This morning I had the pleasure of sitting down with Sally Tippett Rains, a St. Louis based writer, to discuss her new book. She’s a delightful person! She even gave me a sneak peek at her upcoming book: The Making of a Masterpiece: The True Story of Margaret Mitchell’s Classic Novel ‘Gone with the Wind’. The soft cover book covers the topic of Gone with the Wind–the book, film, and legend. The book, published by Global Book Publishers in Beverly Hills, California (www.bookpubintl.com), is 371 pages long and due out in November, making its debut at the Marietta event. This book contains new, never-told interviews and information about the phenomenon that is Gone with the Wind! For more information about Mrs. Rains, please visit her website at http://www.writeasrains.net/
V-L.COM: What inspired you to write about Gone with the Wind?
Sally Tippett Rains: My natural curiosity. I had read the book and seen the movie, so when I read about the possibilities that Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara may have been based on real people it got me going. I started doing research and found out some incredible things.
V-L.COM: Like What?
Sally Tippett Rains: Since this is the Vivien Leigh website, I would like to mention something about her. Mickey Kuhn, who played Beau Wilkes was also in A Streetcar Named Desire with her. I was fortunate enough to get to talk to Mickey and when he talks about his memories of Vivien Leigh his whole face just lights up. He loved her. Even though Mickey was a child in GWTW, she remembered him and took a great interest in him when they appeared together in Streetcar. He has a story, which I relay in my book about how when she found out he was in the movie, she arranged to meet with him and they talked for quite a while. She asked him all about his life and his career and did not act like a big star, full of herself. He remembers her as a big star, but one who was very caring and kind. “No one can say a bad word about Vivien Leigh to me,” he said.
V-L.COM: Who did you interview or meet during the research process?
Sally Tippett Rains: At this point the question is really, who didn’t I meet? I talked to about 75 people while doing my research, starting with authors of books I had read on Margaret Mitchell or Gone With The Wind; then I expanded it to historians and collectors. As I would interview one person he or she would say, “oh you should talk to so and so.” That was how I got to interview five of the actors from the movie and eventually a cousin of Margaret Mitchell’s.
V-L.COM: Do you have any anecdotes you’d like to share about the research/writing process?
Sally Tippett Rains: One of the most exciting was on one of my many trips to Atlanta when I first met Margaret Mitchell’s cousin. We had planned to meet for breakfast and she was a little late. When she got there she told me she could not find something she wanted to show me, but she found some of her grandmother’s things and I was welcome to look at any of it. She produced a wrinkled plastic bag with various items in it…including a family scrapbook. Since I’d read biographies of Margaret Mitchell I knew the names of her elderly aunts who had lived at Rural Home, the family estate. There in the scrapbook were the pictures of “Aunt Mamie” and “Aunt Sis.” They were the ones from whom she had heard so many stories about the Civil War. There was a picture of Rural Home and stories about their relatives.
V-L.COM: What topics does your book explore?
Sally Tippett Rains: The book started out just talking about the real people who could have provided inspiration for some of Margaret Mitchell’s characters in Gone With The Wind, but it ended up going way beyond that. I was fortunate enough to meet the sons of Marcella Rabwin, who was producer David O.. Selznick’s executive assistant. Marcella had been involved in every aspect of Gone With The Wind and her sons, Mark Rabwin and Paul Rabwin were so nice and helpful. They provided me with pictures, which I used in my book of their mother. One is of Marcella wearing the “green sprigged dress” that Scarlett wore. It was at an antebellum costume party and their good friends Lucile Ball and Desi Arnaz are in costume with them.
V-L.COM: How is your book different from other Gone with the Wind books available?
Sally Tippett Rains: All of the books are different and that is the great thing for readers who love to read about Gone With The Wind. The biggest way mine is different is that I had access to the family scrapbook. I quote from it, use pictures from it and compare events mentioned in the book to storylines in Margaret Mitchell’s book.
V-L.COM: What are some special features of your book?
Sally Tippett Rains: The cover features artwork from a 100-foot painting by Stephen Verona, commissioned in 1989 by Ted Turner, Turner Entertainment, and MGM to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the film’s release. Stephen Verona is an award-winning artist, and was the director of The Lords Of Flatbush starring Henry Winkler and Sylvester Stallone, so I was honored that my book got to feature his artwork. Another fun thing about my book is there is a “Book Club” section in the back with discussion questions and bonus material. The pictures are also fantastic. I have a picture of Margaret Mitchell’s great-grandfather, Philip Fitzgerald that has been in storage for years.
V-L.COM: You’re involved in an upcoming television documentary about your book and Gone with the Wind. What can you tell us about the production?
Sally Tippett Rains: At the time of this writing we are in the pre-production phase, although we have already shot six interviews. I was fortunate that the same people putting on the event in Marietta helped me set up the interviews with the actors. Connie Sutherland and Dr. Chris Sullivan do a great job with their events and I would encourage everyone to try to attend it.
V-L.COM: And just for fun, how many times have you watched GWTW?
Sally Tippett Rains: I have watched it so many times (like many GWTW fans!) I can pretty much tell what is coming next and quote from it. I find myself using quotes from the movie in my everyday life. Example: If I don’t feel like doing something I might say, “I won’t do it, I tell you I won’t do it!” Scarlett O’Hara fans might remember Ashley Wilkes saying this to Scarlett.
V-L.COM: Do you think Scarlett O’Hara got Rhett Butler back in the end?
Sally Tippett Rains: I’m guessing yes, eventually. Women like that seem to get whatever they want, and men like that seem to fall for it. I saw the movie as a child and then as an adult. The older I get, the less I see Rhett was a “cad” and the more I see the really caring father and friend that he turned out to be. (The really handsome caring father and friend!)
V-L.COM: This year marks the 70th anniversary of the film, Gone with the Wind, and in honor of the film, the Marietta GWTW Museum is hosting a Re-Premiere weekend November 13 and 14. You, along with castmates Ann Rutherford, Mary Anderson, Mickey Kuhn, Patrick Curtis, and Greg Geise, will participate in celebrating this legendary film. What does Gone with the Wind mean to you?
Sally Tippett Rains: Gone With The Wind was an amazing book and movie, and it means a lot to me because I got to write this book. I enjoyed meeting all the wonderful people I met doing research for my book and I got to talk about Gone With The Wind every day. I appreciate Ann Rutherford, Mickey Kuhn, Cammie King, Patrick Curtis, Greg Giese, and the late Fred Crane all for talking to me.
V-L.COM: Thank you for answering my questions. I’m so looking forward to your book! Stay tuned for more GWTW Interviews this week! And don’t forget to enter the November Contest for your chance to win a copy of Mrs. Rains book.