The Road to Tara

For those Gone With the Wind fans out there, Tara isn’t real.  It’s a fictional place, something like Xanadu or Shangri-La, but it has a place in literature thanks to Margaret Mitchell, the author of Gone With the Wind.  She modeled Tara after local plantations and antebellum establishments, particularly the Clayton County, Georgia plantation on which her maternal grandmother, Annie Fitzgerald Stephens, the daughter of an Irish immigrant and his American bride, was born and raised.

For the 1939 motion picture, Tara was constructed by the movie’s art director.  When filming was done, the facade (that’s all it was in the movie) sat on the Forty Acres backlot owned by RKO Pictures and then by Desilu Productions.  In 1959, Southern Attractions, Inc. purchased the façade, which was dismantled and shipped to Georgia with plans to relocate it to the Atlanta area as a tourist attraction.  Producer David Selznick said at the time, “Nothing in Hollywood is permanent. Once photographed, life here is ended. It is almost symbolic of Hollywood. Tara had no rooms inside. It was just a façade. So much of Hollywood is a façade.”  (GCD: Seems to me that Selznick had a pretty good handle on reality!!!!)

However, the Margaret Mitchell estate refused to license anything that sought to capitalize on the novel’s fame and popularity, including the movie set, citing Mitchell’s dismay at how little it resembled her description in her novel. In 1979, what remained of the set—doorway, windows, shutters, cornice, steps and the breezeway to the kitchen, and elements of the kitchen itself—was purchased for $5,000 by Betty Talmadge, the former wife of former governor and US Sentaor Herman Talmadge.  She restored the front door of the Tara set,  and after exhibit at the Atlanta History Center in 1989, lent it for permanent display at the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum in midtown Atlanta.  Talmadge eventually decided to retain the Tara set and it remained in storage at her death in 2005.

For years the set was also thought to have existed on Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer’s backlot #2 in Culver City, CA. This urban myth was the result of former M.G.M. tour guides who had been instructed to mislead tourists into thinking that a southern mansion set on backlot #2 was the famed Gone with the Wind set.

Today’s photo is of a mural on the wall at the Joneboro Depot, depicting Rhett, Scarlett and others from the movie, including Tara itself.  You may recall that it was on of Scarlett’s comments, where she wondered if Tara still existed after Sherman’s march through the area, or if it was “gone with the wind.”  Tara, it should be noted, is named after the location in Ireland, the Hill of Tara, where Irish kings were crowned.

The road to fictional Tara

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1935, Leonard Keeler conducted the first test of the electronic polygraph – the lie detector.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: In Russia, American hot dogs are big favorites, being eaten at lunch, dinner and even for breakfast.  Wienies are sliced lengthwise, fried in butter and dished up with bread, cheese and smoked fish.  In 1996, ter and dished up with bread, cheese, and smoked fish.  In 1996, Russian imports of American cured-meat products totaled nearly $76 million.


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