On December 15, 1939, one of the biggest things to happen in Atlanta since the Civil War took place. The premier of the motion picture adaption of Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind” was held at the Lowe’s Grand Theater downtown. It was said at the time that more people lined Peachtree Street to see Clark Gable than had defended the city against Sherman.
My grandparents Evelyn & Rae Gideon were among the crowd that night who saw GWTW for the first time on the big screen.
Huddled with much of Atlanta on Peachtree Street outside the Lowe’s Grand, grandmother sat on granddaddy’s shoulders in order to see the celebrities over the crowd. The star she was most impressed with, however, was not in the movie. It was Carole Lombard, Clark Gable’s wife, a huge star in her own right. Grandmother often talked about how beautiful Ms. Lombard was in person, just like on the screen.
My grandfather had a tenuous connection to one of the stars, Evelyn Keyes, who played Scarlett’s sister Suellen. Ms. Keyes had attended the same school in Atlanta as my grandfather. I was never sure if they knew each other but given she was only a year younger than him, it’s certainly possible. At any rate, he liked to tell people he went to high school with one of the stars of Gone With the Wind.
They bought a program that night for a quarter that my grandmother kept and cherished. She passed it on to me when I was grown and I cherish is as well, as much for its connection to her as for its connection to Atlanta’s history.
Sadly, the Lowe’s Grand Theater was destroyed by fire in 1978. The Georgia Pacific building sits on the site today.