When Margaret Mitchell published Gone With the Wind in 1936, she jokingly said if all her friends and family bought it, it might sell a few hundred copies. After the novel made publishing history by selling a million copies in six months during the Great Depression, Mitchell was stunned. “I’m flabbergasted.”
Seventy-five years later, the world still “gives a damn” about Gone With the Wind. The novel, now published in 40 languages, sells 250,000 copies each year; the movie is the highest grossing film ever; and Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler are household names.
Georgia Public Broadcasting decided to take a fresh look at the novel’s author in a new documentary, Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel. The videos included are either outgrowths from stories told in the program or brand new stories that we didn’t have time to tell, but definitely need telling.
Margaret Mitchell won the Pulitzer Prize in the spring of 1937, to the dismay of some critics and the delight of others. William Faulkner had expected to receive the award for his novel Absalom Absalom and F. Scott Fitzgerald, who never received the prize, would soon be working on the screenplay of Mitchell’s novel. On a warm night in May, Mitchell received news of the prize by phone, along with multiple requests for interviews. Hating publicity, she fled to a gospel concert at a small black church in Atlanta with her husband John Marsh, her publisher Harold Latham and her black housekeeper Bessie Jordan. The press scoured the city but never found her. It was a glorious night for Margaret Mitchell.