24 January 2014

"Gone with the wind" in perfect hands

Margaret Mitchell's only novel "Gone with the wind" was published in June 1936. A month after its publication, David O. Selznick bought the film rights for a record amount of $50,000. (Later Selznick gave Mitchell another $50,000, feeling she had been underpaid.) For the next two years, Selznick and director George Cukor worked on pre-production of "Gone with the wind", before finally starting to film in January 1939 (see also my previous post Dear Mr. Cukor).

On 14 April 1937, author Margaret Mitchell wrote the following letter to George Cukor. In it, she most eloquently thanks him for his perfumes, speaks of the books she lent him and also refers to his visit to Atlanta. Earlier that month, Cukor had visited Atlanta with assistant casting director John Darrow, searching for the perfect Scarlett, Rhett and Melanie. The search, however, had proven unsuccessful, and it would still take a long time before casting was finally completed. Yolande Gwin (who is mentioned in the letter) was a journalist/author who would later write a book about Margaret Mitchell ("I remember Margaret Mitchell", published in 1987).

Source: bonhams/ image reproduced with permission


Atlanta, Georgia

April 14, 1937

Dear George:

On Monday I smelled like honeysuckles, on Tuesday I smelled of heliotrope, today I am lilaced to the ears and am as happy as a tomcat in a fresh bed of catnip, tomorrow I will smell of rose geranium, and I can scarcely wait until next Sunday when the fragrance of sweet olive will envelop me. Thank you so much for the perfumes. My preliminary sniffings tell me that the rose geranium is more suitable for me, but I love them all. They all lack the musky heavy sweetness of many perfumes and also the sharp chemical odor of most flower scents. Thank you a thousand times.

I hope you are getting something from some of the books I lent you. As you remarked, many of the memoirs of that era are dreary affairs. It is maddening to have to read seven books about faith in God and the sacredness of states' rights in order to discover just how many petticoats a belle of the sixties wore. As I could not find some of the books I wanted you to have, I have had my book dealer advertise for them and we should have them shortly.

Yolande Gwin called me and told me of your dramatic exit from Atlanta. I think it should go down in history side by side with General Hood's retreat from Atlanta. And I only wish discretion did not seal my lips for the whole thing would make a wonderful anecdote.

Through clippings I have received and telephone calls I learn what I already knew-, that is, that you charmed all the regions you visited and everyone liked you so very much and felt that "Gone With the Wind" was in perfect hands.

If I can be of help to you let me know.

John sends you his best. And please remember us both to John Darrow.

Peggy (signed)

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