2011–The 75th Anniversary of GWTW, the book, based in part on writings from the Mitchell family scrapbook, shown above.
By Sally Tippett Rains
The highly anticipated Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, A Bestseller’s Odyssey From Atlanta to Hollywood by Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley, Jr, published by Taylor Trade Publishing is an interesting and fun read. This writer, who spent three years researching and writing The Making Of A Masterpiece, The True Story of Margaret Mitchell’s Classic Novel Gone With The Wind had read every book about the subject that was available to her. The amazing thing about Gone With the Wind, that is 75 years old this year, is that there is still so much out there that has not been brought to light and Brown and Wiley’s book served up a fresh helping of new GWTW information.
One of the most interesting aspects of the book was the emergence of letters from Lois Cole, an assistant editor with Macmillan and also a friend of Margaret Mitchell’s. Some of the things covered in “Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind” were either new, shed more light on facts already known, or conflicted with some of the information previously reported, and things were clarified by the use of correspondence from Cole, who started as an office manager at Macmillan based in Atlanta. While Gone With The Wind was under consideration and then after it was published she worked in the New York Office and worked closely with Harold Lathan the vice-president and editor –in-chief of the publishing company.
Some of the light shed on Cole was how close she and Mitchell actually were, that Mitchell introduced her to her future husband and they often socialized. There was also a lot more written on Kay Brown, who worked for David Selznick, including what she did after that job and what her relationship to the Mitchell estate was.
Ellen Brown contacted Lois Cole’s children, who had been approached by other Mitchell biographers but had declined because their mother was a very private person who rarely talked about her personal relationship with Mitchell. She was able to get them to agree to share some of their Mother’s papers.
“They liked that we were writing about the book as opposed to the movie,” said John Wiley, from his home in Virginia.
Brown is a lawyer and freelance writer who, several years ago, wrote an article on Wiley’s Gone With The Wind collection for a magazine called “Fine Books & Collections.” They kept in touch, and in August 2008, decided to write the book. She had not read “Gone With the Wind” until they started the project, but according to Wiley, she quickly fell in love with it!
“We split the research and writing,” said Wiley, who is the publisher of “The Scarlett Letter” a quarterly newsletter for collectors and others interested in GWTW. “I had been researching ‘Gone With the Wind’ for years and already had copies of hundreds, maybe thousands, of letters and documents from libraries.”
Brown and Wiley live in Virginia but they did some traveling for their research.
“We both spent a week at UGA (University of Georgia- Athens) looking at Margaret Mitchell papers to start,” he said. “I returned to Athens for several more weeks while Ellen went to New York to go through the Macmillan papers. We divided the writing, too, and then exchanged what each had written for editing. In the end, we spent weeks around Ellen’s kitchen table, going over the manuscript line-by-line.”
There have been so many different books written about Margaret Mitchell but this one is touted that it is more about the book than the author, although much was revealed about the author. Long before there was George Brett, the Hall of Fame Kansas City Royals baseball player, there was George Brett the president of Macmillan Books, and this book gives more information about him and just the process it all went through before and after publication and the journey to making the book into a movie. Readers of Brown and Wiley’s book find out what Mitchell thought of George Brett and how even after her death John Marsh kept in contact with Brett.
Because Wiley’s background is collecting, they give a good description of what is a “first edition” and the various things that happened along the way to the book coming out and why stores around the country had books that had both “May” and “June” in them.
One of the things that has always fascinated this writer is the relationship between Mitchell and her husband John Marsh and also his involvement (or as some writers have written non-involvement with the book.) As an author married to an author, this writer has always assumed Marsh had much more input in the book writing and editing than some writers have claimed. It’s pretty tough to live in the same house, with one person working on a book and the other doesn’t know what she’s writing about. Also, if one was an accomplished editor it’s hard to believe he didn’t help with the editing. This book fills us in on more of that scenario.
Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind also continues after Mitchell and Marsh died and then even after Stephens Mitchell died. Some of that information was known to this writer through research she had done, but there was a lot to be learned from this new book. In the end, as the new book tells, Joe Mitchell –the only living of the two sons of Margaret Mitchell’s brother Stephens –is the one, who along with the lawyers continues to thrive from the money made from Gone With the Wind.
The one question the book raised was “where is all the money” and that’s a good question—although the book mentions some of it, it does not offer a complete answer, largely because it is unknown. Those who know about Joseph Mitchell know he is not in a situation to be able to tell. In fact there are a lot of things that could have been learned through him but never will.
If you have not read Wiley and Brown’s new book you should. For a book that has been going strong for 75 years, it’s fun to be able to fill in more of the blanks and bring a new look to one of the greatest classic novels ever written.
INTERESTING TIDBIT: With Gone With The Wind celebrating it’s 75th anniversary of the book, and 2011 being the 150th anniversary of the Civil War…DID YOU KNOW.. Abner Doubleday who was always credited as inventing the game of baseball (until recently) claimed in his autobiography he was the first one to fire a shot at Fort Sumter and that it was HE who started the Civil War! –Always finding ways to connect GWTW to another great pastime…baseball.
Article by Sally Tippett, author of “The Making Of A Masterpiece, The True Story of Margaret Mitchell’s Classic Novel, Gone With The Wind.” Rains is also currently the content manager of RobRains.com.
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