2011–The 75th Anniversary of GWTW, the book, based in part on writings from the Mitchell family scrapbook, shown above.
My son Mike works for a catering company and he had a wedding to cater on Fourth of July. “Who gets married on Fourth of July?” he said, and I quickly answered: Margaret Mitchell and John Marsh.
Yes, in 1925 Gone With The Wind author Margaret Mitchell married her good friend John Marsh–who had actually been in the wedding party for her first marriage to Berrien “Red” Upshaw on July 4th. She had had enough “fireworks” in her first marriage and was ready to settle down to a calm life. Mitchell’s youth had been filled with the wild antics of being a “new woman” in the 1920’s. She loved living her life to the fullest in your younger days and part of that included riding and jumping horses.
She even included horseback riding accidents in Gone With The Wind with the deaths of Bonnie Blue Butler, played in the movie by Cammie King, and Gerald O’Hara, played by Thomas Mitchell.
A horseback riding accident was what landed her in bed and after bringing many books home from the library, John Marsh suggested she write her own. Over 70 years later the book-turned-movie is still popular. In my research for my book, The Making Of A Masterpiece, The True Story of Margaret Mitchell’s Classic Novel, Gone With The Wind I investigated the real Civil War stories in Mitchell’s family and found that some of the events in Gone With The Wind mirrored events in her own family’s life.
I also researched the Hollywood production of Gone With The Wind got to interview some of the actors from the movie, including Ann Rutherford who played Carreen O’Hara, one of Scarlett O’Hara’s sisters. She was a joy to meet and full of stories and memories from her days on the set at Selznick Studios. I also worked with Paul Rabwin, one of the sons of Marcella Rabwin who worked closely with GWTW Producer David O. Selznick as his executive assistant.
One person I found interesting that of course I did not get to interview because he has been gone a long time, was the aforementioned Thomas Mitchell who played Scarlett’s father, Gerald O’Hara. Actually the year he did Gone With The Wind, 1939, he was in five movies! My research had me comparing the character of Gerald O’Hara with Margaret Mitchell’s real-life great-grandfather, Philip Fitzgerald. To my knowledge Margaret Mitchell is no relation to Thomas Mitchell, but I was surprised to learn that Thomas Mitchell was the great-uncle of Ed Martin, a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in the Third District in Missouri.
I actually know Ed Martin personally as I enjoyed producing his radio show several years back. He is running against Congressman Russ Carnahan. Martin’s famous uncle is a very recognized actor in movies, and my favorite other movie— besides Gone With The Wind—that he starred in was It’s A Wonderful Life. He played Uncle Billy.
Thomas Mitchell was related to James P. Mitchell who served as President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Secretary of Labor from 1953-1961 so becoming a public servant was in Ed Martin’s blood.
As Martin hosts a “Town Hall” on Thursday July 8 from 5-7p.m. at the Two Hearts Banquet Center in St. Louis he puts his beliefs out there, just like his uncle’s character Gerald O’Hara did in the dining room of the Wilke’s Plantation.
While the women took their naps upstairs, O’Hara held court with the other men–including Ashley Wilkes, Charles Hamilton, and Rhett Butler– talking about their political beliefs. Margaret Mitchell’s great-grandfather Fitzgerald was very much a political force himself. It was said he walked up on a political candidate giving a speech and rode his horse up to the stage spewing out his political feelings.
Philip Fitzgerald did not care what others thought of him and was certainly a “character” as was Thomas Mitchell’s character Gerald O’Hara. Thomas Mitchell’s nephew also enjoys fighting for causes he believes and, evidenced in 2008, when he started the website SaveAB.com in an effort to stop the sale of Anheuser-Busch to a foreign corporation. He ended up getting 85,000 citizens to join his cause. Like Gerald O’Hara and Philip Fitzgerald, Ed Martin seems quite at home with causing a ruckus. Martin, who lives in St. Louis, MO is going after his incumbent opponent, whose late father was Governor of of the State of Missouri. His publicity material says he invited Carnahan, whom he has publicly criticized, to the Town Hall Meeting.
Martin’s uncle Thomas’ character Gerald O’Hara had one of the many famous quotes from the movie when he tried to persuade his daughter Scarlett to love Tara as much as he did: “Do you mean to tell me, Katie Scarlett O’Hara, that Tara, that land doesn’t mean anything to you? Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin’ for, worth fightin’ for, worth dyin’ for, because it’s the only thing that lasts.”
Ed Martin did now know Thomas Mitchell but his Dad did. I would love to ask him about his famous relative and see family pictures, but right now Ed Martin is a little busy.
I am looking forward to a fun week in Chicago for the publicity roll-out of my husband Rob Rains’ new book with Andy Van Slyke, The Curse: Cubs Win! Cubs Win!…Or Do They? If you live in Chicago, stop by Harry Caray’s Restaurant at 6:30 the night of the All-Star Game and say hello.
By Sally Tippett Rains, author of The Making Of A Masterpiece, The True Story of Margaret Mitchell’s Classic Novel, Gone With The Wind. July 6, 2010. Plan to attend the GWTW event being planned for St. Louis, MO in Nov. 5-7.