faithfully in plot, character, motivation and theme, and became the visualisation of the whole set of irrational cultural assumptions which we may term as the ‘Old South myth’.

The myth has a myriad of elements, but it is based primarily upon a belief in a golden age of the ante-bellum South, an age in which feudal agrarianism provided the good life for an overwhelmingly consistent parade of uncomplicated Southern types: the high-toned and benevolent master, the gracious and spirited plantation mistress, the gallant soldier-son, and the faithful, happy-go-lucky slave. The enormous disparity between this conception and reality has been the subject of a vast literature,[12] but our concern, however, is not with the reality but with what people have thought and felt about that reality; this thinking, feeling and remembering has undoubtedly contributed to the myth, and is the stuff of the history of sensibility.

The myth had it roots in the early literature of John Pendleton Kennedy and was popularised later still by other writers and musicians such as William Alexander Caruthers, John Esten Cooke, Thomas Nelson Page, Mary Johnston and by Stephen Foster’s ‘My Old Kentucky Home,’ (1852) and Daniel D. Emmett’s emotional ‘Dixie’ (1859) where ‘old times there are not forgotten’; but Griffith adapted its conventions to the screen. And so Hollywood, seeing the commercial jackpot plantation sagas might provide, began translating books and plays into screen epics. In addition, the embrace of Southern apologism by Northern audiences coincided with the flowering of American cinema – as celluloid supplanted the printed page, the plantation, locus of literary and historical memory, became the perfect vehicle for exploring American dreams.[13]

Certainly, Hollywood, an industry that markets the fantasies and fears of popular culture, inescapably finds itself in the myth-making business, creating stories, themes, and character types that embody the cultural ideals of its audience and give expression to their deepest feelings and emotions. Film emotionalises, personalises, and dramatises history. It gives us history as triumph, anguish, joy, despair, adventure, suffering, and heroism. Written history is, of course, not devoid of emotion, but usually it points to emotion rather than inviting us to experience it. A historian has to be a very good writer to make us feel emotion while a filmmaker can easily touch our feelings. Film thus raises some interesting issues. As Robert Rosenstone ponders: ‘To what extent do we wish emotion to become a historical category? Part of historical understanding? Does history gain something by becoming empathic? Does film, in short, add to our understanding of the past by making us feel immediately and deeply about particular historical people, events, and situations?’[14]

Obviously such questions cover a wide range of topics and pay special attention to the maintainance of cultural identity. This, in turn, reflects the range and complexity of issues surrounding myth and memory: real and imagined pasts; personal and collective histories; remembered pain, nostalgia, and yearning; region and folklore; identity and authenticity; what we wish to remember; what we wish to forget. In paying attention to a non-traditional source of knowledge and understanding, such as film, cultural critics remind us that memory, like other constructions of culture, stands in a complex, reciprocal relationship with its bearers. Not only do we create and maintain the memories we need to survive and prevail, but those collective memories in turn both shape and constrain us. Indeed, how personal memory shapes and is woven into collective memory in Southern film is often apparent in the choices filmmakers form – in essence, what they select for inclusion.

A telling illustration of this is evinced by Selznick’s treatment of cotton in Gone With the Wind. The crop and the re-creation of its handling were so much an integral part of the image of the Old South that he planned to include an introductory scene of cotton being chopped. However, as the scene was to precede the April barbecue, he was told that the idea was a non starter since the season was incorrect for chopping. Selznick, undeterred, was so obsessed with the standard shot of workers in the fields that he hung onto the idea through four months of debate.[15] The short scene made the final cut: obviously the producer knew what the people expected. As Selznick’s fixation so effectively demonstrated, he failed to create something fresh from already overworked material. He and other film companies worked within established rules and reflected popular preconceptions. The fact that the film image of the ante-bellum South was the same throughout seven decades pointed not to the industry’s concept alone, but to what the audience came to expect and believe was accurate. In effect, Hollywood’s conceptualisation and the public’s imagination eventually became mutually supportive. Once caught in the reciprocal exchange of beliefs, did either the film industry or its audience realise that they were reinforcing a myth? As one critic has mused, ‘If you can find the myth, it hasn’t been hidden properly, and if it’s been hidden properly, you can’t find it for sure’.[16] The Old South survived if not in reality, then at least in the popular imagination.

