The Road to Tara: The Legacy of Gone with the Wind in Atlanta

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Tara, home to the character of Scarlett O’Hara, is one of the greatest and grandest movie homes in cinema history. The focal point of the 1939 classic, Gone with the Wind, Tara is the only constant in Scarlett’s life. While the South as Scarlett knows it crumbles into oblivion around her home, Tara stays standing, bruised but strong, and all the while reflecting Scarlett’s own ability to withstand her own challenging and tumultuous moments.

While the film is set in Georgia, with specific references to Atlanta, it is important to note that Gone with the Wind was first a 1936 novel. The story was conceived in Atlanta by author Margaret Mitchell and set in both Clayton County, Georgia–specifically Jonesboro–and Atlanta.

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The film would later premiere on December 15th, 1939, at the Loew’s Grand Theatre in–you guessed it–Atlanta.

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Although the Loew’s Grand is long gone, the legacy of this classic American novel that took Hollywood by storm lives on in Atlanta.

I recently visited Atlanta when I was invited to tour TCM’s studios. It was a whirlwind trip, but I wanted to make a point of it to visit as many Gone with the Wind-related stops as possible while not at TCM. After researching the area and planning my stops, I can safely say that I was not disappointed by what Atlanta and its nearby towns had to offer regarding this phenomenal film.

Shortly after disembarking the plane and checking in to the Midtown Hilton, I visited the Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum, located at 18 Whitlock Ave NW, Marietta.

The Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum is a small venue that is jam-packed with a wide range of items that relate to the Gone with the Wind. If you are in search of a high-quality Gone with the Wind costume, this is the place to visit! But if traveling to Atlanta is not in the cards for you anytime soon, no problem. They have an online presence which includes a gift shop on their page.

There are so many great items here, but the top highlight of their collection is Scarlett’s honeymoon dress, as worn by Vivien Leigh in the film. They also have Olivia de Havilland’s mourning bonnet, Vivien Leigh’s brief case for scripts, Ona Munson’s accessories for the character of Belle Watling, as well as various items from the collection of Ann Rutherford.

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Ona Munson’s accessories used in her portrayal of Belle Watling.

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One of the many GWTW costumes you can purchase!

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Vivien Leigh’s brief case.

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Clark Gable’s cufflinks.

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Another costume available for purchase!

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Another Scarlett costume available for purchase.

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These are seats from the Loew’s Grand Theatre, where GWTW premiered. The theatre has been razed, but some of its seats are on display at various tourist attractions and museums in the Atlanta area.

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A painting inspired by the portrait of Rhett and Scarlett that hung over the Loew’s Grand Theatre marquee during the premiere.

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Lana Turner’s copy of GWTW. She was one of many actresses vying for the part of Scarlett.

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Here’s a shot of me with Scarlett’s bengaline honeymoon gown! This is the only one of Scarlett’s dresses that is on permanent display.

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Faux Selznick Studio Sign for the 1980 biopic, The Scarlett O’Hara War.

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A replica of Bonnie Blue’s riding outfit.

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I thought these promotional portraits were interesting. The ones on the left are from the time when the film was released, while the ones on the right are from the re-release decades later. The early ones are more modest, while the later ones have more daring cuts in the actresses’ necklines.

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The Bengaline Gown in all of its glory! The hat is a replica.

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Olivia de Havilland’s mourning bonnet.

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An armchair from the set.

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From here on out, all the costumes at the Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum are replicas. Here’s a replica of the infamous red dress. I did my best to replicate Vivien’s sassy eyebrow raise.

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Ann’s beloved locket. Learn more about it in the next photo!

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I love this story!

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Romeo and Juliet program, signed Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. They were husband and wife.

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A costume sketch for Vivien Leigh in later years.

After visiting the Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum, I headed back to Atlanta to visit the place where it all began–the Margaret Mitchell House. It is located at 979 Crescent Ave NE, Atlanta.

Margaret Mitchell always had a knack for writing and wrote several creative pieces at an early age. She worked for the Atlanta Journal and later maintained a society column for Sunday Magazine. Additionally, she was a voracious reader, so when she was at home recovering from an ankle injury, her husband would frequently tote books to her at her request. A bit flustered with her insatiable need for more books, he asked, “For God’s sake, Peggy, can’t you write a book instead of reading thousands of them?” As a result, Margaret began working on her most famous work yet–Gone with the Wind. 

