When I first saw the classic 1939 movie Gone with the Wind as a young girl, I was captivated. There was romance! Comedy! Tragedy! History! But I especially loved the houses in the movie. I imagined they were all real, and that if I could just somehow get to Atlanta, I’d be able to see them all in person.
Of course it wasn’t until years later that I reread the novel and realized how problematic parts of the story were. I think we’re all aware of that now, which taints some of the scenes as we view them through a different lens today than they did in the 1930s.
After having the opportunity to see the movie on the big screen for the first time in our local theater recently, I thought it would be interesting to revisit those iconic houses and amazing sets, starting with the O’Hara family’s plantation known as Tara.
Take a look!
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“Gone With the Wind”
I got the book Gone With the Wind when I was 14 and thought it was the most exciting novel I’d ever read.
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I reread it recently and it’s still captivating, but there are definitely problematic parts that I hadn’t noticed as a girl.
I was kind of “gulping” a lot at some of the passages about slavery, which was considered “not so bad, really.” I was also stunned to realize that they were essentially marrying off young teenage girls to middle aged men, which I hadn’t realized before.
Just want to be upfront about that for anyone who hasn’t read it or seen the movie in a while.
Tara: The O’Hara Family Plantation in Georgia
The movie was actually filmed in California, nowhere near the South.
In the DVD Special Features they showed a shot of Tara that hadn’t been
“fixed” yet in post-production, and you can see the modern city and houses behind it:
The front door from Tara is now hanging at the Margaret Mitchell House & Museum.
The rest of the house is reportedly “rotting” in storage somewhere, according to Retro Web.
Update: One man is trying to save Tara’s facade. Read about it on the Saving Tara website.
Tara was built on the back lot of Selznick International Studios in Culver City (Culver Studios).
It was an exterior only. The interiors were on a separate soundstage.
Tara and was left standing on the back lot until the late 1950s when it was sold to someone
who planned to make it the centerpiece of a new amusement park, but it was never built.
I’ve always loved Scarlett’s bedroom. I like the angled ceilings, the moldings and trims,
and the steps that come down into it from the hall:
The Wilkes Family Plantation: Twelve Oaks
The exterior of Twelve Oaks wasn’t real. For old movies like this they often used matte paintings.
In the screenshot above, you can see how the images of the carriages rumbling up the drive were added later, creating a ghostly effect.
The long drive and grounds were supposedly inspired by Boone Plantation. You can see a photo of the famous “Avenue of Oaks” that served as the inspiration for Twelve Oaks’ avenue in my post about The Notebook.
The did create a real front porch for the scenes where Scarlett and her family were greeted at the door, but the barbecue scenes were shot at Busch Gardens.
Whitehall, a Greek Revival in Covington, Georgia, was the inspiration for Twelve Oaks:
Update: It’s on the market! See interior photos of the real Twelve Oaks.
The idea of the women going upstairs to take a nap together in the middle of the party seems odd to us now, doesn’t it?
And to see all those young slave girls put to work fanning them always kills me:
The men are downstairs having a meeting about the possibility of war:
Scarlett beckons Ashley into the library:
After Ashley refuses to dump Melanie and marry Scarlett instead, Scarlett picks up a vase and throws it.
We all know who’s lying on that settee, having heard every word:
After the war, Twelve Oaks is just a shadow of its former self.
Here we get a view of the crumbling staircase that Scarlett comes back to:
Aunt Pittypat’s House in Atlanta
Scarlett becomes a widow during the war and is so bored with mourning that she goes to stay with Aunt Pittypat in Atlanta, where she is courted by Rhett Butler.
Love the arched doorway into the room with the piano:
Ashley returns to Atlanta on leave for Christmas.
Note the Christmas tree on the table behind them, lit with real candles:
Rhett and Scarlett’s New House in Atlanta
After the war, Scarlett marries Rhett and they build themselves the biggest, glitziest
mansion possible in Atlanta. From what I’ve read, the exterior wasn’t real, but another matte painting.
Staircases don’t get much more grand than this one.
When they were filming this in the 1930s, the set itself was segregated in the beginning,
which makes Hattie McDaniel’s Oscar win for playing Mammy even more significant.
She accepted her Oscar in The Ambassador Hotel, which had a “No Blacks” policy.
According to a poignant article about it in The Hollywood Reporter:
McDaniel then was escorted, not to the Gone With the Wind table — where Selznick sat with de Havilland and his two Oscar-nominated leads, Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable — but to a small table set against a far wall, where she took a seat with her escort, F.P. Yober, and her white agent, William Meiklejohn.
With the hotel’s strict no-blacks policy, Selznick had to call in a special favor just to have McDaniel allowed into the building (it was officially integrated by 1959, when the Unruh Civil Rights Act outlawed racial discrimination in California).
The vanity in Scarlett’s room has crystal light fixtures, swooping draperies — and is that a polar bear rug?
They only show Bonnie’s bedroom briefly, but what a bedroom it is!
The Back Patio:
The parrots are a great detail. Of course Scarlett would have parrots on her patio!
A shot of the front entry from the top of the stairs after Scarlett falls down them:
If you ever have a chance to see this in a movie theater, I highly recommend it. That’s how these sets and costumes were designed to be seen and the details on the big screen are amazing. I felt like I was watching it for the first time.
The Inspiration for Twelve Oaks in the movie is on the market.
Read about one man’s efforts to save Tara, the iconic facade from the back lot.
You can also follow along on Saving Tara Facebook page.
Visit my Houses Onscreen page to see more movies I’ve featured!