CIVIL WAR OP-ED: When ‘Gone with the Wind’ Premiered in Atlanta

By Calvin E. Johnson Jr.
CIVIL WAR OP-ED: When ‘Gone with the Wind’ Premiered in Atlanta
Hello America!

The 1930s was an exciting time when everyone loved Super Star-Shirley Temple, Baseball Home Run Legend-Babe Ruth, Aviator Pioneer-Amelia Earhart and “Gone with the Wind” Author- Margaret Mitchell.

The Great Depression was ending but Europe would enter World War II. The United States was only two years away from entering the war but the Christmas Season of 1939 was a jubilant time for America, especially in the Southland, when….

The movie “Gone with the Wind” premiered in Atlanta, Georgia, just 74 years after the War Between the States had ended and December 15, 2011, marks the 72nd Anniversary of that wonderful-classic movie that opens with:

“There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South. Here in this pretty world, Gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and Slave. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a Civilization gone with the wind.”

Atlanta native Margaret Mitchell saw her book “Gone with the Wind” published in 1936 and then as a Super-Technicolor movie in 1939 that would help boost tourism throughout Old Dixie land.

Gone with the Wind won 8 Oscars for 1939, including Best Picture, and;

Hattie McDaniel, the first Black American to win an Academy Award, expressed her heart-felt pride with tears of joy, when she was presented the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her unforgettable role as “Mammy.”

Victor Fleming won the 1939 Academy Award for the movies Best Director and even though Max Steiner did not receive an award for his excellent music score, the “Gone with the Wind” theme song has become the most recognizable and played tune in the world.

Vivien Leigh, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a leading role, humbly and eloquently, summed here appreciation by thanking Producer David O. Selznick.

And, who can ever forget Olivia De Havilland as the pure-sweet Melanie Hamilton, Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes and Clark Gable as Rhett Butler.

Friday, December 15, 1939, was an icy-cold day in Atlanta, Georgia but folks warmed to the great excitement surrounding the premiere of “Gone with the Wind” A Selznick International Pictures “Technicolor” Production of the Metro Goldwyn Mayer Release of Margaret Mitchell’s novel about the Old South at the Loews Grand Theater.

Do you remember Thomas Mitchell who played (Gerald O’Hara) telling daughter Scarlett:

“Do you mean to tell me, Katie Scarlett O’Hara, that Tara, that land doesn’t mean anything to you? Why, land is the only thing in the world worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for, because it’s the only thing that lasts.”

And, there was not a dry eye in the movie theater when Bonnie Blue Butler, the daughter of Rhett and Scarlett, was killed in a pony accident.

Anne Rutherford, who played Scarlett’s sister Careen, took time to visit the Old Confederate Veterans at the soldier’s home on Confederate Ave. and the stars toured the famous “Cyclorama” at Grant Park.

The festivities surrounding the premiere of “Gone with the Wind” included a parade down Peachtree St, with over there-hundred thousand folks cheering the playing of Dixie, waving Confederate flags and shouting Rebel Yells.

It was a grand day to witness the lighting of the “Eternal Flame of the Confederacy,” an 1855 gas light that survived Gen. Sherman’s 1864 Siege during the Battle of Atlanta. This lamp remained for many years on the northeast corner of Whitehall and Alabama Streets. Mrs. Thomas J. Ripley, President of the Atlanta Chapter No. 18 United Daughters of the Confederacy, re-lit the great light with Mr. T. Guy Woolford, Commandant of the Old Guard, by her side.

The Time Magazine wrote:

“The film has almost everything the book has in the way of spectacle, drama, practically endless story and the means to make them bigger and better. The burning of Atlanta, the great ‘boom’ shots of the Confederate wounded lying in the streets and the hospital after the Battle of Atlanta are spectacle enough for any picture, and unequaled.”

You can read the entire article at:,9171,952044,00.html#ixzz0XFQVmsTD    Johnson is a speaker, writer, author of book ‘When America Stood for God, Family and Country’ to be republished, a resident of Kennesaw, Georgia “Home of the Civil War Locomotive The General” and member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.