Rather than dwell on (and in) a painful past, those responsible for mythologising the South had, in effect, sanitised memory in order to preserve positive self-images. To preserve lore in his way, one must conclude that it was not enough to remember the story. More than that, one must begin to recognise and respect the story, to view it not as a relic of a dead or dying culture, but as an element in the ongoing ‘ceremony’. What this suggests is that memory and the myths that accompany it are vehicles of identity that require imagination to make the destination a reality.

It need not require those of us who – for better or for worse – are critically suspicious of carte blanche mysticism to embrace the practices this mythic memory invokes. It is easy to dismiss these folks as nostalgic-laden romanticists, but remembering has its virtues, even if what is remembered is skewed or just plain wrong. There is a touching innocence in the belief that it is possible to recapture the past and everything good with it. The same search for simplicity that moved the Confederate soldier to embrace the Old South and create the Lost Cause motivates white Southerners still clinging to the traditions of their ancestors.[17]

Whistling Dixie

Let us consider the premiere of Gone With the Wind in Atlanta, a ‘clever’ but ‘risky’ choice. At the end of the premiere, the Peach State capital ‘had been through four hours of emotional excitement unmatched since the city’s evacuation of 1864.’ The premiere itself was a huge affair – so much so that it ‘out-Hollywooded Hollywood.’ Governor Eurith D. Rivers of Georgia proclaimed the day of the premiere a public holiday throughout the state; all state buildings were closed and the Confederate banner flew from the Capital masthead beside the flag of the United States. Mayor William B. Hartsfield of Atlanta declared a three-day festival. Furthermore, and urged on by the ebullient Mayor, for more than a month the city’s butchers, bakers and businessmen ‘sprouted goatees, sideburns and Kentucky colonel whiskers,’ and housewives were urged to ‘put on hoop skirts and pantalets’ for the big event. Loud-speakers announced the arrival of distinguished personages, Gable and ‘other Georgians-by-Proxy’ donned the colourful costumes they had worn in the film; five Governors – Rivers of Georgia, Prentice Cooper of Tennessee, Frank M. Dixon of Alabama, Burnet Rhett Maybank of South Carolina, and Fred Cone of Florida – and the Atlanta elect who were fortunate enough to snap up the 5,200, $10 tickets to the affair matched the stars’ attire with their own resplendent costumes.[18]

While the Stars and Bars flapped from every building, some three hundred thousand Atlantans and visitors lined up for seven miles to watch the procession of limousines bring Vivien Leigh (in tears as thousands welcomed her ‘back home’), Clark Gable, his wife Carole Lombard, Selznick, Laurence Olivier, and many others to the theatre. When the film went on, ‘cheers went up’ and ‘tears flowed freely,’ and the delighted Georgians clapped, cheered, whistled Dixie, rose to their feet, wept, and hissed at Sherman’s celluloid army as Atlanta ‘relived American history’ while embracing ‘the Selznick drama to their hearts’. ‘To Georgia it was like winning the battle of Atlanta seventy five years late’.

Artistically as well as sentimentally, Gone With the Wind was a smash hit in Atlanta. Even Margaret Mitchell quavered:’it was a great thing for Georgia to see the Confederates conic back’. President-General of the United Daughters of the Confederacy pronounced ‘Miss Leigh is Scarlett to the life’. The President of Georgia Trust Company said:’I’ve been crying and, by God, I’m not ashamed to say so’. While there had been protests from daughters of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) veterans, and the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) led a campaign to boycott the film because of ‘offensive stereotypes,’ Selznick was not worried. What he had was two great legends in one picture; a sure-fire Rebel-rouser for the South, and a sure-fire love story for the rest of the country. Said de Havilland; ‘Oh, how you wanted the Southerners to accept it!…Because it was about their city and their ancestors’. With the reviews in Atlanta positively phosphorescent, Selznick and company marched above the Mason-Dixon Line. ‘The next opening was in New York and those Yankees liked it, too,’ de Havilland recalled with delight. ‘So we got the South, we got the Yankees, and then the West Coast followed right along!’[19]

The Phoenix City

A British film critic hyperbolised: ‘One can feel that one is really seeing that carefree South which was overwhelmed in the chaos of war. Here is not only tender romance in colour, but tough history in fact’.[20] Selznick applied such verve to his overwhelming romantic conceptions of the ante-bellum region, which was particularly evident in his instructions for the construction of the Tara set. Although researchers closely studied period photographs as well as sketches and other documents to achieve the right architecture for the forty-acre set of 1864 Atlanta, the pre-war O’Hara mansion owed more to imagination than research. During the movie, as the inferno raged, Atlanta, remembering her ashes, was proudly piling mythology upon mythology and boasted herself a phoenix city. Consequently, the set reflected the mythology built up by previous films and was seemingly accepted without question by a filmmaker whose preciseness of detail had helped establish his reputation.

