Well, given the conflict over Bill Reynolds' post on the South and the Civil War, I thought it might be time for a little talk of reconciliation here! So ... I have a trivia question related to a monument dedicated to reconciliation. Where most of the monuments related to the Civil War honor one side or the other (most, but not all -- you may recall my discussion of a monument put up in Dinwiddie County back in the early 1970s that talked about both sides) the one at right is dedicated to talk of re-unification. Whether it does that effectively -- and how it attempts this -- I want to talk about after someone identifies where it is and when it was put up.
All of this talk of war and reconciliation, though makes me realize that I also want to talk about Gone With the Wind. It's been a long time since I've seen that movie and it's not something I think a lot about; though I recognize that the images it promulgated about a prosperous south in the era of slavery and the happiness of the pre-War era (as well as the evil Yankees) was critically important for decades. But on Wednesday night as I was editing my paper on the Nat Turner trials I had it on in the background. Odd juxtaposition; that's for sure.
That got me to thinking about any number of things. One of the things that I'm interested in is change between generations. I'm interested in shifts within families, but also within a culture. And I find when there are human connections between past events and the present that there is a particular salience to those past events. This is one of the reasons that I think reparations for Tulsa riot victims presents (soon I shall have to say presented) a particularly compelling case.
I think of GWTW as a relic of another age. I mean it was released in 1939. Before the modern civil rights movement; before World War II. That was a long time ago. And that caused me to look up a little bit about the cast -- I mean, who were these people? I've heard good things about Clark Gable's views on race. Little aside here, which my friend Mark Auslander told me when we were talking about GWTW's opening in Atlanta. Hattie McDaniel, who won an Oscar for her performance, was not allowed in the Lowe's Grand Theatre in Atlanta. Gable, Mark tells me, initially wasn't going to go either, but McDaniel convinced him to attend. The person most associated in the popular mind with mamie was barred by Jim Crow from the attending the opening. Wow.
Anyway, to get back to the story: I was interested in when the people who made and starred in the movie passed away; I thought that would be a gauge of when our country changed. The first of the major stars to pass away was Leslie Howard; he was killed when the civilian airplane he was traveling in was shot down by the Nazis in 1943. Hattie McDaniel -- who, by the way, was part of a lawsuit challenging a racially restrictive covenant in Los Angeles -- died in 1952. Clark Gable passed away in 1960; Vivien Leigh in 1969. Those were all early deaths -- Howard was 47; McDaniel was 57; Gable was 59; Leigh was 54.
That's it for the major stars, except one: Olivia De Havilland. She is still with us. What an unexpected turn that someone who was a central figure in that movie is still with us. We have a direct, living connection to the world of that movie.