A few months ago I was in Marietta, Georgia to take part in their special Gone With the Wind event and I got to meet Daniel Selznick, the son of GWTW’s producer, David O. Selznick. Connie put on a great event as usual but the part that will stick with me more than any other will be Daniel Selznick’s answer as to why the Tara façade was dismantled and removed from the old Selznick lot. Daniel stated that his father was paying rent for the space that Tara sat on and he no longer had a use for it in a movie.
Needless to say, it was jaw dropping to hear that arguably the most iconic movie set of all time was removed from its Hollywood home because it was no longer producing revenue, but costing rent. In fact when I first introduced myself to Daniel Selznick and explained my work on the Saving Tara Project, he had no idea that the Tara façade still existed in any form whatsoever. It was then my pleasure to “introduce” him to a few of the artifacts from the Tara façade and explain that they still exist in a barn south of Atlanta and that my hope is to soon have a better museum space for their display.
During Hollywood’s, “Golden Age” films were not produced outside the confines of the studio system so the red clay of Georgia was reproduced on the back lot and sound stages of Tinsel Town. There were no scenes shot on Georgia soil and so when folks got off the planes in Atlanta and asked where the movie was shot or where the stars stood I would turn them West and say, “out that way” to Hollywood where Selznick’s vision of Margaret’s book was created and filmed. But now when they ask, “where is Tara” I explain that Margaret’s great grandparents (Fitzgerald) were their model for the O’Hara’s (Margaret’s statement) and their property stood a short few miles from downtown Jonesboro, Georgia. And I go on to say that today it waits its turn for restoration in the same barn with the doors, windows and side porches of the Tara façade,….Tara…..the place to come home to for Scarlett, ….part of the land, “worth fighting for, worth dying for”.
It is amazing for we who love this story to image the destruction of the set because it no longer brought in enough revenue from tours, but we should be amazed that after its dismantling and shipment to Atlanta, it survived more setbacks and overlooks and today is available for those who seek her. Amazing that not only does she survive but in the place that Wilbur Kurtz said the story originated, “on the red earth trail from Jonesboro to Lovejoy”.
There are still more Saving Tara caps and The Official Guide to the Saving Tara Project books to sell to help fund the project. And when the weather starts to cool in a few weeks there will be more tours to take and may,….and opportunity at the end of October to follow the “ghosts” of this great tale through the locations in Jonesboro and Lovejoy where the true stories originated. But even though there is still not a fancy new building to house it all, there is still a story of how the greatest of movie sets escaped the wrecking ball to end up…..on the red earth of Georgia…..and home.
I look forward to seeing you all up at the gate.