The text was written in the Atlanta apartment she shared with her husband. They affectionately referred to it as “the dump.” Nonetheless, “the dump” still exists today and is in excellent condition, with her writing nook being a key attraction. The typewriter and desk are situated in the corner of the room, next to a large window. One almost expects Margaret to enter at any given moment.

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Me again!

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Upon entering the home, visitors pass through a museum area comprised of various photos and editions of Gone with the Wind. This museum area eventually leads to the apartment where Mitchell lived.

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Margaret’s writing nook.

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It is worth mentioning that the typewriter is a replica. The real one is at Atlanta’s Central Library, located at One Margaret Mitchell Square NW, Atlanta. In addition to possessing her typewriter, they also have roughly 1500 other artifacts relating to her life and career.

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For the record, Margaret Mitchell is buried at Oakland Cemetery at 248 Oakland Ave SE, Atlanta. She was struck by a vehicle at age 48 when crossing Peachtree Street, on her way to the movies with her husband. Oakland does occasional cemetery tours in which actors take on the personas of the cemetery’s notable residents.

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Upstairs, I found an exhibit called “Stars Fell on Atlanta: The Premiere of Gone with the Wind.” This exhibit is on display through 2016, featuring photos, artifacts, and footage relating to Gone with the Wind’s historic premiere in Atlanta.

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Round Two of Loew’s Grand Theatre seats!

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How cool is this? A seating chart from the premiere, isolating where the lead actors sat.

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Upon exiting the Margaret Mitchell house, I walked across the courtyard to another terrific exhibit called, “The Making of a Film Legend.” This exhibit features storyboards as well as life-sized reproductions of Walter Plunkett costume designs. This exhibit also houses two breathtaking artifacts from the film–the original Scarlett portrait, as well as the original doors to Tara from the movie set.

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Selfie mode reverses the portrait, but I couldn’t resist.

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The Scarlett portrait. It is HUGE!

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Standing next to this hallowed doorway. Thanks to the Margaret Mitchell House staff for snapping this photo of me, since I was flying solo on my trip.

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I was excited. Can you tell?

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The last stop on my Gone with the Wind pilgrimage was the Road to Tara Museum, located at 104 N Main St, Jonesboro. This is a large museum that holds exhibits on Georgia’s history, in addition to a massive Gone with the Wind collection, thanks to an avid collector. While the museum houses many reproductions of costumes from the film, it has its fair share of legitimate artifacts surrounding the film’s history. The Road to Tara Museum houses one of four 200-pound brass marquees that bedecked the Loew’s Grand Theatre, complete with an authentic poster ad for the film, massive portraits of the lead actors that once hung in the Loew’s Grand Theatre lobby during the premiere, as well as Scarlett’s real pantalettes from the film’s iconic corset scene.

I do also want to mention that this museum had such a terrific atmosphere. The staff were so friendly and were genuinely interested in each of their visitors. I’m from Chicago and one of the staff members was also originally from my town. Small world! Additionally, I visited roughly a week-and-a-half shy of Olivia de Havilland’s centennial, so I was invited to sign a fun birthday card they planned on sending out to her. Finally, as far as souvenir shopping goes for Gone with the Wind, I though that this museum had the best gift shop. They had lots of unique and affordable items, as well as some great Gone with the Wind –themed creations by local artists, plus a great little clearance section.

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The star portraits that hung in the Loew’s Grand Theatre lobby.

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I had to get a shot with our centennial star!

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Herb Bridges is the avid collector who is responsible for much of the memorabilia in this museum. This is only a portion of his collection.

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The woman in the cardboard cut-out has made a career out of being a Vivien lookalike.

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Scarlett’s pantalettes!

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Couldn’t resist.

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Margaret Mitchell’s china.

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“I just saw it hanging in the window…”

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The Carreen dress replica is surrounded by items from Ann Rutherford’s personal collection.

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We’d say something great about this moment, but we just don’t give a damn.

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Your last round of Loew’s Grand Theatre seats.

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The brass marquee, encasing an original 1939 premiere poster.

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If you plan on visiting Atlanta and are interested in Gone with the Wind, you’ll be in good company. Atlanta and its surrounding area are treasure troves full of history about this beloved American film. Happy travels!

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