Friday, July 5, 2013

Gone With the Wind Trail: Marietta GWTW Museum

The capstone of my Gone With the Wind Trail writings is one I've very excited to bring you. I have the great honor and pleasure of interviewing Connie Sutherland, Director of the Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum: Scarlett on the Square, who also has been a personal friend of some of the cast of the movie. 
Connie Sutherland, Director Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum
Connie Sutherland

By time I left the Museum, I felt like we'd become fast friends...she's just that kind of person.

I'd visited the Museum in 2011—what a great find! Over the last couple of years, in following the blog's analytics, that post has been read more people than any of the other more than 570 posts! 

That's what made me want to write about the Gone With the Wind Trail and I wanted to include an interview. And did I get lucky! 

Connie was wonderful...we talked for an hour and she gave me more material than I can possibly use—so you may see some of that another time. And  it was great to learn so much about the Museum. 

Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum
Gone With the Wind
What's your favorite scene/line from Gone With the Wind?

My favorite scene in the film is when Ashley has been wounded during the raid on Shanty Town and Rhett has taken the men to Belle Watling's place as a temporary refuge. He apologizes to Melanie for not having thought of a "more dignified alibi." Her response to him is amazing. As she's tending Ashley, she stands up and turns to Rhett with the most genuine look of gratitude in her eyes and says: "This isn’t the first time you've come between me and disaster, Cap’n Butler. Tisn’t likely I'd question any device of yours." I think it's the most beautifully written line in the film and it speaks volumes about both characters.  

Bengaline Honeymoon Dress, Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum
Bengaline Honeymoon Dress
Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum
What’s the most unique/rare artifact in the Museum? What’s your favorite artifact? 

My favorite artifact in the Museum is the photograph of Clark Gable in his twenties. The complete metamorphosis into Rhett Butler had not taken place and it isn't his best photograph where handsome is concerned. But, the history of the photo is wonderful because Gable signed it and gave it to his father. The sentiment says, "Six foot one inch, a copy of the original” and it’s signed “Clark." What a treasured piece of Gable's personal history and how lucky we are to have it on display. I would regard the Bengaline Honeymoon Gown as the rarest and most important item in the collection. There are so few remaining costumes in existence from Gone With the Wind and even fewer on display in the world. To have one in such good condition that was worn by the number one character is quite a coup. I’m so happy we can share it with fans of Gone With the Wind and of history in general.

[Editor's Note: The Bengaline Honeymoon Gown is the only Gone With the Wind dress on permanent display in the United States...a rare and wonderful opportunity for Museum visitors.]

Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum
Gone With the Wind Museum
What’s your favorite aspect of being the leader of such an important and greatly loved Museum?  

Well, it isn't working on the budget every year, so can we rule that out. LOL. Seriously, it once again ties back to those who visit the museum on a daily basis and who attend our special events.  During events the work is very hard. There is a great deal of planning and expense involved not to mention the time element. I work so many hours leading up to the actual event date and by that time I always think I'm too tired to enjoy it. But, as the fans and special guests (authors and cast members) arrive, my sense of purpose is clearly defined. There is no greater joy than that which you provide to others. It might sound like a cliché, but it’s true. Even the day-to-day visitor who is overheard reading a chat box out loud to the person with them shows the excitement the museum provides. How can that not give me pleasure as well?  

Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum
If we knew Scarlett 40 years after the book, what kind of woman do you think she would have become? 

Scarlett in her sixties or seventies would still be Scarlett; just older. She would be more seasoned in her thought processes I think, but not in her actions. And, I would not want to imagine her any other way. It was her grit and drive that defined who she was. Why would we want that to change? And, Rhett?  Rhett would likely remain much the same also.  He would be more inclined to learn from his mistakes than Scarlett would, but the charisma and stubbornness would still be a part of him.  

Gone With the Wind Museum
What celebrity today do you think could portray the Scarlett we know and love?  

If you asked this question of a thousand people who love Gone With the Wind, you would probably get the same answer from all of them. Vivien Leigh is the one and only Scarlett.  Always was, always will be.

[Editor's Note: I have to agree with Connie on this one...the more I've learned about the book, movie, and actors, and especially after watching some of the screen tests, there was no other person who was as perfect as Vivien to portray Scarlett.]

Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum
Gone With the Wind Museum
Is Gone With the Wind’s legacy (book, movie, Margaret Mitchell) intact for the next 100, 500, 1,000 years?

