Category: gone with the wind

gone with the wind photography vivien leigh

Behind the scenes at Western Costume Company

Vivien Leigh buckboard dress from Gone with the Wind

It’s so nice to be back in California for the holidays. I grew up in the north but went to college and spent quite a few years living down in Orange County. A lot of my friends still live in the area, and even though my visits over the past couple of years have been few and far between, it’s great to know that you can pick up exactly where you left off with some people and that time and distance just don’t matter.

My friend Marissa is doing great things. Those of you who attended the Weekend with the Oliviers event in London in 2010 may remember her. She’s really bright, loves classic cinema, and last year moved from New York to LA to pursue and MA in archiving (exactly the kind of thing I’d love to do!). Move over, Keeper of the Archive at Anything-Film-Related!

Recently, Marissa wrapped up an internship sorting and cataloguing costume sketches at Western Costume Company, and took me along for a backstage tour. Western is celebrating its centenary this year, having been an integral part of the Hollywood community since the early silent film era. Founded by L.L. Burns and Harry Revier in 1912, Western started off providing Indian garb for western genre actor, screenwriter, director, and producer William S. Hart. They would go on to create costumes for many of the most influential films in Hollywood history, including all of the Civil War costumes for D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, and the men’s costumes for Gone with the Wind. They also sewed the sequins onto the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz.

Today, Western encompasses both past and present. Downstairs in the cavernous warehouse, everyone from designers to milliners and seamstresses are hard at work keeping film and TV stars costumed. Upstairs is the Research Library and archive, where Marissa and I spent  most of our visit. The department is headed by Bobi Garland, a former costume designer who bears a resemblance to Edith Head. When the company moved to its current location in Burbank, Garland took charge of organizing the “Star Collection” – 6000 historic costumes worn by famous celebrities ranging from Rudolph Valentino to Laurence Olivier, Ava Gardner to Julie Andrews and everyone in between. She has also served as the go-to expert on matters of costume history for many of today’s top costumers and designers.

The crowned jewel of Western’s historic collection is the blue-gray “buckboard” dress designed by Walter Plunkett and worn by Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. I’d seen several of Vivien’s costumes from this film but never at such close proximity. You can see from the photo above how petite she really was. I was fascinated to see that the dress was constructed from what looks like corduroy, and, like all of the costumes I saw at Western, is remarkably well preserved.

Other highlights for me included Jack Lemon’s dresses for his alter ego Daphne in Some Like it Hot, all of the Laurence Olivier costumes, one of Charmian Carr’s outfits from The Sound of Music, everything Julie Andrews, and Jean Simmons’ beautiful ivory gown from Elmer Gantry. Unfortunately, I couldn’t try any of them on this time, but it was enough just to see such a huge, integral part of film history in one place.

Having spent over two years living in a country that prides itself on preserving its national heritage, it always makes me sad when I think of how big celebrity and film culture is in the States, yet so much of its history no longer exists. I’m glad to know that there are people working at places like Western Costume Company who make it their life’s work to see that what we do have left is well taken care of.

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gone with the wind

Banned Books Week: Gone with the Wind

From September 30th to October 6th, readers, writers, publishers and booksellers across the United States will be celebrating Banned Books Week in an effort to bring attention to the harmful effects of censorship. Books have been banned in select libraries and schools for a number of years and a number of reasons. Some titles have been challenged multiple times by teachers/school board members/leaders of moral and religious groups because the content expressed within their covers is deemed offensive.

The American Library Association has organized a Virtual Read-Out, inviting lovers of the printed word to read aloud from their favorite banned or censored books. My contribution is a not-so-dramatic reading of one of my favorite passages from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. This book, which happens to be my favorite novel of all time, has come under fire several times in the past for its depiction of slavery, its free use of the word “nigger”, and the loose morals of Scarlett O’Hara. I’m currently on my fourth read-through of this brilliant tome. Eight years have passed since I last picked it up, but I can say that I still love it after all this time; I connect with Scarlett in different ways and, as always, Mitchell’s imagery is some of the best I’ve read in any novel.

It’s also a real tongue-twister to voice out loud!

What’s your favorite frequently challenged book?

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{Guest Post} Gone with the Wind at the Egyptian Theatre

Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind

I always love reading about other people’s cinematic classic film viewing experiences. Some films were simply meant to be seen in the cinema, as is the case with Gone with the Wind. Last weekend, GWTW was screened at the magnificent Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. This venue, home to the American Cinematheque, is a haven for film nerds in the movie capital and has a special place in my heart. So, when I learned a couple of my friends were meeting up and going to the screening, I immediately invited one of them to write about her experience for Luckily she said yes!

Marissa recently relocated from New York to Los Angeles where she is currently enrolled in the Archival Studies graduate program at UCLA. This past May, she attended A Weekend with the Oliviers, the event put on through in London. Over in LA, as someone who has always loved film and film history, Marissa is enjoying all the city has to offer.


No other film has made more of an impact on my life or means as much to me as Gone with the Wind, and just as I’ll never forget watching it for the very first time when I was eleven, I’ll never forget the experience of seeing it for the first time on the big screen. This is something that I had hoped to do for a long time and was able to experience last Saturday.

