During my visit to Turner Studios in December, I was also lucky enough to travel to Marietta, Georgia, and visit with Connie Sutherland, the Director of the Gone With the Wind Museum, known as “Scarlett on the Square,” because of the museum’s location on the historic old town square. Sutherland gave Alexa Foreman, Senior Researcher at TCM, and me a personal tour of all the exhibits in the museum.
I didn’t say much, however, as I was fascinated by the meeting of two such knowledgeable historians as Foreman and Sutherland. Both of these ladies started discussing all the history of the area and the film responsible for the museum’s popularity, the actors and actresses, the directors, and various other aspects of Margaret Mitchell’s life and work, and much more. All I could do was listen.
Foreman’s grandmother was childhood friends with Margaret Mitchell and Sutherland was fascinated by some of the details shared by Foreman concerning their connections, including the fact that Foreman’s grandmother and her grandmother’s family lived right behind Mitchell’s family during their formative years.
As we toured all the exhibits, including multiple first editions of Gone With The Wind from Russia, France, and many other countries, Foreman and Sutherland discussed how Ann Rutherford was a serious patron of the museum and a close friend of one of the original museum directors. (Ann Rutherford attended the 2011 Turner Classic Film Festival in 2011 with good friend Ann Jeffreys, and was also a devoted friend to TCM.)
Two of the greatest film historians I’ve ever known, Connie Sutherland, Director of the Gone With the Wind Museum, and Alexa Foreman, Senior Researcher at TCM, grace the display of one of the original costumes from Gone With The Wind at the museum in Marietta, Georgia. (The silk Bengaline honeymoon gown, designed by award-winning costumer Walter Plunkett and worn by Vivien Leigh as Scarlett while she chooses family gifts in New Orleans was “purposefully hued an ecru shade so that the dress would appear white on the Technicolor film reels.”)
Mitchell also gifted all the major players of the 1939 film with a set of china depicting historic scenes from Atlanta’s past, and the complete set in the museum display was donated to the museum by Ann Rutherford.
Benevolent Gone With The Wind actress Ann Rutherford also donated her gold and diamond locket worn in several films, including Gone With The Wind, to the museum…
Foreman and Sutherland were discussing the details of the set, and Sutherland revealed that the china set Mitchell gifted Vivien Leigh was not like the rose/bone-colored pattern of Rutherford’s set of donated china in the display, but was specially ordered in green/bone-colored tones by Mitchell for Leigh’s gift, possibly highlighting the green-and-white of Leigh’s iconic gown as Scarlett eats barbecue at the Wilkes’.
The pattern of Scarlett’s dress might have been the inspiration for the china set sent to Leigh from Margaret Mitchell..
Other fabulous displays in the museum also include a tribute to the revered Hattie McDaniel, a scale model replica of Tara, several reproductions and original costumes from the film, and a well-stocked gift shop with books, memorabilia, and iconic reproductions of photos and items from the film as well as historical tomes about the area.
Alicia Rhett and Leslie Howard on the set of Gone With The Wind…
But one of the little known facts about the one of the film’s most visible characters, is that Alicia Rhett, who has just passed away in Charleston, South Carolina, is that she was an accomplished artist, in addition to playing one of Scarlett’s nemeses, India Wilkes. Rhett is said to have sketched many of the principal actors while working on the 1939 film, and also completed a reproduction of Joseph Manigault that can be seen at the Manigault House Museum in Charleston. Follow the link to see it on the Charleston Museum Website: http://www.charlestonmuseum.org/N5Content/pdf/houses/jmh%20tourbook%20web%202011.pdf
An Alicia Rhett portrait of Rhett’s mother…
Rhett had resided at the Bishop Gadsden Retirement Community in Charleston since the early 2000s, and would still sketch and continue to draw and off and on until she could no longer hold a pencil.
Alicia Rhett and Howard Hickman as John Wilkes and his daughter India in Gone With The Wind…
Discovered by MGM’s Kay Brown, Rhett had been performing at the Dock Street Theatre in Charleston, the first theater constructed in America “exclusively” for the purpose of theatrical performances…
Sutherland was able to visit Alicia Rhett several years ago, and remembered her as a quiet, but sociable woman who obviously had fond memories of her days in Hollywood. Rhett would not speak specifically about her experiences on the set of Gone With The Wind, but she did have a twinkle in her eyes every time Sutherland mentioned how people still asked about the film and Rhett’s whereabouts and circumstances. “She was just very coy and cute about it all, and seemed a little shy,” but Rhett enjoyed discussing the film, according to Sutherland. (It has always been rumored that Rhett had a very serious romance with an actor during her time in Hollywood, which might explain the fact that she never appeared in another film, but Rhett never publicly revealed any information about her suspected amour.)
According to Sutherland, Rhett never married, but was still very well taken care of at the Bishop Gadsden Retirement Community in Charleston during her later years, and often continued to field questions from the curious who might find out that the quiet but ladylike resident was actually India Wilkes. Most “Windies”, as Gone With The Wind fanatics are called, shouldn’t miss a visit to the Gone With The Wind Museum in Marietta, and a special celebration is planned for the 75th anniversary in June.
CNN article about the passing of Miss Alicia Rhett: http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/03/showbiz/alicia-rhett-dies/
Gone With The Wind Museum in Marietta: http://www.gwtwmarietta.com/default.aspx
View the PBS Documentary “American Rebel “about Margaret Mitchell, her accomplishments, her philanthropy, and how she risked her life to help educate African-Americans: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/margaret-mitchell-american-rebel/watch-the-full-documentary/2047/
The Dock Street Theatre: http://www.charlestonstage.com/dock-street-theatre.html
What George Cukor had to say about Alicia Rhett as Melanie: http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/web/gwtw/scarlett/arhett.html
To find more links concerning other Gone With The Wind, follow this link: http://www.gwtwmarietta.com/links.aspx
Photos of the Gone With The Wind Museum represent only a small portion of the exhibits.