Seventy-five years ago tonight, more than 300,000 people lined Peachtree Street glimpse some of the day's biggest movie stars — Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Havilland, etc. — as they traveled from the Georgian Terrace at Ponce de Leon Avenue to the Loew's Grand Theatre, where the Georgia-Pacific building now stands. Arguably one of the largest events the city had witnessed up until that time, the hullabaloo (this was 1939, after all) was occasioned by the world movie premiere of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind, which had been published three years earlier. Any self-respecting Atlantan knows the story focuses on strong-willed Southern belle Scarlett O'Hara and her trials and tribulations in Atlanta during that bout of unpleasantness between the Union and Confederacy. The movie catapulted Atlanta into the national spotlight, and to this day is the top grossing film of all time, though at four hours is quite a commitment.
While the novel and movie featured Atlanta, the city in the late 1930s wasn't considered a world-renowned mecca for entertainment. Because of this, Atlanta wasn't guaranteed that Gone with the Wind would even premiere here. City Café on WABE recently looked into the complicated process of bringing the film to Atlanta. Out to prove we had what it took, once it was announced that the movie would open in the city, the entrance to the Loew's Grand — a stately movie palace of the 1890s — was transformed into Tara by renowned local architect Philip Trammell Shutze. Unfortunately, the Lowe's Grand succumbed to a mysterious fire and ultimately the wrecking ball in the late 1970s. Today, you'll find a plaque in the street to mark where the building once stood.
For all the attention the book and movie garnered for Atlanta, there's little that actually survives in the city to recognize the story or its creator, Margaret Mitchell. The home where she wrote much of the book still stands and is operated as a museum by the Atlanta History Center at 10th and Peachtree streets. Among the collections and displays, diehard "windies" can fawn over costumes, promotional material and other items from the premiere. But like Tara, only memories and small relics remain of that cold night 75 years ago.
· Atlanta Premiere of Gone With The Wind [About North Georgia]
· Bringing "Gone With The Wind's" Premiere To Atlanta Was A Complicated Process [WABE]
· "Gone with the Wind" marks 75th anniversary [CBS News]