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.

Letters Show “Gone With The Wind’s” Margaret Mitchell Was Pen Pals With Hattie McDaniel

C.B. Hackworth, who was the co-writer and director of Andrew Young’s new documentary “Change In The Wind” got a chance to tell about the research involved in the project through an article in the December 2010 issue of Atlanta Magazine. For years “Gone With The Wind” has been criticized by some because of the portrayal of slaves. Hattie McDaniel who played Mammy was even criticized for accepting the role. She rose above the criticism saying she would rather make money playing a maid than actually being one.

When I wrote my book “The Making Of A Masterpiece, The True Story of Margaret Mitchell’s Classic Novel, Gone With The Wind” I was cognizant of the black race’s feelings and discussed my book with various black friends. One friend told me not to write it because he will not let his children watch it, and another told me it was her favorite movie. At a recent ball put on in St. Louis commemorating “Gone With The Wind’s” 70th Anniversary of the St. Louis premiere one of the most beautiful ball gowns was worn by a black woman who 70 years later can look at the book and movie and picture herself as one who could have attended the balls.

But at the time Mitchell was writing her book, she was a Southern woman writing with a Southern perspective. I mentioned this in my book and even included a chapter called  “Mammy And Prissy” to include what I had learned in my research about the great lengths that David Selznick and his staff including executive assistant Marcella Rabwin went to in regards to the black roles.

It was said that Selznick, being Jewish wanted to do justice to the black characters and actors, and announced he would hire a black consultant. He changed his mind, thinking the Atlanta consultants (Susan Myrick and Wilbur Kurtz) would be able to do the job and he got criticism for that.

I spoke to Hattie McDaniel biographer Carlton Jackson, author of “Hattie: The Life of Hattie McDaniel” said he said: “When the movie came out there were some difficulties. The black press generally scorned it for being too friendly to the mindset of Reconstruction America.”

After reading “Gone With The Wind”, McDaniel was very enthusiastic about playing Mammy. Selznick enlisted the help of Walter White with his production.

“Walter White was the Jessie Jackson of the day,” Marcella Rabwin had said. Her comments were on an audio tape kept by her sons and given to me to use in my book.  “There were about seven of his men, and they started telling me how terrible this was and how Mr. Selznick has to cut this… then I asked Mr. White, do you agree? You’ve read the book and you’ve talked to me on the phone, do you agree with all of this?  And he said to me, ‘No this is history’.  And there was no more discussion about changing anything because we had the blessing of Walter White.”

It’s so exciting to know there is still more we can learn about Margaret Mitchell and “Gone With The Wind.” My book contains never-before-seen information from a Mitchell family scrapbook and some new letters, but this new documentary expands on this with newly discovered letters which show that Margaret Mitchell struck up a friendship through letter-writing with McDaniel who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Mammy, the favorite slave of the O’Hara family.

Though Mitchell’s ancestors the Fitzgeralds owned slaves, and even Mitchell herself employed blacks to cook, clean and do her laundry, there was a genuine love of their employees by her family.  Margaret Mitchell is known for having taken care of several of her employees when they were ill. A visit to the Fayette Cemetery shows that in the same area as he

Mitchell was criticized, one reason being  the “loving” relationship she gave the slaves to the O’Haras. Years later it is interesting to see a letter which was printed in the Atlanta Magazine and also used in Andrew Young’s documentary that was from Hattie McDaniel to Margaret Mitchell. In part McDaniel says,  “My grandmother had told me many incidents that paralleled some of your descriptions of the South and although your story is fiction, I could feel the authenticity throughout the story.”

Since none of us were here during the Civil War and none of us were with Margaret Mitchell as she wrote her book, we accept it as she presented it, but it is interesting to read the letters between Mitchell and McDaniel and also those written to and from Benjamin Mays the president of Morehouse College at the time. According to the Atlanta Magazine, the documentary will air on Georgia PBS  Dec. 29th  and then be available to the general public  through “andrew-young.tv” in early 2011 . I can’t wait to see it, just as I can’t wait to read John Wiley’s upcoming book “Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood.”

In doing my book I reached out to authors of previous books and really enjoyed interviewing them and getting their perspectives. One however, said to me. “why are you writing a book about Margaret Mitchell and “Gone With The Wind”? I already wrote it and there’s no more to be said.”  I would never say that about my book…there is always more to be learned and that’s what is so intriguing about “Gone With The Wind”, and why it so fun to read all of the books out there.

If you are interested in “Gone With The Wind”,  please subscribe to this blog and “like” my Facebook Page, GWTWbook.com. I write occasional stories about “Gone With The Wind”, mixing pop culture with history.

ALSO, during the Christmas holiday season this year I am doing a Christmas Blog. You might enjoy looking at that every day also:

http://SallysChristmasBlog.wordpress.com.

————–

By Sally Tippett Rains, Author of “The Making of A Masterpiece, The True Story of Margaret Mitchell’s Classic Novel, Gone With The Wind.”

BOOKS MAKE GREAT PRESENTS: For my book, http://www.GWTWbook.com

My husband Rob Rains has a great baseball mystery novel co-written by former baseball player and coach Andy Van Slyke, “The Curse: Cubs Win! Cubs Win!…Or Do They?” available on Amazon.com (or by sending $20 which includes shipping to: GWTW Book  P.O. Box 6934  St. Louis, MO 63123).  It’s not just for Cubs fans, it is for anyone who loves baseball— and enjoys a good mystery!

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One comment on “Letters Show “Gone With The Wind’s” Margaret Mitchell Was Pen Pals With Hattie McDaniel

  1. Jillian
    December 13, 2010

    Great article. I can’t wait for the PBS documentary. 🙂

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