Gone With The Wind Book

2011–The 75th Anniversary of GWTW, the book, based in part on writings from the Mitchell family scrapbook, shown above.

Dancing With The Stars, and Dancing With The Angels–Hollywood Then and Now…Tribute To A Child Star

The Dancing With The Stars season 11 cast has been announced:  Michael Bolton,  Margaret Cho,  Rick Fox, Jennifer Grey, David Hasselhoff, Florence Henderson, Kyle Massey, Brandy Norwood, Audrina Partridge, Mike Sorrentino,  Kurt Warner, and Bristol Palin. Once they were announced the gossip websites and entertainment shows went wild:  What is Bristol Palin doing on Dancing With The Stars? Headline News Network’s Showbiz Tonight even did a poll about who is more of a fame-seeker Bristol Palin or her baby’s father Levi Johnston, who has also been signed to a reality show.

No one is mentioning that Jennifer Grey shot to fame for her dancing in the still popular movie Dirty Dancing, so how is that fair that she is competing with Margaret Cho, a comedian; or that Florence Henderson has danced on Broadway and the only dancing Kurt Warner has done is to get out of the way of massive defensive linemen trying to knock the football out of his hands.  They are just concentrating their attention on Bristol, who at this time in her life, as a young mother, may not be  getting the best advice from those around her.

The gossip shows make it look as if Bristol applied for the job, when in reality the show came to her.  This was evidenced when they published the list of those who turned the show down.  Hollywood comes to a young unwed mother who is feeling bad about herself and offers her the glitz and glamour of being on Dancing With The Stars. Would most people  turn it down?

Setting  politics aside, let’s examine Bristol’s  situation. Her mother was the Governor of Alaska, when at the last minute—in  hopes of attracting those who might vote for Hillary Clinton—Presidential candidate John McCain asked her mother to come on board as vice-presidential candidate. There was really had no time to think about it, and it seemed like quite an honor to be asked.  Within hours, Bristol Palin and her family were outfitted and whisked away to be paraded in front of the live television audience as the “perfect family” when in reality they were a “normal family” and soon it was revealed she was to have a child out-of-wedlock.

If these two kids, Bristol and her boyfriend  Levi had been left alone, they might have had a chance at a life of happiness raising their child together, but having been thrown into an unlikely spotlight it made it all that more difficult.  Her mother seemingly had no presidential aspirations before, but once she got a taste of the spotlight she found she liked it. She found there were people out there who wanted to hear what she had to say.  Soon all heck broke loose and Levi was on television with Kathy Griffin saying she was dating him. It was completely crazy.

Lost in all of this was a little girl who had gotten pregnant, had a child to raise, and was suddenly being left to fend for herself—mother is off doing television interviews, boyfriend is soaking up the sunshine of the Hollywood limelight.  Yes, it’s more interesting to report that Bristol is “fame seeking” and that she is an extension of her mother, but any of us who have teenagers and young adult children know they are not completely ready to make major life changing decisions at that stage.

Now that she has signed up for the show, no matter what a bad idea it was—and let’s hope she brings a nanny with her so she will have her child near—it should be a lot of fun to watch.  Has she taken dance lessons in the past? If so, she should have the stamina to beat out a 67-year-old, unless that 67-year-old is Michael Bolton. Bolton, who has been belting out love songs for years, keeps himself in shape by exercise and playing sports. His band  has the “Bolton’s Bombers” a softball team that plays for charity, and anyone who has seen him in concert knows he is still in shape. This writer is a huge Michael Bolton fan, has met him and talked to him, and will be rooting for him, but a small part will be rooting for Bristol– to just get through it one way or another.  It would be good for her child if she could have a calm life at this point, but that seems impossible.  She is known for one thing: being the daughter of her mother, and all that has gone along with it. Hopefully, after all this hoopla settles down she will be able to find her own place in the world and forge her way as herself

.

There is a person who is on the mind of this writer as she was known for one thing and one thing only, but though she also had an ambitious mother, she was able to carve out a niche in her life and provide so much joy to others. The woman  is Cammie King, who played “Bonnie Blue Butler” the daughter of Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind. There are no comparisons with Governor’s daughter and the lovely Cammie King, only that both wound up in Hollywood.

Sadly, Cammie passed away this week but her memory will live on in the minds of Gone With The Wind fans as the cute little Bonnie who stole our hearts, and then rode her pony to a terrible death in the movie. Those who knew her in real-life were stunned to hear of her death because she was a woman who was so full of life, always smiling, and joking—just a wonderful lady.

Cammie King Conlon was born Eleanore Cammack King in 1934, named after her mother who was a career woman, during a time  Her parents divorced when she was a child, but during the Gone With The Wind filming they worked together.