Selznick meticulously fashioned his image of the plantation lifestyle; impressed critics and audiences alike proclaimed it adhered to an age which had ‘a glamour to it, a perfection, a symmetry like Grecian art’. [21] From the ashes of Atlanta, under a winter sky, arose the set of Tara, carefully romanticised from Margaret Mitchell’s description. A gravelled driveway, lined with arching cedar trees, led past a wide green lawn to the plantation house of whitewashed brick. Trucks arrived with loads of brick dust, mixed with the surrounding earth to make it look Southern red. ‘From the avenue of cedars to the row of white cabins in the slave quarters’, the author had written, ‘there was an air of solidness, of stability and permanence about Tara…’ There was also an air of opulence about its reproduction. When Selznick sent Mitchell photographs of it she privately found it exaggerated. She commented sarcastically to a friend that she would like to found a society called the ‘Association of Southerners Whose Grandpappies Did Not Live in Houses with White Columns’.[22]

In the novel, Tara was not the grand seat of plantation wealth and power but the home of a not particularly wealthy planter. Selznick fully realised however that such a structure comported neither with his idealisation of the section nor, and far more importantly, with the public’s. Writer Mitchell, although determined to stay aloof of the film adaptation in the event that the production would disappoint her fellow Southerners, by her own admission found it was quite ‘hard to make people understand that North Georgia wasn’t all white columns and singing darkies and magnolias…’ Southerners even questioned her as to why the novel’s setting was not the mansion that they had come to expect. At least in the picture, the romantic depiction was achieved for those disturbed at the book’s lack of splendour on that point. In fact, searching through Clayton County, Georgia, which the author had used for the novel’s setting, Miss Mitchell found but one columned house from the post-war era. Selznick, however, knew the nation desired the grandiose image, and the South would embrace it wholeheartedly, even to the extent of claiming that Tara or Twelve Oaks was ‘just like the mansion my grandpappy had that Sherman burned’.[23]

Film critics were also swept along with the frenzy of Selznick’s gargantuan version of Mitchell’s novel. ‘For by any and all standards’, wrote Frank S. Nugent in the New York Times Film Review, ‘Mr. Selznick’s film is a handsome, scrupulous and unstinting version of the…novel, matching it…with a literalness that not even Shakespeare or Dickens were accorded in Hollywood’. He enthused: ‘Through stunning design, costume and peopling, his film has skilfully and absorbingly recreated Miss Mitchell’s mural of the South in that bitter decade when secession, civil war and reconstruction ripped wide the graceful fabric of the plantation age and confronted the men and women who had adorned it with the stern alternative of meeting the new era or dying with the old’.[24] In lamenting the passing of the Old South, further proof was given of Selznick’s success in romanticising the region.

Although Southerners such as Mrs. W. D. Lamar, President-General of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, believed Gone With the Wind was ‘wonderfully faithful to the traditions’ of the section, for national import the production had to prove popular and meaningful in the North and West as well.[25] The reception seemed unanimous. A San Francisco commentator marvelled at the society and at its demise, at ‘how completely the gracious, patrician life of the Old South, the life of Tara and Twelve Oaks, has been shattered, never to be reclaimed’. At times, there seemed genuine sorrow that such a culture had died. Particularly noteworthy about these reviews was the consistent perception of the South as a section overflowing with wealth and sophistication, that Tara was indicative of the up-country, middle-class planter existence, and that the cotton planter class itself was representative of the region’s populace as a whole. A Midwestern critic labelled the film as accurate: the atmosphere was ‘faithful’ and ‘startlingly beautiful in pastoral scenes’. Remarkably, practically all described the production’s view as perfect as one was likely to achieve in its recreation of the plantation setting as a ‘graceful culture’. The myth was becoming harder to distinguish from the fact. As the film was overdone, so too was the acceptance of the ‘magnolia-scented days of the Old South’. To non-Southerners, the society was without doubt one of ‘wealth and distinction,’ with the attendant ‘hospitable manners, broad acres, beautiful women and chivalrous men and the faithful old mammies who served them’.[26]

Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., however, took umbrage at the ‘picture-postcard writing,’ and the ‘picture-postcard photography and, for that matter, [the] picture-postcard music’.[27] Yet, in an editorial for the Atlanta Constitution, Robert Quillen praised the tale in refraining from caricature. As a result, the production would be viewed ‘as the historic recording of its place and time’. The editor of the Atlanta Journal agreed completely. The film chronicled an age that ‘seems never to have died – or, rather, to have died and risen in new strength and beauty’. Thus, Gone With the Wind , as one reviewer phrased it, ‘should give the dream reality’.[28]


Re-released in 1954, 1961, 1967, 1989 and 1998, these re-premieres, restorations, and anniversary screenings are as much a part of the epic’s saga as Clark Gable’s caustic eight-word, relationship-terminating farewell. ‘Since its 1939 release,’ claimed a writer for the Los Angeles Times, ‘Gone With the Wind has risen more times than the South’.[29] The movie went on to break box-office records grossing $1 million in its first week and $14 million by the end of the year and, to date, approaches $120 million.[30] Innacuracies aside, the movie remains the peak example of collaborative artistic achievement for which Hollywood’s Golden Age is justly celebrated. To quote Olivia de Havilland, ‘Every time I see it, I find something fresh, some shade of meaning I hadn’t noticed before…How fortunate that so many gifted people found immortality in Gone With the Wind‘.[31]

The movie brought to a close Hollywood’s infatuation with the ante-bellum genre. However, it still managed to inspire and perpetuate a curious sentimentality for the ante-bellum past and way of life. A writer for the Memphis Flyer Review commented: ‘Though its popularity may have a lot to do with the way it eventually winnows its historical sweep down to the barest essentials of romance and melodrama, one can’t help but think that its persistent, mangled nostalgia for that thing called the ‘Old South’ may be part of the equation’.[32] The unprecedented scope of Selznick’s spectacle established the tradition of the Southern epic. It implied that this historic territory required a large canvas and a flamboyant style to cover its tumultuous events and the sweeping emotions of its characters, a tradition amply sustained by Raintree County (1957), the television mini-series, Roots(1977) and North and South (1985, 1986).

As film – and video – versions of Southern stereotypes are broadcast to new generations, nostalgic and sentimental Gone With the Wind memorabilia has spawned a boom industry. Ceramic figurines, rag dolls, christmas tree ornaments, candles, old-fashioned collectibles, postcards, framed stills, t-shirts and other modern artefacts are manufactured by the thousands and sold all over the country as well as the South.[33] These are not pieces of material culture preserved to remind us of the Southern past, but rather stylised portrayals of a misremembered past. Yet, despite our conjecture, the nature of these issues is never as simple as it seems. If we discard far-reaching regard for Selznick’s film, its characters, and its settings, and see the story and its impact as saccharine nostalgia, writes Catherine Clinton, we are relegating a complex formula of art, commerce, hype, nostalgia, myth, memory and history ‘to its lowest common denominator’.

Tara, continues Clinton, is not merely a setting for Gone With the Wind, ‘but maintains an ambiguous role somewhere between a character and a symbol… The text, the film, and the legends surrounding both beguile more than sixty years after their creation. Not in spite of, but because of Tara’s mythical quality, we are drawn into its enchantment. The legendary plantation Tara was not built of bricks and mortar. This mythic estate is a state of mind, a romanticised fixation of the American historical imagination’. ‘The mass cultural embrace of the symbol of Tara and the story it evokes has generated an unprecedented commercial success’. Indeed, like a persistent dream that returns vaguely during the daytime, the notion of an ancestral memory has a considerable sway on contemporary Southern cultural production.

The ‘real’ ante-bellum South may never emerge from the trappings of myth in the popular memory, ‘but by systematically exploring both our historical understanding will broaden, deepen, and eventually reshape our perceptions of the plantation era’. Yet, one suspects that for the mass public at least, the myths in their memories, so ‘persistently yoked’, will continue to shape their views of the Southern past, exerting great influence whether historians confront them or not. ‘After countless debates and exhaustive deconstructions, it is often hard to tell what we are left with’, writes Clinton. But certain images endure. Gone With the Wind imagery ‘remains contested yet transcendent – bewildering, unbending, and beguiling’. Its peculiar and ‘compelling image prods us to re-examine a fascinating crossroads of myth and memory, beckoning us to revisit, yet again, another day’. [34]

