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The Continuing War EDITED BY RICHARD B. HARWELL 35 Malvern Avenue, Apt. 5 Richmond, Virginia Dm rhett butler return to Scarlett o'hara? After twenty years millions of readers would still like to know. What would happen to the strong-willed Georgia woman without him? "My dear," said Rhett, "I don't give a damn." But a generation of readers did, and the public continues to read Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind, if not as The Great American Novel, certainly as the great American yam. Published twenty years ago (June 30, 1936), Gone With the Wind took the American public by storm. In scarcely three months after its appearance it sold more than half a million copies, sometimes at the rate of fifty thousand a day. By the end of 1936 the total was approaching the million mark and had passed it long before the book's first anniversary . It was the publishing phenomenon of the century. Motion picture rights were sold for a record (yet a bargain) price. Almost overnight its author became a person of international fame. GWTW is still one of the most widely read books in the world. Total sales are over eight million copies. Its printings in English have run to more than five million copies. Every year it sells more than most best sellers. As late as 1954, in only nine months time, the Doubleday reprints alone (exclusive of Macmillan's editions ) sold over 861,000 copies. (Later figures are not yet available.) It is available in twenty-four languages and in editions from thirty-three countries. Its appeal has been almost as strong in Germany, Scandinavia, or Japan as in the Old South. Severely trimmed for its movie version, it was the longest commercially successful motion picture at the time of its release. The length of its runs were equally record-breaking. Its Atlanta opening in 1939 outshone the gaudiest Hollywood gala. Its continuous runs in London 147 148RICHARD ?. HARWELL Poster used to advertise Gone With the Wind in Warsaw. The original is now in the Atlanta Public Library. The Continuing War149 and Berlin put even Atlanta to shame. Five times around the circuit of United States theatres, the film is still a fabulously valuable property and (at approximately $40,000,000) is the record money-making movie of all time. If there is a special secret that brought success to Gone With the Wind, no one has been able to discover it — or, if to discover it, no one has been able to duplicate it It was the right novel at the right time, a rousing tale of man and woman told against the background of war and of comeback from the misfortunes of war. It was eagerly gobbled up by a depression audience equally hungry for success and for entertainment. For, along with its other merits, GWTW was a bargain: 1,037 pages of first-rate entertainment for only $3.00. From the beginning Gone With the Wind was received enthusiastically by the public. In Atlanta bookstores copies were virtually rationed as demand ran ahead of supply. Generous at first in inscribing copies, Miss Mitchell, after sales had passed the million mark, was forced to refuse the multitudinous requests for autographed copies and to attempt a retreat to a private life she would never know again. Strangers besieged her. Reporters hounded her. Only in the months immediately before her tragic death in August 1949 was she able to enjoy in relative peace a quiet, unostentatious apartment with her husband, John R. Marsh. Critical reception of Gone With the Wind was almost as enthusiastic as the public's. Sober judges of good books acclaimed it. Novelist Ellen Glasgow wrote: "Gone With the Wind is a fearless portrayal, romantic yet not sentimental, of a lost tradition and a way of life." Another Southern author of a distinguished novel of the Confederacy, Charleston's DuBose Heyward, called it "as fine a novel as has come out of our generation ." Julia Peterkin nominated it "the best novel that has ever come out of the South . . . unsurpassed in the whole of American writing." In the New York Times Donald Adams agreed that it was...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 147-152
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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