“When my parents referred to Gone with the Wind, they never just said ‘Gone with the Wind,’ ” recalls Dr. Chris Sullivan, of Akron, Ohio and ‘keeper of the Gone with the Wind flame.’ It was always ‘oh, Gone with the Wind,’ as if it was something sacred. I found the response to be intriguing.”
Even though it premiered 75 years ago, many today are still drawn to the movie, Gone With the Wind
. Whether it’s the overall
artistry of the film or the captivating story (both film and book), the movie is a timeless classic.
Sullivan recalls his experience with both.
“I got a copy of the book, and I remember my mom laughing at the thought of me reading it, but I did. It was a real page turner for me. In fact, I read it a second time.”
He saw the movie in 1976, at age 13, during a re-release. What made an impression prior to seeing the film was the full-page advertisement for Gone with the Wind in the newspaper.
The story, in both mediums made an impression, and thus a devoted fan was born.
And like any true devoted fan, he began to acquire memorabilia.
Sullivan says it began with the small things like newspaper and magazine clippings, posters and such.
He says he knew he reached the point of no return when he purchased what he refers to as an “expensive” item. It happened to be a signed, first edition copy of Gone With the Wind with its dust jacket.
Sullivan was hooked.
He talks about another one of his acquisitions, which came to him by chance. A couple in Atlanta were assisting an elderly gentlemen getting ready to move into an assisted living facility. While cleaning out, they came across a shoebox filled with canceled stamps, stubs and similar items. They handed it over to Sullivan for him to see if there was anything of interest.
“I saw a ticket stub, and even though it was ripped in half, I could make out the word “Wind” as well as a picture of a hoop skirt. When I saw the serial code number, I knew it was legit.”
The stub was a portion of the 1939 premiere ticket for “Gone With the Wind” at Atlanta’s Loew’s Grand Theatre.
To Sullivan, these items he has accrued are more than just items. To him, the memorabilia are physical representations of an emotion experience.
“It captures a period of history in America and the world during 1936 - the mid-1940s. The book and the movie had an impact on society.”
Since the 2003 opening of Gone with the Wind Museum: Scarlett on the Square
in Marietta, Ga., fans worldwide have been able to view Sullivan’s personal collection up close. A collection that features everything from foreign editions of Mitchell’s book, posters, original scripts from the movie and much more, including the bengaline gown, worn by Vivien Leigh in the honeymoon scene.
When asked what is his favorite item, he couldn’t choose just one but said there is a special necklace.
“If the museum was on fire and I only had time to grab one thing, it would be the necklace that Anne Rutherford wore in the film and later gave to me. She cherished the piece her whole life and wore it in every single film she was in after Gone with the Wind.”
“It was a gift from the heart that meant a lot to her, and it is an honor to display it.”
Gone with the Wind Museum is opened Monday - Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Admission is $7 per adults, $6 per seniors and students, and $5 per person in groups of 15 or more. The tour of the museum is self-guided.
Caring of the Bengaline Honeymoon Gown
Cara Varnell, independent art conservator, talks about preserving the Bengaline gown. She first met Sullivan when he lent the dress the AFI Gallery in Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park at Disney World in Orlando. After that display the dress needed some work, so he had it shipped to her in Southern California.
Hollywood costumes are made differently from the clothes we actually wear. They were not intended to be worn a lot or repeatedly cleaned . Even so, the construction of these gowns are really beautiful. As much as we owe Walter Plunkett for their beautiful designs, we own the exceptionally talented women and men in the wardrobe department who interpreted his drawings, constructed the costumes and brought the designs to life.
The special challenge of treating this gown is that the fabric is somewhat unforgiving. Like some of the other GWTW dresses I've worked on, it is hard to hide the damaged areas. Great care has to be taken to treat the delicate fabric in a way that does not add stress of any kind. In fact, the kind of threads and stitches I use are chosen because if the fabric is put under stress my threads will snap before the threads in the fabric, protecting the original as much as possible.
I’ve worked on the Bengaline gown twice. First, I stabilized the back, since the fabric was beginning to split across the shoulders, which is not uncommon for older, fitted garments. This made it strong enough to put it on a mannequin.
The second time I treated it was after an unfortunate leak when the skirt got wet. I had to clean the stain inch-by-inch using distilled water, some very gentle cleaning agents and a small cleaning device with low suction; followed by immediate drying of the area so that tide lines would not develop. It was very time-consuming and truly is a testament to a conservator's needed patience!
photos courtesy of Gone With the Wind Museum: Scarlett on the Square