Cammie went with her dad for her horseback riding lessons, and then her mother took her to the studio. “Mother would curl my hair,” she said. “They didn’t want  the Shirley Temple curls, they just wanted softer curls. We would be at the studio and she curled it using her spit. My dad used to say, ‘As long as Eleanore’s spit holds out Cammie will have curls!’”

Seventy years later when she remembered those days she still felt a little disappointed she had not been used in more riding scenes, as she had learned to ride bareback and side-saddle.

Little Cammie playing opposite the King of Hollywood was quite the topic of conversation among  Eleanore’s friends. “They used to ask me what it was like to kiss Clark Gable, and I would say ‘his mustache scratched!’”

Of course she did not get the grasp of who she was kissing in those scenes until about 20 years later when she was a “young married.” One day she was watching the movie for the first time in a while and saw the Clark Gable that the other women had seen and recalled thinking “to have been held and  kissed by Clark Gable at age four was a cruel trick.”

She played the voice of young Faline the deer  in the 1942 Disney classic, Bambi. Bambi had met Faline in the Meadow, with Cammie voicing her at that stage and then another actress, Ann Gillis taking over as Faline became an adult. To talk to Cammie, she never even mentioned the Bambi appearance even though it, like Gone With The Wind has continued to endure over the years, even winning an all-time animation award from the American Film Institute in 2008.  She had that modest personality that endeared her to her fans.

“It wasn’t ME they were coming to see, it was Gone With The Wind, It was the whole package.”

It was you Cammie.

Recently Cammie  finished writing a book she titled Bonnie Blue Butler: A Gone With The Wind Memoir.  She was writing it at the same time this author was writing a book and she sought advice and suggestions. Writing ran in her family as her mother wrote two books and had syndicated columns.

Perhaps Cammie’s  grace and poise came from her mother, who started a “charm school” in their home and wrote a glamour column for the newspaper.  She could not help but see the ladies coming and going and learning about poise and what to do and what not to so. Or perhaps in recent years, after a few realizations she grew to love herself for all she had accomplished.

The story of how she got the part of Bonnie Blue Butler had always been told to her that her “beautiful” sister Diane was the one who auditioned and got the part but by the time they got around to filming, Diane had grown and they could not use her, so since Cammie was there they used her.  In her book she tells of feeling like an “also ran” for much of her life. But later in life she was going through some things and discovered the timing was off for that story and that her mother did indeed submit pictures of Cammie and she rightfully got the part.

Shortly after she played Bonne, she had a small appearance in a Blondie movie but besides the voiceover in Bambi she did not stay in acting. Her parents split up and for a while it was just Cammie, Diane, and Eleanore, with Eleanore always busy with her career.

Her mother eventually married Herbert Kalmus who was largely responsible for Technicolor, and  soon their lives were filled with trips to Europe and throwing dinner parties for famous people. Cammie remembered Diane being in love with her boyfriend and leaving her to fend for herself. She had nothing but good things to say for Kalmus who must have dressed a bit stuffy as she called him a “professor” but to his face she called him Pops and he filled a very important void in her life.

Living in the shadow of an alcoholic father, a mother driven to find the starlight for herself, and the conflicting feelings felt when her sister was diagnosed with a bone disease and had to undergo surgeries, Cammie said she always felt like a gangly tall kid who stuck out, and didn’t fit in.  Indeed that was never the way she was looked upon by others. She went on to achieve many successes, but her great joys were her children , grandchildren, and the chance to meet people and talk about Gone With The Wind.

She loved to quote Ann Rutherford and say,  ‘Ann says that Gone With The Wind has made our Golden Years, Platinum” and she felt that too.  Dressed in bright red or another festive color Cammie lightened up the room when she walked in.  She always had a smile on her face and made everyone who met her feel like they were her friend.

So while Hollywood moves on and people are Dancing With The Stars, your memory stays in our hearts. You helped keep Gone With The Wind alive for over 70 years after it premiered and your memory will endure keeping you forever young as you always were, and  helping us feel young as we remember the first time we watched the movie.  Rhett Butler called you his “best girl” and you were that.  As little Bonnie you were afraid of the dark. Now you are with the Hollywood legends, but also with the regular people, with whom you felt most comfortable.  You were a star who burned brightly in your life, and now as we look to the heavens and see the real stars, we know you are safe, and you are dancing with the angels.

——————

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)

Come to St. Louis in November for Gateway To The Wind. Check out the “Events” page here for more information.

Please tell your friends who are Cubs Fans about my husband’s new book. The Curse: Cubs Win! Cubs Win!…Or Do They? For more information go to the Facebook page: Cubs Win, Cubs Win…Or Do They?

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This entry was posted on September 2, 2010 by in Bonnie Blue Butler, Cammie King, Uncategorized.

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