Few novels paint Civil War history as brilliantly, and almost none have captured the essence of the South following Sherman’s March to the Sea as perfectly as Gone with the Wind. The struggles of Scarlett O’Hara after being left destitute following the war spoke of perseverance and hope to the depression era audience like no other book and movie. It has inspired sequels and prequels and has been cited as a key influence by some of America’s greatest authors. But, if it had not been for an ankle injury that wouldn’t heal, the book may never have gotten off the ground.
In the mid-1930s, Margaret Mitchell was injured in a car accident. While nursing her broken ankle, she was actively encouraged by her husband to finally write a novel. That novel – Gone with the Wind – completed in 1937, would go on to win her a Pulitzer Prize and the film version would capture a record ten Academy Awards. Not bad for the only novel she would ever publish in her lifetime.
The book and movie made her a significant global celebrity, but from that moment until her untimely death in 1949 she and her husband lived in the same unpretentious manner that she did when the influential book was hatched. The home where it was written, now a museum, was first on our list to see on our trip to Atlanta.
Today, this three-story home houses the offices of the Atlanta History Center, a Gone with the Wind Movie Exhibit and an exhibition showcasing the life and times of Mitchell herself, but when Margaret lived here it was separated into ten separate apartments. The Mitchells lived on the ground floor in a one-bedroom apartment with four rooms – living, bed and bath room with a tiny kitchen – that Margaret affectionately referred to as “the dump.”
Despite all of her fame, and the enormous success of the book and movie, she maintained a simple routine and her husband even kept his editing job. Though she became quite a passionate philanthropist, she personally responded to every fan letter she received offering intimate insight into her life as she corresponded.
Our tour guide, a red head in the mold of Scarlett O’Hara, was well-versed and, for $15 each provided a guided showcase of Mitchell’s life and a short walk through her modestly furnished apartment. A little expensive, but very informative, the tour could only have been made better had our guide a thick southern accent.
Next door, The Making of a Film Legend: Gone With the Wind exhibition details the transformation of Gone With the Wind from a best-selling novel to a film classic. There’s some cool memorabilia including the original entryway of the house from the film as well as movie posters and more.
Kimmer and I have both seen Gone with the Wind, but it has been a few years. We hope to watch it again soon and re-read the book since we know so much more about the woman behind the story. For more information – visit here.