That question is one that can't be answered by you or me because we won’t be around then. I can only answer that Gone With the Wind (book and movie) has survived more than 75 years already. As proof, you’re interviewing the director of a Gone With the Wind museum that has just celebrated its 10 year anniversary. Gone With the Wind has a life all its own. There is no logical answer as to why its popularity continues to thrive, other than that of Margaret Mitchell herself. She was once asked whether her book was a love story or a Civil War novel. She answered that it was both, but to her it was a story of survival. She said it was about those who had gumption enough to pull themselves up by their bootstraps in the face of adversity. We know that survival is universal because we've all been there in one regard or another. We relate to the underlying message of Gone With the Wind. It makes us believe we can get through anything. So, I guess from that perspective, it could be intact for as long as that message is needed.

Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum
The Museum recently celebrated its 10 year anniversary. Where do you see the Museum in the next five years? 

The Museum is an example of the Field of Dreams determination…if you build it, they will come. Every day I meet people who visit the museum from other cities, states and countries. So many times they've told me they came to Marietta just to see the museum or they've waited a year or two years to make the trip. You can't imagine the excitement in their eyes as they pay for their tickets and start their tours. There are those who would laugh at my words, but there is something magical about their affection for Gone With the Wind. Their anticipation is remarkable as they enter and they leave (gift bag in hand) with a look of contentment and release having spent an hour or so inside the heart of their favorite book and movie. I would like to see the Museum continue to open its doors to these lovers of history by sharing Chris Sullivan’s one-of-a-kind artifacts with them. 

Ten more years?  I would like for the museum to one day be the focal point of a larger Hollywood experience to include film festivals and other famous movie collectibles. Marietta has become such a popular location for filming movies that It would be a win-win situation for all involved.

Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum
Gone With the Wind Museum
If you had unlimited funds and resources to build the ultimate Gone With the Wind Museum, what would that look like, inside and out?

Museum, what would that look like, inside and out? Keeping the last answer in mind of my "growth" wish, the facade would look like Tara--complete with columns. The interior would be state-of-the-art with phone app guided tours and other technology that would be user-friendly and offer the visitor a trip back in time. The collection would be divided into separate rooms (i.e., the Margaret Mitchell Library, the David O. Selznick Film Studio, etc.).  And, there would be a media room that would show the making of Gone With the Wind and other documentaries about Mitchell and the film. I would include an interactive area whereby visitors could act out scenes from the film or have a photograph taken in front of a green screen that placed them in a scene with Rhett or Scarlett. A souvenir such as this would keep the memories of their visit alive forever. We would also have a larger facility for Gone With the Wind weddings and receptions.  We do rent our current facility for dinners and receptions but we aren't able to accommodate the wedding itself. That would be a dream for us due to the number of requests we receive for wedding ceremonies. Romance doesn't get any better than Gone With the Wind.

Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum
Gone With the Wind Museum
How much of the Museum’s collection is on exhibit? How may fans contribute memorabilia to the Museum?

The majority of the museum's artifacts on display are from the collection of Chris Sullivan. Chris is a retired doctor who lives in Ohio and who began collecting Gone With the Wind memorabilia after seeing the movie when he was a teenager. There are a handful of items on display that were donated by fans or individuals whose parents or grandparents had passed away and left a collection. We must always obtain permission from Chris when accepting a donation unless it is something we have permission from the donor to sell in the gift shop. One example is a reproduction of the burgundy dress that Scarlett wore to Ashley’s birthday. A gentleman from Hixson, Tennessee (Mike Goodson) took a tour of the Museum when he was in town a couple of years ago. Mike and his wife Sarah are costumers and the dress was made from the exact specifications that were used by Hollywood Icon and Gone With the Wind designer Walter Plunkett. The dress is beautiful and Chris felt as I did that it would be a wonderful addition to the already extensive collection. A lot of fans have items such as collector plates and figurines that they want to donate to us. We can accept these items to resell in the museum gift shop, but we just don’t have the space to display them. In fact, we have a few plates and dolls on display, but not many. The revenue from gift shop sales for these type items helps the Museum and gives the donor a tax deduction as well as the knowledge that their loved one's items went to someone else who loves Gone With the Wind.

A great big wanderlust ATLANTA "Thank you" to Connie and her helpful staff...I'm very much looking forward to my next visit! 

I've had so much fun working on this Gone With the Wind Trail series...I hope you enjoy visiting each of the places. So, this week I covered the five main Gone With the Wind Trail destinations. There are other recommendations and I'll be covering some of them in the not too distant future, so keep your eyes peeled!

Now, head over to the wanderlust ATLANTA Facebook Page for more photos.

Thank you for reading. Please enjoy the other installments in my Gone With the Wind Trail series (July 1-5, 2013)…


Terry said...

Melanie has several of the classiest lines ever in movies.

Travis S. Taylor said...

Totally agree, Terry...she was quite the classy woman (character). Re-watched the film before starting this series, had been a few years. Such a great film--even today!