But, as a student of the film and a fan of the premiere, I could not pass up this exhibit that was on display, "The Stars Fall on Atlanta: The World Premiere of Gone With the Wind." This exhibit features many unique photos, artifacts, and films that belong to the Atlanta History Center which document the Atlanta premiere and the great celebration that surrounded the occasion.
This blog will feature a lot of photos of the exhibit. I hope you enjoy it! I encourage you to not use this blog as a replacement for a visit to Margaret Mitchell House, but instead inspiration for you to visit there, yourself, and view this wonderful exhibit first-hand.
The Four Leading Actors
As the night of the premiere drew near, Vivien Leigh confessed, "I'm waiting for Friday night with the nervousness of the stage actress awaiting opening night. I'm scared to death, and I do hope Atlanta will like me." She need not have worried. The city turned out in droves to welcome their Scarlett home. After meeting her, Mayor B. Hartsfield remarked, "She's just exactly what I thought Scarlett should be."
Clark Gable as Rhett Butler
To the delight of Gone With the Wind readers, Clark Gable was cast as Rhett Butler, a role that left him acknowledged as the "King of Hollywood." Of the Atlanta premiere festivities, Gable remarked to a journalist: "It wasn't like anything I ever experienced in my life. It was almost too big for me to take. For the first time I realized I wasn't actually Clark Gable to Atlanta, but Rhett Butler. And I hope to heaven when I leave here tomorrow night - after everybody has seen the picture - that I leave as Rhett Butler and not Clark Gable."
Olivia de Havilland as Melanie Hamilton
Olivia de Havilland considered Gone With the Wind, "by far the greatest picture that ever came out of Hollywood," and declared her role as Melanie Hamilton in the motion picture, "unquestionably...the most important thing that has ever happened to me." Though denied an academy award for her sensitive portrayal of Melanie, she later received two best actress awards during her career.
Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes
Leslie was not fond of the costumes he wore in the film. He remarked: "I look like that sissy doorman at the Beverly Wilshire - fine thing at my age." He did not attend the Atlanta premiere, having returned to his native England at the outbreak of World War II. After a European lecture tour in 1943, a German fighter aircraft shot down the commercial airliner on which he was a passenger on the Bay of Biscay. There were no survivors.
Margaret Mitchell -
Author of Gone With the Wind
This picture was a great emotional experience to me. I know I'm not the only person that's got a dripping wet handkerchief.
~ Margaret Mitchell, December 15, 1939
Understandably nervous about how her "poor Scarlett" would fare on the motion picture screen, Margaret Mitchell's reaction to the movie mirrored that of the rest of the audience at Loew's Grand Theatre on December 15, 1939.
The white velvet evening coat she wore that evening is preserved in the Atlanta History Center Collection.
Hattie McDaniel's Letter to Mrs. Wilbur Kurtz
New York, Atlanta, or Los Angeles: Where will GWTW premiere?
(Does this sound familiar for the 75th?)
The Women's Press Club Reception
Millions cheer Clark Gable in Atlanta!
Friday Morning, December 15, 1939
The caption under the photo in the paper reads:
"More people cheer Gable than fought in the Battle of Atlanta"
Police Officers Unable to control thousands 20 Deep on City Streets
by Herman Hancock
December 15, 1939
Three hundred thousand persons on the streets saw Clark Gable in Atlanta yesterday. They had only a fleeting glance but they were happy. For more than two hours they completely paralyzed downtown traffic. From Forsyth and Brotherton streets to the Georgian Terrace hotel, the crowds lined the way - 10, 15, and often 20 feet deep. Whitehall and Peachtree streets from 3 o'clock until after the parade passed at 5 o'clock were completely closed to all traffic. Traffic at Five Points, the heart of downtown Atlanta, was at a complete standstill from 3 o'clock on. The gigantic crowds began forming at noon and surged out into the streets to make the famed corner absolutely impassable.
Along the parade route, policemen stationed at every intersection found themselves helpless in controlling the crowds, who pushed from the sidewalks into the streets and closed every intersection to all vehicular traffic.
Some intersections were closed as early as 2 o'clock as the traffic officers realized the impossibility of controlling the crowds. Others were kept open until as late as 3:30 o'clock in scattered blocks but at that hour the entire line of march was blocked off to all traffic.
As early as 2 o'clock downtown sidewalks were almost impassable. By 3:30 o'clock, nearly an hour and a half before the parade reached the downtown Peachtree sector, all streetcar and bus traffic was at a virtual standstill. Buses and autos were parked by their operators.
(Continued in page 29, column 7) -
I don't have the rest of the story. But, I hope you enjoyed reading what I documented from the exhibit!
Scarlett O'Hara Arrives in Atlanta
Aunt Pittypat finally arrives in Atlanta!
Ona Munson Arrives at the Premiere
The Junior League Ball
Constructing the Loew's Grand Facade
Loew's Grand Theater - The Premiere of GWTW
The Legacy of the Atlanta Premiere
For those who have followed events this year regarding the film license and the very limited screenings (and for a short while exclusive screening in Los Angeles for the TCM Film Festival), this 75th year could not be a better example for Atlanta to make its claim to Gone With the Wind. As Margaret Mitchell said before the premiere, "Mr. Selznick will put on the show, of course, but the premiere will be Atlanta's night, not Selznick's." She was right, then, and she is right now. The tradition of the premiere will continue this year when the GWTW fans gather again in Atlanta, Georgia on July 27 at the Fox Theater on Peachtree Street in commemoration and celebration of 75th anniversary of Gone With the Wind.
Other blogs focusing on Atlanta during the 75th anniversary:
Celebrating GWTW in Georgia: Fayetteville, GA