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[1] John Ford as quoted by Barry Norman, Talking Pictures (London, Hodder and Staughton, 1987), p. 264.’Print the legend’ was the philosophy of the much celebrated film director John Ford. He felt that if you have the choice between the truth and the legend, and the latter is more glorious, you should – ‘print the legend.’ In an interview with Peter Bogdanovich, Ford explained his theory like this: ‘We’ve had a lot of people who were supposed to be great heroes and you know damn well that they weren’t. But it’s good for the country to have heroes to look up to.’ Back

[2] Olivia de Havilland as quoted by Charles Truehart, ‘The Last Belle Of GWTW, Olivia de Havilland Fetes The Classic Film’s 60th Birthday,’ Washington Post, Tuesday, 28 December, 1999; Marshall Fine, Gannett News Service, 6 February, 1998. Articles are available on-line athttp://www.geocities.com/cactus_st/article/index1.html#GWTW Back

[3] See Herb Bridges, The Filming of Gone With the Wind (Macon, Georgia, Mercer University Press, 1984); Herb Bridges and T. C. Boodman, Gone With the Wind: The Definitive Illustrated History of the Book, the Movie, and the Legend (New York, Simon and Schuster, 1989); Edward D. C. Campbell, The Celluloid South – Hollywood and the Southern Myth (Knoxville, Tennessee, University of Tennessee Press, 1981); Roland Flamini, Scarlett, Rhett and a Cast of Thousands: The Filming of Gone With the Wind (New York, Macmillan, 1975); A. Harmetz, On the Road to Tara: The Making of Gone With the Wind (New York, H. N. Abrams, 1996); Richard B. Harwell (ed.), Gone With the Wind as Book and Film(Columbia, South Carolina, University of South Carolina Press, 1983); Richard B. Harwell, (ed.),Gone With the Wind: The Screenplay (New York, Macmillan, 1980); Richard B. Harwell and Susan Myrick (eds.), White Columns in Hollywood: Reports from the GWTW Sets (Macon, Georgia, Mercer University Press, 1982); Gavin Lambert, GWTW: The Making of Gone With the Wind(Boston, Massachusetts, Atlantic-Little, Brown, 1973); C. M. Molt, Gone With the Wind on Film: A Complete Reference (Jefferson, North Carolina, McFarland and Co., 1990); A. D. Vertrees, Selznick’s Vision: Gone With the Wind and Hollywood Filmmaking (Austin, Texas, University of Texas Press, 1997). Back

[4] Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War (New York, Pantheon, 1998), pp. 295-296. Back

[5] Pierre Nora, ‘Entre Mémoire et histoire,’ in Pierre Nora, (ed.), Les Lieux de mémoire (Paris, Gallimard, 1984), pp. xviii, xxx-xxxii, xli as quoted by Naomi Greene, ‘Empire as Myth and Memory,’ in Marcia Landy (ed.), The Historical Film – History and Memory in Media (New Brunswick, New Jersey, Rutgers University Press, 2000), pp. 246-248. Back

[6] Andrew Bergman, We’re in the Money: Depression America and Its Films (New York, New York University Press, 1971), p. xii. Back

[7] Thomas H. Pauly ‘Gone With the Wind and The Grapes of Wrath as Hollywood Histories of the Depression,’Journal of Popular Film, III (1974), pp. 202-218 in Richard B. Harwell (ed.), Gone With the Wind as Book and Film (Columbia, South Carolina, University of South Carolina Press, 1983), p. 220. See also David W. Blight,Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (Cambridge, Massachusetts, Belknap Press, 2001), p. 393. Back

[8] See Rollin G. Osterweis, The Myth of the Lost Cause, 1865-1900 (Hamden, Connecticut, Archon, 1973); Gaines M. Foster, Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the New South, 1865-1913 (New York, Oxford, 1987); Charles Reagan Wilson, Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920 (Athens, University of Georgia Press, 1980); David W. Blight,Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (Cambridge, Massachusetts, Belknap Press, 2001); Thomas L. Connelly, The Marble Man: Robert E. Lee and His Image in American Society(New York, Knopf, 1977), Alan T. Nolan, Lee Considered: General Robert E. Lee and Civil War History(Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1991); Richard D. Starnes, ‘Forever Faithful: The Southern Historical Society and Confederate Historical Memory,’ Southern Cultures, 2 (Winter, 1996), pp. 177-194; Mark E. Neely Jr., et al., The Confederate Image: Prints of the Lost Cause (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1987); Jim Cullen,The Civil War in Popular Culture: A Reusable Past (Washington, D. C., Smithsonian, 1995). Back

