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Rich: Scarlett heats up her fans, here and abroad

POSTED: September 9, 2008 5:00 a.m.

When I heard there was going to be an auction of “Gone With The Wind” memorabilia, there was no doubt that I was going. Too, I knew just the person to join me in the caper.

“I’d love to!” Merri Grace exclaimed excitedly. When we were in college, it was always one of our favorite, most discussed subjects.

Fred Crane, recently deceased but referred to then as the “last surviving male actor credited in the movie,” spoke the opening lines in the movie. He was a Tarleton twin. Residing far south of Atlanta in the small town of Barnesville, he had built quite a substantial collection of items dealing with the movie, book and Vivien Leigh, who played Scarlett O’Hara.

On the early Sunday morning drive down, Merri Grace said, “Now, I’m not buying anything. Nothing. You’re not either, are you?”

I looked sheepish. “Welllll, if I found the perfect something at the perfect price, I would.”

She cut her eyes over at me. “This could get expensive. I’ll just live vicariously through you.”

There was something I was looking for but I wasn’t sure what it was. Kinda like when you’re hungry but don’t know what you want to eat. There was a wall space in my kitchen that needed a decoration. I had been looking for a colorful poster with reds, oranges and yellows. Too, I wanted something French to reflect the kitchen’s décor.

“French?” Merri Grace repeated then laughed. “Well, good luck finding something French at a ‘Gone With The Wind’ auction.”

We arrived, registered for my bid number and then, like excited children, started digging through the incredible collection of memorabilia, including clothes, furs and jewelry once owned by Ms. Leigh. The event was taking place in a huge outdoor tent on the lawn of an antebellum home owned by Mr. Crane. The house — with dozens of pecan trees on the property — was auctioned off, too. But that was a little pricier than I was looking for.

“Look!” I exclaimed, pointing to an elaborate necklace. “Just think — Vivien Leigh wore that.”

“Did you see her dress over there?” Merri Grace asked. “Her waist really was as tiny as Scarlett’s.”

“Now, what was it in the book? Sixteen inches?” I asked, rummaging around through the rows of stuff.
Merri Grace rolled her eyes. “Something ridiculous like that.”

I was flipping through a stack of framed artwork when suddenly I stopped. I had found it. “Oh Merri, look!” I pulled the 34x40 frame from the stack.

Stunned, we stared at it for a moment. It was a movie poster for Gone With The Wind, using artwork we had never seen before. It depicted the burning of Atlanta with Scarlett, in her work dress, trying to flag down a soldier on a horse-pulled wagon. The colors of the poster were red, yellow and orange and read “Autant En Emporte Le Vent.”

Merri Grace drew a quick, sharp breath. “It says ‘Gone With The Wind’ in French!”

“It’s a French movie poster! Oh my gosh, this is perfect.”

During the bidding process, we got so excited that I bid higher than my firm number.

“Sold!” The auctioneer dressed like Rhett Butler pointed at me and grinned. We squealed with delight like the college girls we were when we would watch the movie together.

It turned out to be an original poster from the movie’s Belgium release in 1940. To top it off, Mr. Crane signed the poster to me and we had our picture snapped holding the framed artwork between us.

It’s perfect in my kitchen and has become a great story to tell when someone comments on it.

“That’s amazing,” Merri Grace said, studying it on the wall. “It’s your favorite Southern movie, it’s the right colors and it’s French. Who would have thought?”

I winked.  “C’est la vie, y’all.”

Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of “What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should).” Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com.



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