Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Classic Movie Tourist: The Margaret Mitchell House

The Atlanta area includes several places where devotees can get their Gone with the Wind fix: the Road to Tara Museum is in Jonesboro, and Marietta is home to the Gone with the Wind Museum. In the heart of the city, however, you'll find the Margaret Mitchell House, where the author lived for a number of years and where she wrote much of the novel after an auto accident left her housebound. The restored house is part of the Atlanta History Center, and for $13 ($10 for seniors and students), visitors can enjoy a guided tour of the apartment where Mitchell lived as well as several exhibits about her life, the novel, and the blockbuster film that premiered in Atlanta in 1939.

For most people, the book and the movie are inextricably entwined. It's fair to say that more people have seen the 1939 picture than have actually read Mitchell's lengthy saga. When Scarlett O'Hara appears in the cultural consciousness, she is inevitably played by Vivien Leigh, and Clark Gable fully occupies the role of the roguish Rhett Butler. The other major actors in the film have also become part of the GWTW legacy, including Olivia de Havilland, Hattie McDaniel, Leslie Howard, and even Butterfly McQueen. The exhibits at the Margaret Mitchell House reflect this aspect of the story's history; many of the displays focus on the film adaptation, which makes the museum a great destination for fans of the stars involved.

"The Making of a Film Legend" section features video about the picture's production history and a large portrait of Scarlett O'Hara that was seen in the movie. Another highlight of the exhibit is the actual door to Tara used in the film; visitors can stand in front of it and imagine themselves waving from the plantation mansion's steps. In the "Stars Fall on Atlanta" exhibit, there are photographs and keepsakes from the movie premiere, which Atlanta society turned into a huge series of parties with celebrity guests.

Of course, classic movie fans will want to browse the gift shop, where GWTW items of all sorts can be found. The shop also offers prints of production stills and promo photos depicting Gable and Leigh as well as posters for the film release. Hattie McDaniel magnets, Tara Christmas ornaments, and books about a variety of GWTW related subjects are also available. I was pleased to find Kendra Bean's new book, Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait, prominently displayed on the front table.

If you're headed to Atlanta any time in the near future, the Margaret Mitchell House is definitely worth a visit. It's located at 979 Crescent Avenue NE in Atlanta, not far from many of the city's other major tourist attractions. The museum is open 10 AM to 5:30 PM Monday through Saturday and noon to 5:30 PM on Sunday. House tours are included in admission and are offered regularly throughout the day.