"Gone With the Wind" Exhibition Gives Visitors a Glimpse Into Old Hollywood

Scarlet O'Hara's famous curtain dress is amazing up close.
Scarlet O'Hara's famous curtain dress is amazing up close.
Photo by Chris Lane

During the hectic holidays, it's easy to miss out on cool things that are going on around town, and even easier to to miss out on interesting events that are happening outside of our immediate area, but for classic movie buffs who don't mind a short road trip, there is currently a treat waiting for them on the University of Texas campus in Austin.

The "Making of Gone With the Wind" exhibit is on display until January 4, 2015 at the Harry Ransom Center, and is well worth a day trip to Austin.

These 75-year-old storyboards look like they were drawn yesterday.
These 75-year-old storyboards look like they were drawn yesterday.
Phot by Chris Lane

I collect movie props as a hobby, and although only a casual fan of "Gone With the Wind," I was blown away at the exhibition, which consists of many dresses worn by Vivian Leigh, which have not been displayed in 25 years, as well as production storyboards, costume designs, scripts, and fan mail. Some of the more interesting items were the sometimes angry correspondences between the various people responsible for bringing the movie to the screen, and those offer an eye opening glimpse into the inner workings of the studio system in late 1930s Hollywood. There was an ongoing controversy even before the film was shot - a balancing act by producer David O. Selznick, who wanted to make the film historically accurate, and the desire by the public who expected to be wowed by the sheer spectacle of the film. 

"Gone With the Wind" Exhibition Gives Visitors a Glimpse Into Old Hollywood
Photo by Chris Lane

In an age where communication is instant via cell phones and email, seeing the volume of production letters, telegrams, and other correspondence is interesting.

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The exhibit is also a visual treat, as the gowns and production art on display are amazing to see. It's interesting to view Scarlet O'Hara's curtain dress in person, and to realize how diminutive Vivian Leigh must have been.

The exhibition is mostly culled from the Ransom Center's permanent collection, although the items on display have not been seen by the public in decades. This is a rare chance for us to view them, and to appreciate the sheer amount of artistry and work involved in bringing Gone With the Wind to the screen. It's also a very unique look behind the scenes of early Hollywood's studio system, and the constant wheeling and dealing that was part of the movie making process of the time.

I would suggest that visitors from Houston make a day of it, as the exhibit is a large one that took me about an hour to walk through. There are also guided tours, and I overheard enough to recommend them. I would consider stopping in at nearby locations like Spider House coffee shop just up the road, or consider walking to the campus area Kerbey Lane for something to eat before or after seeing the exhibition.

The Gone With the Wind exhibition is at the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin, 300 West 21st Street, Austin. Exhibit Hours are10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday, noon-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Member-only hours 10 a.m.-noon Saturday and Sunday. Tours are at noon daily, 6 p.m. Thursday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Gone With The Wind screentests will be shown in the Ransom Center's first-floor theater at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on weekends, immediately following the public tour. For information call 512-471-8944.


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