The making of Gone with the Wind
Nov 3, 2014 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
Last Sunday I had a nice little adventure. Ashton (our resident beauty expert) and I ventured over to the University of Texas’ Harry Ransom Center for their latest exhibit, The making of Gone with the Wind. The exhibit runs through January 4th and they have extended hours with free public tours and screentests. If you are near Austin, Texas I highly recommend you make the trip. When we arrived I assumed it was a traveling exhibition, but as the docent welcomed us we found out this collection is unique to the center alone. I already knew we were about to experience something special, but I felt extra wowed knowing it’s an Austin-only treat.
The exhibit’s space was organized really well – the costumes are the focal pieces with additional documentation and two dimensional imagery rallying around it. I loved that they made the costumes the stars of the show because they truly fill that role. Even if you aren’t a vintage fashion enthusiast by nature, I dare you to not be impressed by the craftsmanship and glamour of each piece! The wardrobe display includes three original gowns (yep, originally dating from 1939) and two replicas. The pieces haven’t been displayed together for over two decades and you can tell they are meant to be appreciated as a whole.
All in all, the exhibition includes over three hundred unique pieces from the making of this epic film. The range of items is pretty vast, including correspondence, make up stills, photographs from the set, storyboards, costume illustrations, artwork, and raw footage. As you walk through the controversial history of the project, it’s obvious how much of an ambitious undertaking this movie was for producer David O. Selznick.
I have to admit at first I wasn’t sure how I felt about the experience. Seeing pieces from Vivian Leigh’s wardrobe was tremendous. I immediately felt awed and captivated. For a split second, under the hall’s lighting, it was just me and the dress. I imagined how I would feel if I wore those gowns. I was struck by how tiny the proportions were and how delicate everything looked – yet how strong it really was. Surviving for 75 years with their glamour and grace intact is no small task. I marveled at the workmanship of both the original and the newer gowns. Thinking of what it would take to restore these gowns – knowing that you were working on a one-of-a-kind item, what pressure and what excitement!
Even looking at the story board art was great. But once I left the artistic realm and entered the world of inter-office memos and correspondence, I felt a bit out of sorts. For me, Gone with the Wind is such a sacred thing – almost untouchable. It’s kind of like watching a magic trick and then learning the magician’s secrets. Perhaps I am too emotionally attached to the movie, maybe in time I’ll reflect upon all the information and feel less shocked by it. As I watched the screenshots, it was like an out-of-body experience, hearing other actresses’ speaking the lines I admire Vivien Leigh for saying with such determination.
But that’s the beauty of this exhibit – it makes you react. This is not meant to be a simple stroll through the past. Rather, it’s in your face – unapologetic as it discloses all the messy steps in its development. When you think about it, that is the proper tribute for this movie. The depth and diversity of information provided, displayed in a stylized fashion, and at a pace that draws you deeper and deeper into the heart of things – well, that’s just like the film itself. Gone with the Wind never shied away from the things we don’t want to address – it was messy and human and beautiful.
If you are in town for the exhibit, check it out and let us know what you think. And mark your calendars for their next presentation, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (I know I have!).