MITCHELL, MARGARET

Letter onn Casting Scarlett for 'Gone With the Wind'

Item #17060


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MITCHELL, MARGARET - Letter onn Casting Scarlett for 'Gone With the Wind'
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MITCHELL, MARGARET - Letter onn Casting Scarlett for 'Gone With the Wind'

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"I will be very glad when her name is told, for public interest in this picture is great and curiosity is high and no on will believe me when I tell them that I do not know who will be Scarlett."

 

MITCHELL, MARGARET. (1900-1949). American author of the popular novel Gone With the Wind. TLS. (“Margaret Mitchell Marsh”). 3½pp. 4to. Atlanta, December 27, 1938. Written on her personal stationery to Danish illustrator Axel Mathiesen (1882-1973).

 

"The packages containing the two books arrived on Christmas Eve and was received with great pleasure…I think Denmark and the United States share the same Christmas customs and gifts are placed upon the Christmas tree or under it. On Christmas morning I arose early and went to the home of my nephews to observe their Christmas joys. They were very impressed with your gift, for their father (my brother) had explained that it came from far across the ocean and that the pictures in the book were drawn by the same man who drew the Gone With the Windpictures hanging in their bedroom. To tell the truth, they liked the book so much that they began quarrelling violently over who should look at it and little Joe was put to bed for an hour as punishment for snatching the book from Eugene. However, Joe was pardoned and released from bed after promising to be good. My brother felt the book far too valuable a gift to be put into the hands of little Joe, who is only four years old. So, he has put the book away on the top shelf of the bookcase. My father has already started trying to translate the story. He knows no Danish but, having compared the American edition of Gone With the Windwith the Danish edition a number of times, he is able to read a surprising amount of Danish. His knowledge coupled with the German my husband learned at the University of Kentucky, will help us all when the little boys demand to know the meaning of the words under the pictures in “Vil Du Med?”. My whole family join in thanking you for your courtesy in remembering the little boys at Christmas time, and the boys want to thank you too. Of course, I looked at the pictures with great interest before wrapping the book, and I found them charming. You are indeed a versatile artist to be able to execute such different types of illustrations. The other book you sent, with the photographs of Denmark, has given much pleasure to me and to my husband. We are impressed by the beauty of your country and the clean look it has, and we marvel at the resemblance between Danish people and the people of our own section of the United States. Here in the South we have a few people of Latin or Slavic descent; our population is of Anglo-Saxon and Celtic descent for the most part, and perhaps that is why Danish people seem very like us in appearance. You were to have had a Christmas gift from me but, as you know, you did not get it! I have a friend, named Wilbur Kurtz, who is a well known artist and student of Confederate history. He delights to make pictures of the battles which were fought around Atlanta and of scenes in Atlanta before the Yankees burned the town. It was my intent to get him to do some sketches of the Battle of Peachtree Creek or other battles mentioned in Gone With the Windso that I could send them to you with Christmas greetings. But, alas, Mr. Kurtz has been in Hollywood for some time and he did not have the opportunity to do the pictures for me. When he returns I intend to send the pictures to you. So, for the present, you will have to take the will for the deed as we say in America. The reason Mr. Kurtz is in Hollywood is that the filming of Gone With the Windhas actually begun. When historical pictures are being made the moving picture people secure the services of someone possessed of great knowledge of that historical period. They are called “technical advisers.” Mr. Kurtz, for instance, is at present superintending the construction of seven blocks of Atlanta streets, business buildings and dwelling houses, including the railroad station where Scarlett went to get the doctor the day Melanie’s baby was born. I am very happy the moving picture company has chosen a man who knows old Atlanta so well. Yet, I regret that his absence kept me from securing the sketches I had planned for you. I have your pictures framed and hanging on the walls of our dining room. Almost every day someone rings my door bell and asks to see them. My friends bring their friends to look at them. Everyone is so enthusiastic and they are always incredulous when they hear that you had never been to the South. I think you would be pleased and interested at the arguments people have over which picture they like the most. The majority prefer the one of Rhett and Scarlett at the bazaar. One of our Atlanta book stores decided to advertise a sale of Gone With the Windby displaying in the book department all my foreign editions. They begged the loan of your illustrations, too. I feared to let them out of my house, but the book store owner promised to have a clerk watching them every minute. When they saw how lovely the pictures were they placed them in the large front window of the store facing one of our most popular streets. They hung the window with Confederate flags and old rifles and cavalry sabers. As my father was very ill at this time, I was not able to see more of this display than could be observed from an automobile on my way to the hospital. The owner of the book department assured me that the interest was great and that some school teachers brought their classes to see them. Many young art students came, too. So, you can see your pictures continue to excite interest and give great pleasure to others as well as to me. I mentioned that work had begun on the film of Gone With the Wind. Perhaps you will wonder why I omitted telling you what actress would play the part of Scarlett. I do not know myself! This actress is to be announced around January 1st. I will be very glad when her name is told, for public interest in this picture is great and curiosity is high and no on will believe me when I tell them that I do not know who will be Scarlett. With renewed thanks for your kind thought of me and my nephews…"

