An extensive collection of Lithia Springs resident Warren Allen's “Gone With the Wind” memorabilia is on exhibit now through Jan. 15 at the Douglas County Museum of History and Art.
The exhibit can be described as a walk through time and survival during the Civil War and Reconstruction in the South, and focuses on both fictional and historic relics and art relating to both the book and subsequent star-studded, Academy Award-winning film.
Allen, who may be remembered by many locals as owner of Lithia Springs Florist for 19 years, is equally well known in collectors circles for his thirst for remnants of the timeless story in print and film, “Gone With the Wind” — which has shaped his collection of 40 years in many forms.
The American epic film “Gone With the Wind” came out in 1939, adapted from Atlantan Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel. The film won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress for Vivien Leigh and Best Supporting Actress for Hattie McDanel, who became the first African-American to win an Academy Award.
A native of Forest Park in Clayton County — near the backdrop for the novel —Allen became fascinated by “Gone With the Wind” from an early age, as his mother, Rena Allen, took him to see the movie at a drive-in theater at age 2. An admitted lover of history, Allen read Margaret Mitchell’s novel around the age of 14.
“I fell in love with it,” he said. “Once you read the novel, you cannot put it down. To think it happened in my own back yard.”
Allen began collecting “Gone With the Wind” items as a student at Georgia State University and has no intentions of ever slowing down.
“The collection has a life of its own,” he said. “Hopefully, someone will carry the flame on when I’m gone.”
Among his collection, Allen is most proud of the book, a first edition that was signed by the author herself. He calls it the “cornerstone of my collection — everything flows from that.”
While the first edition may be his collection’s cornerstone, it isn’t the most valuable piece in his collection.
He said the most rare was from the 500 WSB and WSB-TV “Gone With the Wind” editions, for which he searched many years before finding a copy. The other was the double volume of the book that came out during the time of the movie’s premier, which sold for $7.50 in 1939.
“McMillan took the book and divided it into two parts,” Allen said. “They didn’t sell well because they were so expensive.”
Although Allen has a large collection of “Gone With the Wind” dolls, including an original version of Madame Alexander’s “Scarlett O’Hara,” he is still looking for the “Scarlett” doll, double volume and stationary box that was in an old newspaper advertisement.
“I have the newspaper ad, and I always wanted the group as a focal point of the display,” Allen said. “I’m still collecting — there are still things to search for.”
Over the course of time, Allen had the opportunity to meet many of the cast members of “Gone With the Wind.” Most notable was actress Ann Rutherford, who played Scarlett’s sister “Careen,” and Fred Crane, who played “Brett Tarleton” and uttered the first lines in the movie.
“Ann Rutherford was 19 when the movie was made and she remembered everything in detail,” Allen said. He also became friends with Cammie King, who played “Bonnie Blue Butler" and Mickey Kuhn, who played “Beau Wilkes.”
Kuhn was the only actor who performed with Viven Leigh in both of her Academy Award-winning roles as Best Actress in “Gone With the Wind” and “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Allen said. Kuhn is also the only remaining male cast member still alive.
Allen traveled with a group to California in 2006 to attend the 90th birthday of Olivia de Havilland, who starred as “Melanie” in the movie. She was honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the Samuel Goldwin Theater.
He said she turned 101 on July 1 and has lived in Paris since the 1950s.
“Olivia was still as beautiful and generous as ever,” Allen said.
Allen said a highlight of the trip was when and he and the group got to put flowers on actress Hattie McDaniel’s grave. The American stage actress was best known for her role as “Mammy” in “Gone With the Wind.”
Allen pays homage to the actress in his collection with a number of items, including photos, figurines and a framed collection of 2006 39-cent stamps issued by the United States Postal Service as part of the Black Heritage Series.
"It has been a lot of fun to collect," Allen said of his passion. "People have given me things and I've given things to people I know who collect. I never get tired of collecting and sharing with others."
Allen’s fascinating collection can be viewed at the Douglas County Museum of History and Art Tuesday – Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The museum is located in the Old Douglas County Courthouse at 6754 West Broad Street in downtown Douglasville. Admission is free. Call the museum at 678-449-3939 for for more information.