2011–The 75th Anniversary of GWTW, the book, based in part on writings from the Mitchell family scrapbook, shown above.
It’s that time of year—Mothers Day, Memorial Day, and Pulitzer Prize month. May is when the coveted writing, journalism, music, and drama awards are given out–although the winners were announced in April. Among the other awards being given out, the book Tinkers by Paul Harding (Bellevue Literary Press) won this year’s “Best Fiction.”
May 3, 2010 marks the 73rd Anniversary of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind winning the Pulitzer Prize in the same category. Mitchell’s book, published by Macmillan in 1936, topped the list of 1937 Pulitzer winners under the “Letters, Drama, and Music” category. It won “Best Novel” and You Can’t Take It With You by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman won for “Best Drama.” That same year, under the Journalism “Public Service” category the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Newspaper won for its exposure of wholesale fraudulent voter registration in St. Louis. It is fitting that the Post won, as the award is named for the original owner of the newspaper.
No one could have been more proud to have won the award than Margaret Mitchell as she had been a newspaper woman herself. Research Mitchell and you will see the word “diminutive” in a majority of the books and articles about her. The word was first used by author Finis Farr his 1965 book, Margaret Mitchell of Atlanta, the Author of Gone With The Wind (New York; William Morrow) and for some reason it is the word most used to describe her. She was short in stature, but definitely not “diminuitive” as a person. Mitchell was a giant in personality and writing ability. Her descriptions and storytelling captivated reading audiences, and it has been written that Gone With The Wind sold over 30 million books worldwide.
“She was just the dearest lady,” said Ann Rutherford, who played Carreen O’Hara (Scarlett O’Hara’s sister) and got to meet her during the Atlanta premiere of the movie. The movie was an instant success because the book had been such a best-seller. In only the first six months Gone With The Wind sold over a million copies. Imagine that: a million copies, with no large chain bookstores, no Amazon.com or other online book sources, and no Oprah or other television shows to promote it.
“ In 1936 at soda fountains all over the country you would see people with their books, Gone With The Wind propped up in front of them,” said Rutherford from her home in Los Angeles. “They were all reading it.”
Gone With The Wind was Mitchell’s first and only book published during her lifetime. She and her husband, John Marsh were ecstatic when the postman brought her the award. Mitchell was a lover of books; and a journalist, having worked at the Atlanta Journal Newspaper. Though the award was just 20 years old when she won it, it had already become very prestigious and she appreciated the significance of winning it.
The Pulitzer Prize was named for Hungarian immigrant Joseph Pulitzer, who after emigrating to the United States, made his way to St. Louis, Missouri. He worked odd jobs, and used to go to the Mercantile Library where he would look at the books to improve his English. One day he was watching two men play chess and he was so interested he began critiquing them. Turns out they were the owners of the Westliche Post, which was the German newspaper in St. Louis. They were so impressed with him, he soon began writing for the newspaper and eventually bought it. Pulitzer established a provision in his Will to start the award as a reason for writers to strive for excellence.The Novel category which Mitchell won, was re-named the Fiction category in 1947. She was in good company winning the award.
Some of those who have won the Novel or Fiction Pulitzer are: Elizabeth Strout for Olive Kitteridge (Random House, 2009); Toni Morrison for Beloved (Alfred A. Knopf, 1988); Larry McMurtry for Lonesome Dove (Simon & Schuster, 1986) Alice Walker for The Color Purple (Harcourt Brace, 1983); John Updike for Rabbit Is Rich (Knopf, 1982); Harper Lee for To Kill A Mockingbird (Lippincott, 1961); Ernest Hemingway for The Old Man and the Sea (Scribner, 1953); Herman Wouk for The Caine Mutiny (Doubleday, 1952); John Steinbeck for The Grapes of Wrath (Viking, 1940) Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings for The Yearling(Scribner, 1939); Pearl S. Buck for The Good Earth (John Day, 1932); Edith Wharton for The Age of Innocence (Appleton, 1921)
It is because of the impressive list of those who have won the award that it is so prestigious among journalists and other writers. Some may not realize that it is largely due to foresight of Joseph Pulitzer that college students can now major in Journalism. In 1892 he gave Columbia University the money to start the first ever “School of Journalism” but he had a reputation that was less than desirable to the president at the time, so he turned it down. After Pulitzer’s death, he left more money to the University and the Columbia School of Journalism was set up.
It was also at his urging that the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism was set up. These are both still recognized as very prestigious Journalism schools. Pulitzer eventually bought the (Westliche) Post and the St. Louis Dispatch combining them to make the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
According to the Pulitzer website, “James Wyman Barrett, the last city editor of The New York World, records in his biography Joseph Pulitzer and His World how Pulitzer, in taking hold of the Post-Dispatch, ‘worked at his desk from early morning until midnight or later, interesting himself in every detail of the paper.'”
This was the hey-day of the newspaper business. At the time, the Post-Dispatch (1878-current) was in competition with the St. Louis Globe-Democrat (1852-1986) and with the St. Louis Star Times (1885-1951.) As a side note, the Post-Dispatch has continued and is the major daily print newspaper in St. Louis. In 2009, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat emerged again as an online newspaper and it once again challenges the Post in everyday sports and news coverage. (www.Globe-Democrat.com)
After his days at the Post, he moved to New York City, New York and ran the New York World Newspaper. On October 29, 1911 Joseph Pulitzer died of heart disease aboard his yacht, the Liberty, in Charleston Harbor at 1:40 in the afternoon. Pulitzer had come to the United States with nothing, had struggled for work in his early days in St. Louis, but had emerged as a shining example of the “American Dream” by becoming a self-made man, so he had come full -circle with his death aboard a luxury yacht which he owned.
Pulitzer is remembered every May when the awards are handed out.The 2010 Pulitzer Prizes will be awarded at a luncheon at Columbia University on May 24, 2010. Scroll down for the 2010 list.
(By Sally Tippett Rains, author of The Making Of A Masterpiece, The True Story of Margaret Mitchell’s Classic Novel, Gone With The Wind(www.GWTWbook.com) If you like Gone With The Wind, follow us on Facebook: GWTWbook.com and Twitter: GWTWbook, May 3, 2010)
2010 Pulitzer Prize Winners (Courtesy Pulitzer.org)
Letters, Drama, and Music
Tinkers by Paul Harding (Bellevue Literary Press)
Next to Normal, music by Tom Kitt, book/ lyrics by Brian Yorkey
Lords of Finance, by Liaquat Ahamed (The Penguin Press)
The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T.J. Stiles (Alfred A. Knopf)
Versed by Rae Armantrout (Wesleyan University Press)
The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy by David E. Hoffman (Doubleday)
Violin Concerto by Jennifer Higdon (Lawdon Press)
Special Citation-Hank Williams
Bristol (VA) Herald Courier
Staff of The Seattle Times
Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman of Philadelphia Daily News
Sheri Fink of ProPublica, with The NY Times Magazine
Michael Moss and members of The New York Times Staff
Raquel Rutledge of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Matt Richtel and members of The New York Times Staff
Anthony Shadid of The Washington Post
Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post
Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post
Sarah Kaufman of The Washington Post
Tod Robberson, Colleen McCain Nelson and William McKenzie of The Dallas Morning News
Mark Fiore, self syndicated, appearing on SFGate.com
Mary Chind of The Des Moines Register
Craig F. Walker of The Denver Post