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 author of this blog was asked to do a presentation on her book “The Making of a Masterpiece; The True Story of Margaret Mitchell and Gone With the Wind” at the Tesson Ferry Library in St. Louis on Wednesday Dec. 17 to help celebrate the 75th Anniversary of “Gone With the Wind.”
She has done many talks about Margaret Mitchell’s famous book and the movie made from it– both in St. Louis and various spots around the country, but she wanted this one to be different.
Fans who attended got to watch documentary based on the book which aired on HEC- Higher Education Channel and then were treated to some special events. The film talks about some of the St. Louis connections to “Gone With the Wind”– including the fact that General Sherman is buried there, and Greg Giese, who played two infants in GWTW is from Belleville, Ill., which is in the Greater St. Louis Area.
Rather than spend too much time talking about her book, the author wanted to showcase some special people she has met along the way in her “Gone With the Wind” life.
First was Rita Kiry Ryan, of Affton, Mo. Rita had been following our GWTW Book Facebook page and contacted us prior to the Gateway to the Wind St. Louis GWTW event held five years ago. She ended up joining the committee. Rita was able to meet up with other GWTW fans at the 75th Anniversary celebration in Marietta, Ga. this year.
At the library, Rita showed items from her GWTW collection. She has been interested in the movie since she was a child.
“My prized possession is a set of candlesticks once owned by Margaret Mitchell, the author of ‘Gone With the Wind,'” Rita told the audience.
She showed the crowd her gold candlesticks, and several people came over to her asking to touch them– just because Margaret Mitchell had touched them before.
Rita, who is a business teacher, also had many plates and some dolls. Another thing Rita collects is first day covers and she had many of them on display.
Next came Nikki Luebke, of Wright City, Mo. We first met Nikki at the Gateway to the Wind event when she found out about it and contacted us to see if she could wear a Scarlett O’Hara dress. She showed up in a gorgeous replica of the dress Scarlett wore in the opening scenes with the Tarleton Twins– and stole the show!
Nikki talked about four GWTW replica dresses that were displayed on mannequins.
The four dresses she brought were the Scarlett’s green Christmas dress, green sprigged dress worn at the barbecue, white youthful ruffly dress worn in the opening scene, and the red dress Rhett Butler made Scarlett wear to Ashley’s surprise birthday party.
“One of my favorites is Scarlett’s Christmas dinner dress with the reproduction Lux brooch from 1940,” said Nikki. “My dress is made of jacquard fabric, silk under-sleeves and I tried to replicate the lace collar and cuffs.”
Nikki is a beautician in Wright City, which is near St. Louis; and the mother of one son. She mentioned in her talk that Rand Brooks, who played Charles Hamilton was from Wright City.
It was said Rand Brooks did not like playing Charles because he felt the character was too “wimpy.” According to the L.A. Times, Brooks told the Associate Press, “”It was an asinine part,” he said. “I wanted to be more macho.”
Another interesting thing about Brooks is that his first wife was Lois Laurel, daughter of screen legend Stan Laurel. Together they started an ambulance company.
According to information Nikki found, later in his life, Rand Brooks retired and came back to Wright City.
He lived in the Katie Jane Memorial Home in Warrenton, Mo, which is near Wright City.
After it was revealed that Brooks had been married to the Laurel daughter, Anna Blair added, “As long as we are saying who married who, one of the actors who played Beau Wilkes– Patrick Curtis– was married at one time to the actress Raquel Welch.”
The library event was rounded out with memorabilia from Anna’s collection. She is from Arnold, Mo.
We first met Anna in Jonesboro, Ga. while at an event at Stately Oaks Plantation. It was our first GWTW event and quite a surprise to find out the person sitting next to us was from the St. Louis area!
Anna’s prized possession is a first edition (May 1936) GWTW– autographed by Margaret Mitchell (shown on table in picture to the right). A Mitchell autograph is very rare.
Anna brought some personal memories, including a picture of herself standing in front of the pond where Vivien Leigh’s ashes were scattered. Anna had traveled to England and brought flowers to the pond to throw into it, in tribute to the star of “Gone With the Wind.”
At one point when people were looking at the collections, one of the guests set his coffee down on the Vivien Leigh picture, but luckily everyone saw it and quickly moved it.
Anna Blair is an actor/singer who has appeared in numerous productions on a continuing basis. This summer she performed at the Muny– and she also played the roll of Paulette in a summer theater production of “Legally Blonde.” Recently she has been performing as Patsy Cline at various venues in St. Louis. On Saturday, January 10, 2015 she will be opening for Steve Davis (Memories of Elvis) at the Pageant. For info on that: http://www.thepageant.com/show/347/memories-of-elvis-ft-steve-davis-the-midsouth-revival.aspx
GWTW fans who attended the “Gateway To the Wind” event in St. Louis will remember Anna Blair produced and starred in “The Fiddle-Dee-Dee Follies.”
Refreshments, including chicken salad sandwiches, cheese & crackers, and Christmas cookies were served and members of the audience stayed around to talk, ask questions, and look at all of the memorabilia.
It was a great way to send “Gone With the Wind” out in style and close out the 75th Anniversary.
There is one more event scheduled for us and that is this spring. This author was proud to recently learn that she will be awarded the “Ella Dickey Memorial Award for Literacy” at the Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival in Marshfield, Mo. on April 23, 2015, for writing “The Making of a Masterpiece, the True Story of Margaret Mitchell and Gone With the Wind.”
We are honored to be receiving this award for the book which won first place in the Missouri Professional Communicators Awards and second place in the National Federation of Press Women Awards.
The documentary made from the book won a Telly Award.
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For information on “The Making of a Masterpiece; the Story of Margaret Mitchell and Gone With the Wind” go to GWTWBook.com.