[9] Gaines M. Foster, Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the New South, 1865-1913 (New York, Oxford, 1987), pp. 4-5. Back

[10] The repercussions of this posture continue to the present day. See John M. Coski, ‘The Confederate Battle Flag in American History and Culture,’ Southern Cultures, 2 (Winter, 1996), pp. 205, 221; Kevin Thornton, ‘The Confederate Flag and the Meaning of Southern History,’ Southern Cultures , 2 (Winter, 1996), p. 239. Back

[11] Thomas Dixon, The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan (New York, Grosset and Dunlap, 1905), Introduction. Back

[12] See John Blassingame, The Slave Community – Plantation Life in the Ante-bellum South (New York, Oxford University Press, 1972); John B. Boles, The South Through Time – A History of an American Region Volume 1 (New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 1999); W. J. Cash, The Mind of the South (New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1941); Catharine Clinton, The Plantation Mistress: Woman’s World in the Old South (New York, Pantheon Books, 1982); Clement Eaton, A History of the Old South (London, Macmillan Press, 1966); Clement Eaton, The Growth of Southern Civilisation 1790-1860 (London, Hamish Hamilton, 1961); Francis Pendleton Gaines, The Southern Plantation: A Study in the Development and the Accuracy of a Tradition (New York, Columbia University Press, 1924); Eugene D. Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll – The World the Slaves Made (New York, Vintage Books, 1974); Sally G. McMillen, Southern Women: Black and White in the Old South (Arlington Heights, Illinois, Harlan Davidson Inc., 1992); Anne Firor Scott, The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, 1830- 1930(Chicago and London, University of Chicago Press, 1970); Kenneth M. Stampp, The Peculiar Institution – Slavery and the Ante-bellum South(New York, Vintage Books, 1956); Steven M. Stowe,Intimacy and Power in the Old South: Ritual in the Lives of Planters (Baltimore and London, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987); William R. Taylor, Cavalier and Yankee: The Old South in the National Character (New York, Anchor Books,1957); Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Southern Honour: Ethics and Behaviour in the Old South(Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1982). Back

[13] See Susan Mary Grant, North Over South: Northern Nationalism and American Identity in the Antebellum Era (Lawrence, Kansas, University Press of Kansas, 2000). Back

[14] Robert A. Rosenstone, Visions of the Past: The Challenge of Film to Our Idea of History(Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1995), p. 59. Back

[15] Gavin Lambert, GWTW: The Making of Gone With the Wind (Boston, Massachusetts, Atlantic-Little, Brown, 1973), p. 70. Back

[16] Wilfred Sheed, ‘Milking the Elk,’ New York Review of Books , 23 (April 15, 1976), p. 35, as quoted by Edward D. C. Campbell, Jr., The Celluloid South – Hollywood and the Southern Myth (Knoxville, Tennessee, University of Tennessee Press, 1981), p. 20.Back

[17] For example, those literally still fighting the Civil War, the re-enactors, described in Tony Horwitz’s Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War (New York, Pantheon, 1998), claim thay are after innocence, not blood. A woman cooking before the re-enactment of the Battle of the Wilderness laments, ‘We lost the art of conversation, of just being neighbours…You climb back in your car and head back home, and the twentieth century starts flooding in again. It’s depressing’. Another woman concurs: ‘It’s an era lost that we’re trying to capture. Men were men and women were women. It was less complicated’. ‘I think,’ a male re-enactor concludes, ‘there’s a lot of people like me who want to get back to a simpler time. Sandlot baseball, cowboys and Indians, the Civil War’. See, pp. 134, 139. Back

[18] Olivia de Havilland recalled Selznick’s decision to hold the premiere in Atlanta as being ‘clever’ but ‘risky’ but felt that Gone With the Wind had always belonged in and to Atlanta. Olivia de Havilland as quoted by Jill Vejnoska, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, June, 1998, article available on-line at: http://www.geocities.com/cactus_st/article/index1.html#GWTW Back

