"Gone With the Wind" still runs in independent and historical theaters throughout the country. Calling for the film to be "put in a museum" is calling for the banning of those theaters from showing the film and it is calling for the end of people peacefully gathering to watch the film. It's relegating everyone to watching copies of the film they currently own in the privacy and secrecy of their own home, as long as their DVDs, players, and the technology of the current releases holds out. It's cinema's version of "Don't ask, Don't tell." Once those DVDs or the players break and the technology advances, it means the end of the public's viewing of "Gone With the Wind," even in the privacy (and secrecy) of one's own home. It's the slow bleeding and death of the classic film that is still the number 1 grossing film of all time. The slow removal and purposeful financial bleeding of any work art, but especially one as popular and financially successful as this one, is a ban.
"Gone With the Wind" means many things to many people in the United States and all around the world. One only needs to look at the recent and wildly popular "Gone With the Wind" stage production in Seoul, South Korea to see its popularity is shared globally. In 2013, the British flocked to theaters to see "Gone With the Wind" in a huge national re-release event that coincided with the 100th birthday of Vivien Leigh. The re-release was so popular that the number of theaters participating was expanded and the run was extended to over 4 months. In a rare 2014 screening event in Ireland, "Gone With the Wind" was shown to audiences in its entirety, after being censored and cut in 13 places by the censorship board upon its original release. North Koreans have even found a connection to "Gone With the Wind" as recently as 2012 and in 2015 "Gone With the Wind" was a selection for the Shanghai film festival.
People who gather to watch Gone With the Wind or feel connected to its story come to it from many diverse points of view. The personal connections people around the world feel with this story are as varied as the characters in the story and fans of the story. Putting it in a museum, meaning limiting its distribution, to contextualize it to the comfort of people like Lou Lumenick is not appropriate nor acceptable.
From my point of view, with the limited US theatrical re-release in 2014 of just 2 screenings during 1 Wednesday and 1 Sunday, TCM moving its broadcasts of "Gone With the Wind" to a 10pm Eastern start time, mostly on weeknights, and "Gone With the Wind" being de-emphasized and relegated to a Sunday mid-afternoon time slot for the 2014 TCM Film Festival, "Gone With the Wind" is already being dragged down the path of "being put in a museum." I will agree with the NY Post writer on one point; in the last two years, the Academy Awards have wiped "Gone With the Wind" off the stage and out of the theater. Prior to the 2014 awards, "Gone With the Wind" was regularly acknowledged during the ceremony, whether in playing a few bars of Max Steiner's score, including it during the cinema history montage, or having Olivia de Havilland walk on stage to Tara's Theme and a standing ovation in commemoration of the Academy's own anniversary. But during the last two years, the years of the film's 75th anniversary of production in 2014 and the 75th anniversary of its awards in 2015, "Gone With the Wind" has been taken off the Academy stage, wiped off Oscar marketing, pushed out of the theater, and erased from public view during the Oscar ceremony. Even in 2015, the Academy took the approach of commemorating Hattie McDaniel on the 75th anniversary of winning her best supporting actress Oscar, but doing so not during the ceremony for the public, but after the publicly televised ceremony during the Governor's ball. I can't help but point out the irony in all of the current outrage by many people regarding her seating location inside the whites only Ambassador Hotel during the 1940 awards, while the current Academy took the more cowardice position in 2015 of honoring her in a private, closed door, back room, off-screen, post Oscar ball that most of the public doesn't know exists and most of the attendees could care less about who's honored because they're either elated at reaching their own pinnacle of professional achievement or depressed for having just lost the coveted Oscar! So, yes, we should take note from the Academy's own actions of what taking something out of distribution and consigning it to a museum looks like.
Since reading the NY Post article earlier this week, one question has repeated itself in my mind; in a world of "putting 'Gone With the Wind' in a museum," which museum would get to be the contextual describer of "Gone With the Wind?" In the greater Atlanta area alone there are 2 Gone With the Wind Museums, an exhibit dedicated to Margaret Mitchell at the Atlanta Public Library, the Margaret Mitchell House, and the saving Tara project. That does not include other locales such as Oakland Cemetery, the Georgian Terrace hotel, the Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House, the Atlanta History Center, the Margaret Mitchell Library at the Fayetteville Historical Society, Stately Oaks, and Mary Mac’s Tea Room, that all claim direct or indirect connections to the story, the author, or the premiere of the film. All of those locations have their own stories and unique connections to "Gone With the Wind." A wildly popular exhibit, “the Making of Gone With the Wind”, developed from the David O. Selznick archive in the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin finished a 6-month run in January 2015. Four years prior to the opening of the exhibit, the public donated thousands of dollars for the professional conservation of original Gone With the Wind costumes. The Smithsonian houses the Carol Burnett costume and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is currently displaying the barbecue dress. These are just the venues or “museums” that come to my mind when I think of putting "'Gone With the Wind' in a museum.” Perhaps Mr. Lumenick feels Atlanta, Georgia, or any location in the South is incapable of putting "Gone With the Wind" into a context for which he is comfortable and he wishes it to have a single 8 ½ x 11 white piece of paper with black writing stating the title of the film and a listing of its Academy Awards hanging in the Academy Museum. Or, perhaps, he really wishes for nothing of "Gone With the Wind" to exist at all. This is just another example of the problem of "putting 'Gone With the Wind' in a museum."
Later this summer, I will be gathering with some family and friends at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis, Tennessee to see "Gone With the Wind" in celebration of the 75th anniversary of its 1940 public release. It will be extra special for me since Warner Brothers pulled the license for almost all independent screenings last year, preventing theaters such as the Orpheum from showing the film, and creating exactly the situation Lou Lumenick opined for in his column. Twenty six years ago, at the age of 10, and on the 50th anniversary of Gone With the Wind, I was at that same theater to see my favorite film on the big screen for the first time. It was a special moment for me that I shared with my mother and it inspired my love of and passion for seeing not just Gone With the Wind but all classic films in historical theaters. I can't wait to sit in the Orpheum Theater in Memphis, Tennessee 26 years later with my mother, my friends, my family, and up to 2000 other people and once again experience Gone With the Wind.