by Tony Dayoub
Yesterday, a beautifully crisp fall day here in Atlanta, I was invited to attend the kickoff for Marietta's weekend celebration of Gone With the Wind (1939). The event—organized by Chris Sutherland's Gone With the Wind museum, Scarlett on the Square—heralds the upcoming 70th anniversary of the film's original release, and 175th anniversary of the quaint suburban hamlet of Marietta. It also precedes this Tuesday's rerelease of the Civil War-era melodrama on DVD—and for the first time ever, Blu-ray—remastered from the original Technicolor film elements.
First on the agenda was the strangest flash mob one could ever imagine: 70 couples in period costume performing what was being touted as the "World's Largest Virginia Reel." For about an hour, I felt as if I were in some odd antebellum alternate universe. But as a former attendee of Star Trek conventions, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that just as that show has their "Trekkies" this landmark film has its "Windies."
The event brought out some notable guests, including Turner Classic Movies emcee Robert Osborne. He introduced the venerated Ann Rutherford (the Andy Hardy movies), who played Scarlett O'Hara's sister Carreen in the film. At 89, Rutherford still has a biting sense of humor, as demonstrated by her quick-witted response to Mayor Bill Dunaway's award of a key to the city, "What does it open?" Other guests included the remaining child actors who participated in the film: Mickey Cuhn, Patrick Curtis, and Greg Geise. The actors then took to the stage as the couples finished their folk dance to unveil a glorious cake, a delicious dessert custom made by Baker's Man Inc. and modelled after Tara, the movie's fictional plantation.
The word plantation, of course, evokes some of the mixed feelings some have about Gone With the Wind's problematic blind-eye toward racial strife in the Civil War-era South. But any concerns with a celebration devoted to a notorious film like this one quickly subsided under the inclusive atmosphere of the celebration. Here in Atlanta, this film is truly loved by all. Fans from as far as Poland travelled to attend the weekend event. Whatever one's personal feelings, there is no doubt that this film is not just an epic paean to the old South, but an enduring representative of the Hollywood blockbuster.
Today's events include a red carpet screening of the film at Marietta's movie house the Strand, autograph signings, and a vintage car parade. Atlanta residents interested in weekend events can log on to www.mariettaga.gov/gwtw/repremiere_itinerary.aspx for more information.