[19] Life Magazine 12th February 1939; ‘Gone With the Wind: After 3 Years of Hullabaloo, It Emerges a Great Picture,’ Newsweek, 12 February, 1939, pp. 26-29;’Gone with the Wind‘, Time Magazine 12th February, 1939; Jill Vejnoska, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, 6 February, 1998; articles available on-line at: http://www.geocities.com/cactus_st/article/index1.html#GWTW Back

[20] I. Brown, ‘Tough and Tender,’ The Illustrated London News, 27 April, 1940, p. 574, article available on-line at: http://www.geocities.com/cactus_st/article/index1.html#GWTW Back

[21] Frank S. Nugent, ‘Film Review –Gone With the Wind‘, New York Times, article available on-line at:http://www.geocities.com/cactus_st/article/index1.html#GWTW Back

[22] Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta, Georgia to Mr. Virginius Dabney, Richmond, Virginia, July 23, 1942, in Richard B. Harwell, (ed.), Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind Letters, 1936-1949 (New York, Macmillan, 1976), p. 359. See also, Anne Edwards,Road to Tara: The Life of Margaret Mitchell (New Haven, Connecticut, and New York, Ticknor and Fields, 1983); Finis Farr, Margaret Mitchell of Atlanta(New York, Avon Books, 1965). Back

[23] Margaret Mitchell, Gainseville, Georgia, to Mr. Stephen Vincent Benét, New York, July 9, 1936 in Harwell,(ed.), Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind Letters, p. 36; Edward D. C. Campbell, Jr., The Celluloid South – Hollywood and the Southern Myth (Knoxville, Tennessee, University of Tennessee Press, 1981), p. 126. Back

[24] Frank S. Nugent, ‘Film Review –Gone With the Wind‘, New York Times, article available on-line at:http://www.geocities.com/cactus_st/article/index1.html#GWTW Back

[25] Nashville Banner, 16 December, 1939, as quoted by Edward D. C. Campbell, Jr., ‘Gone With the Wind: Film as Myth and Message,’ in W. J. Fraser, Jr., and W. B. Moore, Jr., (eds.),From the Old South to the New – Essays on the Transitional South(Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood Press, 1981), p. 148. Back

[26] Cleveland Plain Dealer, 27 January, 1940; Portland (Maine) Press Herald, 9 February, 1940;Detroit Free Press, 24 January, 1940; Salt Lake Tribune , 29 January, 1940; Seattle Post-Intelligence, 26 January, 1940, as quoted by Campbell, Jr., ‘Gone With the Wind: Film as Myth and Message,’ in Fraser, Jr., and Moore, Jr., (eds.), From the Old South to the New, p. 148. Back

[27] Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.,’Time, Alas, Has Treated Gone With the Wind Cruelly,’ The Atlantic Monthly, March 1973, Vol., 231, No. 3, p. 64, article available on-line athttp://www.theatlantic.com/issues/73mar/schles.htm Back

[28] Atlanta Constitution, 13, 14, 15, 16, December, 1939; Atlanta Journal, December 14, 15, 1939, as quoted by Campbell, Jr., ‘Gone With the Wind: Film as Myth and Message,’ in Fraser, Jr., and Moore, Jr., (eds.), From the Old South to the New, p. 147. Back

[29] Bill Higgins, ‘Gone but Not Forgotten,’ Los Angeles Times, 26 June, 1998, p. 5. Article available on-line at: http://www.geocities.com/cactus_st/article/index1.html#GWTW Back

[30] Dolores Barclay, ‘Groucho as Rhett? And Other Facts,’ The Charlotte Observer, Friday, 21 April, 1989, article available on-line at http://www.geocities.com/cactus_st/article/index1.html#GWTW ; T. Bilbow and J. Gau, Lights Camera Action! (London, Little Brown Company, 1995), p. 13; R. Karney, (ed.), Chronicle of the Cinema – 100 Years of the Movies (London, Dorling Kindersley, 1995), pp. 282-284. Back

[31] Olivia de Havilland as quoted by J. Walker, (ed.), Film and Video Guide (London, Harper Collins Publishers, 1997), p. 253. Back

[32] Chris Herrington, ‘Memphis Flyer Review’, Memphis Flyer , article available on-line at:http://www.geocities.com/cactus_st/article/index1.html#GWTW Back

[33] Observations made by the author on a recent trip to Georgia. Back

[34] Catherine Clinton, Tara Revisited: Women, War, and the Plantation Legend, with a foreward by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., (New York, Abbeville, 1995), pp. 210, 211, 213. Back

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