With the news of the death of another child actor from the 1920’s maybe it’s time I broached the subject of who will be the last surviving actor from Gone with the Wind. No, everyone has not passed away and hopefully they will continue to be blessed with good health and see many more days amongst their family, friends, and the public who still appreciate their work. But as the years go by each of us has to face the fact that we are probably not going to live forever and thus we will eventually, “belong to the ages”.
But not all the principles in Gone with the Wind will have to deal with our human frailties. One actor on set will continue to see time fade their countenance but not suffer the loss of hair, eye site or hearing… or the ache in their joints as the weather turns cold. No, one actor will most probably celebrate an age long past the triple digits and will find itself the last one standing when the 150th anniversary of Gone with the Wind is reached. For this actor is not made of flesh and blood, but the wood and plaster from Selznick’s carpenter stores. The actor whose name and countenance was placed before us at the films beginning and continued to be a source of strength and security for her co-stars throughout until once again seen in all its glory at the stories end…..Tara.
Saturday, a group of volunteers met me at the dairy barn for a short clean up session as they swept away spider webs and dusted off the yellow pine pollen. Tara was still in her place and believe it or not was not any worse for wear after the last few months of exceptionally hot and humid conditions here along the Georgia Piedmont. The doors and windows still stood upright in the frames I had built and the side porch steps were still in their place, patiently waiting their turn to be completely reassembled. As I walked into the dairy barn I first looked to my left to catch a glimpse of the tall front window of Tara to see if it still stood,….for in that window I still see my friend Fred Crane (Brent Tarleton) and his fellow actors and it brings to mind the film and all it took to make it happen and encourages me to continue my quest.
Phillip Fitzgerald (Margaret Mitchell’s great grandfather) understood the need to hold on to the past and thus set up his plantation (Rural Home) to survive a number of generations so that it would provide succor for any of the family seeking a home. Gerald O’Hara followed that same path in both the book and movie as he reminds Scarlett that, “the land is like their mother”. Today, though no longer standing on the property where it was built in 1830, the Fitzgerald House (Rural Home) survives in the dairy barn near its cinematic representation (Tara) waiting for the day when both can have a better building in which to stand and remind us of the past and those who encouraged and thrilled us in days gone by.
There is still a story to be told and those who need to hear it. And there is a book available (the Official Guide to the Saving Tara Project) available here, to send to those who are down and out and feel that all of their past has been destroyed. The principle pieces of Tara still stand along with the Fitzgerald House and the more we share the story with those who think Tara is no more, the more chance we have that Tara will find a benefactor who will add the financial push to create the proper building to house this wonderful story. The project has come a long way and with all of us working together, it can travel a good bit further.
I’ll be looking for you all, up at the gate.