Over two years ago I entered into an agreement with the Talmadge family to “do my best” to create a brand, a message and a movement….to preserve and present the Tara façade that was the O’Hara’s home in the movie Gone with the Wind. The façade had traveled to Georgia from Hollywood in 1960 (after 20 years languishing on Selznick Studios back lot) and then sat 20 more years in a barn north of Atlanta (Holly Springs) before Betty Talmadge acquired it and brought it to her home south of Atlanta. So after its trip from Hollywood the only time Tara had been “toured” was the occasions when a County Official, Museum hopeful or “rainmaker” with a get rich quick idea showed up at Mrs. Betty’s door.
As an Atlanta native I was only a few years old when Tara first arrived in Georgia and I was a few years out of College and back from Texas when Mrs. Betty and her crew drove the back roads to Holly Springs to bring Tara to her home. But over the coming years I had the opportunity to visit the façade and talk with Mrs. Betty. She was not a hoarder as some have claimed, she was a proud southerner who reveled in our history,….the good and the bad (just like her Fitzgerald/ Mitchell neighbors) and could not stand the thought of the most iconic movie set of all time rotting in a barn when it could be shared with the world. And Mrs. Betty was also an entrepreneur and a “mover and shaker” who knew a great story (boy could she tell ‘em) and a great business opportunity and she set out to find those who shared her vision and would take on the task.
Today as I look forward I cannot help but look back at those who brought Tara from Hollywood, (Julian Foster) and she who purchased it from Foster and saved it from the barn (Betty Talmadge) and those who continued to cheer on the attempt (Kurtz and Garrett). For you see, Wilbur Kurtz (the historical consultant on Gone With the Wind) wrote Foster of his hope to soon see Tara standing in Georgia so that, “the celluloid could be seen in three dimensions” as he had seen Tara in Hollywood during the filming. And Atlanta Historian Franklin Garrett not only sought a Gone with the Wind Tour (which I accomplished in 1995) but hoped for a museum to display not only the movie Tara but also Margaret’s Tara,…her Fitzgerald family home that was also saved from demolition by Mrs. Talmadge.
Yes, my portion of the project started only a few years ago and from a facebook page the story spread and has been seen by millions around the world. The Official Guide to the Saving Tara Project (book) has sold many thousands and helped to tell the story and convince those who think Tara has long ago disappeared into the dust. Today I am looking at a bigger, better building and presently have hopes of that very soon.
Tara still stands in the old dairy barn south of Atlanta and nearby are the remnants of the Ftizgerald Plantation so that the book and movie versions of Tara wait together for their day in a new and bigger space. But the tours will go on, my talks will go on (if the Good Lord allows) and I hope soon to announce new opportunities for you all to be a part. Until then I hope you will not “grow weary in well doing” for the long line of those who lived and died with this project should show us that little of life is a sprint,….but mostly a marathon.
I look forward to meeting you all up at the gate.