 

After writing for the Atlanta Journal, Mitchell began work on Gone With the Wind, which occupied her for ten years. Her epic story of the American Civil War and Reconstruction sold one million copies in the first six months after its publication in 1936, at the time, the biggest selling novel in the history of U.S. publishing.

 

Soon after the U.S. success of Gone With the Wind, the novel was published in Norway and Sweden. Denmark became the third country to acquire foreign language rights when Copenhagen publisher Steen Hasselbalch (1881-1952) released the work in Danish. “Published initially in the fall of 1937, the first Danish edition numbered 10,000 copies; it sold out in eleven days and went into a second printing immediately. In a country of fewer than one million, the publisher anticipated eventual sales of 40,000 copies. Mitchell quoted her Danish publisher with mingled pleasure and incredulity. No book had sold anything near these figures before in Denmark. ‘We are glad to note daily that its title also in Danish “Borte med Blaeston” has been used everywhere for every possible occasion even in our churches,’” (Southern Daughter, Pyron).

 

Shortly after the book’s release, Hollywood producer David O. Selznick bought the film rights, paying the record sum of $50,000. Casting the female lead was a lengthy process and involved many screen stars including Katharine Hepburn, Carole Lombard, Paulette Goddard, Barbara Stanwyck, Lana Turner, Bette Davis, and Joan Crawford, before English actress Vivian Leigh was cast to star opposite Clark Gable. As Mitchell describes, the mystery surrounding the identity of the actress to play Scarlett was much discussed by fans of the novel. Gone With the Wind premieredin Atlanta on December 15, 1939, with Mitchell in the audience. It enjoyed extraordinary success, winning eight Oscars.

 

Although born and raised in the Midwest, Wilbur G. Kurtz (1882-1967) became noted for his historical depictions of the South both as a writer and an artist. He lived in Atlanta for more than 50 years where he sketched, painted and made engravings of the old South and contributed articles about Atlanta history for such publications as the Atlanta Journal and the Atlanta Constitution. In addition to his work on Gone with the Wind, Kurtz was a technical advisor on Song of the South and Disney’sThe Great Locomotive Chase.

 

Our letter mentions the many foreign editions. In addition to the authorized versions, pirated foreign copies, with which Mitchell wryly filled her bookcases, abounded. Herlater years were dominated by financial worries and, accordingly, she tried to keep close track of foreign royalties. By the time of her death, in 1949, sales of Gone with the Wind had reached 8,000,000.

 

Mathiesen worked as a commercial artist as well as an illustrator of children’s books, including Vil Du Med?. Among other authors whose works he illustrated in Denmark were Edgar Rice Burroughs, Captain Frederick Marryat, Rudyard Kipling, Jules Verne, and Agatha Christie.

 

Folded with some light wear. Boldly signed in black ink and in very good condition. Accompanied by a letter of thanks to Mathiesen from Mitchell’s young nephew Eugene.

Item #17060

 

  


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