I had the great fortune to see Gone with the Wind at the beautiful and historic Egyptian Theatre. The grandeur of the theatre is a sight to behold in itself. Kendra, a very thoughtful friend, put me in contact with her friend Mark and I was able to share the experience with him and his friends, which made the viewing all the more enjoyable.

Before the film was shown, the programmer said that our socks would be knocked off and he was right. Viewing the digital print and hearing Max Steiner’s score at the Egyptian Theatre added even greater depth to the movie. Being part of a large audience was truly a unique experience that enhanced and heightened moments of humor and tension.

There are so many exceptional elements that come together seamlessly to make Gone with the Wind so very special, but above all it’s the brilliant performances by Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable and the rest of the cast that always mesmerize me. The experience of seeing it on the big screen was even better than I imagined and, as always, when watching it, I didn’t want it to end.


If you’ve had a chance to see a Vivien Leigh or Laurence Olivier film on the big screen and want to share your experience with other fans, feel free to get in touch.

Check out more Cinema Experiences here.

books gone with the wind

Book Corner: Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Altanta to Hollywood

Gone with the Wind: A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood

No single work of fiction has had a more lasting impact on American popular culture than Gone with the Wind. The Pulitzer Prize-winner has spawned endless merchandise, two sequels, a lively fan fiction community, and the highest grossing film of all time; not to mention more book tie-ins than you can shake a stick at. This is a story that still fascinates readers and cinephiles the world over and has attained a kind of cult status. If you haven’t heard of Gone with the Wind, it’s safe to assume you’ve lived your life under a rock—there is no escaping it. If you’re a fan, chances are you’re familiar with the wealth of material just waiting to be discovered by those who have just fallen under the spell of Scarlett O’Hara, Rhett Butler and the saga of the South during the Civil War. But just when you thought you’d seen and read everything, authors Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley, Jr. came along to prove that there was at least one stone yet unturned.

Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood, written to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the novel’s publication in 2011, is not your standard biography. Rather than focusing on Margaret Mitchell, this book chronicles the life of the story she created, from its inception in turn-of-the-century Atlanta to the multi-million dollar cash cow it remains today. How did this book, written by an unknown author, become such a successful “blockbuster”? Why does it still resonate today, and how has this resonance changed in the last 75 years?  Brown and Wiley conducted an impressive amount of archival research to reveal the answers to these and many other questions. Gaining access to never-before-published material, including correspondence between Mitchell and Macmillan editor Lois Cole, and historical records at the University of Georgia, the co-authors have painstakingly retraced every step in the life of this international publishing phenomenon.

The recent PBS documentary Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel offered an overview of the famously reclusive author’s post-GWTW life, but Brown and Wiley manage to delve even deeper. A very reluctant celebrity, Margaret Mitchell was unexpectedly thrust into a spotlight that never dimmed in her lifetime. She also played a large part in managing the trajectory of her book, and experienced many disappointments and pitfalls, especially after it had become a success. The legal battles that this first-time author had to endure at the hands of the publishing and film industries would be enough to turn any budding novelist away from writing a book. She was handed bad deals by Selznick International and, on occasion, Macmillan. The agent that she and husband John Marsh entrusted to handle foreign copyright stole over $30,000 in royalties. Fans besieged her by post, phone and in person demanding a sequel. Gone with the Wind remained such a constant for the rest of Mitchell’s life that she never had time to write another novel. Yet with the help of her husband and lawyer brother Stephens, Mitchell was able to keep a relatively firm hand on her greatest creation, and ensure that it would remain a profitable endeavor long after she died.

Brown and Wiley cover everything from the issue of racism to those pesky unauthorized sequels (Alice Randall’s 2001 debut novel The Wind Done Gone managed to encapsulate both things, and she was shut down by the Stephens Mitchell Trust on account of the latter) with an intelligent, objective eye. They even reveal a bit about the failed (authorized) sequel written by Vivien Leigh biographer Anne Edwards that is now under lock and key in special collections at UCLA. In the manuscript for Tara: The Continuation of Gone with the Wind, Edwards reunites the principal characters only to kill one of them off. Given how close fans hold Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler to their hearts, perhaps it’s best this sequel never made it onto bookshelves.

I would highly recommend making space on your own shelf for Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood. Brown and Wiley’s well-written, informative account of this unstoppable literary and cinematic phenomenon will surprise and enlighten even the most die-hard fans.

Buy Gone with the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood: Amazon | Waterstones | Barnes & Noble

*Stay tuned this weekend for a Q&A with author Ellen F. Brown right here at!

articles gone with the wind vivien leigh

Vendetta Against Vivien

31 days of Vivien Leigh and Laurence OlivierI have a bunch of magazine and newspaper articles left over from my dissertation research, so I’ve decided to do “31 Days of the Oliviers.” Each day I will post a new article or blog post, ending with Vivien Leigh’s birthday on November 5. These articles (most of which have Vivien as the main subject) span the years 1937-1967 and come from both American and British sources. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I do!

{Day 8} Picturegoer weighs in on the casting of their own Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind and wags their finger at Hollywood actresses who may have been jealous of their biggest export. The competition between the British and Hollywood film industry is clearly evident in this article.


Vendetta Against Vivien

Picturegoer, February 18, 1939
Submitted to by Chris

Vendetta Against Vivien Leigh, Picturegoer