Fiddle Dee Dee: Try the new Margaret Mitchell GWTW Tour

Here's a chance to see Atlanta's "Gone With the Wind" sights with Margaret Mitchell herself.

 

  • Join in on an Atlanta Movie Tour as your guide explores Gone With the Wind.
    Join in on an Atlanta Movie Tour as your guide explores Gone With the Wind.
  • The Dump is the apartment in which Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone With the Wind.
    The Dump is the apartment in which Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone With the Wind.

Only an epic film such as “Gone With the Wind” could earn the spotlight of an Atlanta movie tour even though producers filmed the entire 1939 blockbuster on a Hollywood movie set more than 2,000 miles from Peachtree Street.

Nevertheless, Atlanta Movie Tours makes its newest movie tour work, leading visitors through the footnotes laid down by Margaret Mitchell in her famous and still-popular novel.
 

Atlanta Movie Tours – known for excursions to Atlanta’s growing number of production locations, including the Big Zombie Tours – features Margaret Mitchell herself to guide the three-hour excursion around the creation of her 1,048-page novel that weaves the journey of a Georgia family through the Civil War and Reconstruction.

True, this famous author is gone, but her spirit continues with a believable storyteller, Sally Smith, dressed as Mitchell, accenting her outfit with pearls and a red hat. Serving as the leading lady, Smith conducts the tour every Saturday afternoon starting at 2 p.m. promptly at the Atlanta Movie Tours headquarters in the downtown neighborhood of Castleberry Hill.

As most Southerners know, the novel tracks the life of a wealthy Irish plantation owner’s spoiled daughter, Scarlett O’Hara, who is deeply in love with her cousin’s husband, Ashley Wilkes, yet marries Rhett Butler. Scarlett uses multiple cunning tricks to pull her family out of poverty after General William Sherman’s March to the Sea, which includes the burning of Atlanta. The book sold more than 30 million copies and earned Mitchell a 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

“Peggy,” as our tour guide tells us Margaret Mitchell preferred to be called, takes visitors to some of her old haunts: such as the midtown apartment she shared with third husband, John Marsh; the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library, central branch, where her typewriter and Pulitzer Prize are on display; the site of the movie’s Atlanta premiere; and Historic Oakland Cemetery where she is buried.

Peppering in anecdotes not always found in textbooks, Peggy is adamant that her novel does not resemble anything of her own life, yet she admits some folks believe Rhett Butler, the scheming blockade runner is similar to her second husband, Red, who sold illegal spirits during Prohibition. Peggy tells us she met Red in a speakeasy and that she was wearing a flapper dress at the time.

She also admits the untimely death of her young mother when she was away at college is similar to Scarlett’s loss of her mother. Neither Peggy nor Scarlett made it home in time to say good-bye to their mothers.

Peggy boasts that she danced a tango at her debutant ball instead of the expected waltz, which led the Junior League of Atlanta to blackball her. This could be reminiscent of Scarlett dancing with Rhett when she was in mourning for her first husband. Finally, our tour guide points out that her first husband died in the Great War and Scarlett’s first husband died in the Civil War.

These are the kind of tidbits that keep the tour fast-paced and delicious with historical detail as it moves through the streets of Atlanta in an air-conditioned luxury tour bus. There is walking involved at the tour stops so wear comfortable shoes.

The tour’s first stop is the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum, which includes the restored rooms where most of "Gone With the Wind" was written.

Peggy explains that she wrote the last chapter of “Gone With the Wind” first, then wrote the other chapters’ randomly in no specific order and filed each section in a manila envelope. “Mama said I needed a weapon and writing was my weapon,” she says.

Currently, the house features the exhibit, “Stars Fall on Atlanta; The Premiere of Gone with the Wind.”  The original door from Tara, the plantation of the O’Hara family in the movie, is included in the exhibit, along with a mesmerizing original portrait of Scarlett from the movie.

The next stop is the Atlanta Central Library located at One Margaret Mitchell Square. The library is home to the Margaret Mitchell Exhibit on the 5th Floor. Here is the actual typewriter that Mitchell used to write the book and her Pulitzer Prize. .

“In the mid-1920s an ankle injury confined me to our home. John brought me books from the library daily until I had read virtually everything of interest to me,” Peggy tells our touring group.” The next day he brought home a second-hand typewriter and a stack of copy paper.”

While writing “Gone With the Wind,” Margaret Mitchell went almost daily to the library to check historical facts related to the book.

After the library, the tour arrives at the original spot of the movie premiere, the former site of Loew's Grand Theatre, 133 Peachtree St. N.E., near intersection of Peachtree and Forsyth streets. Initially, the theater could not be demolished because of its landmark status but it burned down in 1978, clearing the way for Georgia-Pacific to build in Atlanta.
 

Peggy recalls that spotlights swept the sky with huge beacons of light above Peachtree at Pryor Street the night of premiere. In addition, Peggy points out that Scarlett, in the novel, is not pretty, but notes that Hollywood had a different idea. She says producers interviewed 1,400 actresses for the part of Scarlett.

The premiere of “Gone With the Wind” did not take place at the Fox Theatre as many fans believe, but the stars did stay at the Georgian Terrace Hotel directly across the street from the Fox. 
 

The final stop on the tour is Historic Oakland Cemetery where Mitchell was interred after being struck at age 49 by an off-duty taxi driver as she crossed the street.

The Margaret Mitchell tour costs $65 per person. You'll be offered bottled water and enjoy a trivia contest with prizes and receive a complimentary digital copy of a group photo with Peggy. Paid participants receive admission for the nine days following the tour to go back into the Margaret Mitchell House, to visit the Gone With the Wind Museum located one block from Marietta Square in the Old Thomas Warehouse building and to go to The Road to Tara Museum in Jonesboro.

Don’t forget your camera, and, as Peggy warns, “Be careful crossing the street.”
 

Guest blogger Patti Murray Solomon is a native of Pittsburgh, yet lived with her husband, Mike, and three daughters in Ohio, New Jersey, North Carolina and London, England, before coming to Atlanta in 1998. She is a professional writer and group facilitator with experience in journalism, public relations and education communication.

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