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The Burnings of Atlanta

While writing about the burning of Atlanta in my blog on Gone with the Wind’s 75th birthday, as an ex-Atlantan, I remembered that the city had been plagued by other fires. Aside from the 1864 blaze set by the Confederates, followed by General Sherman’s notorious conflagration consuming a third of the city, there was also the Great Atlanta Fire of 1917. It arose from four separate, relatively insignificant blazes one quiet May morning and quickly spread the fire department’s resources dangerously thin. Morphing into one enormous incendiary beast, it required the assistance of firefighters from as far away as Chattanooga and Knoxville, Tennessee, to bring it under control. After raging for eleven hours, it consumed 22 million gallons of water and destroyed almost...

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One-Man Show

Seventy-five years ago today, the film version of Gone with the Wind premiered in Atlanta. It remains one of the most beloved classics in American cinema and holds the number six spot on the American Film Institute (AFI) list of 100 Greatest American Films. Cast, crew and history concur that the daunting task of transforming book-to-film would have been impossible without the passion and drive of one man, producer David O. Selznick. Flying in the face of naysayers insisting costume epics were passé and that civil war movies always lost money, Selznick Studios paid $50,000 for the screen rights to Margaret Mitchell’s phenomenally successful bestseller only a month after publication. The book, not incidentally, was first entitled Tomorrow Is Another Day and had a...

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Dubai in Dixie

“Why was Atlanta so different from the other Georgia towns? Why did it grow so fast? After all, it had nothing whatsoever to recommend it—only its railroads and a lot of pushy people.” Anyone visiting this astonishing boomtown, as I did recently, might wonder the same thing, but the question was posed in 1936 by Atlanta writer Margaret Mitchell in her novel…well, you know. She expressed more such views through her heroine Scarlett O’Hara who, “had always liked Atlanta for the very same reasons that made Savannah, Augusta and Macon condemn it. Like herself, the town was a mixture of the old and the new in Georgia, in which the old often came off second best in its conflicts with the self-willed and vigorous new.” Mitchell’s presentiments may seem eerie, but it’s...

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