by: Angela Danovi
This past weekend I had the incredible honor of attending the 2014 Marshfield Cherry Blossom Festival in Marshfield, Missouri. The Marshfield Cherry Blossom Festival is an event unlike any other that features family members and descendants of our former presidents, extended members of the Royal Family, descendants of important historical figures, former television and film actors, and panelists who discuss topics from pop culture and film to American history.
It was in honor of this very special year, that I was asked to moderate a panel in celebration of the 75th anniversary of Gone With the Wind. The panel included three very special guests: Joe Yakovetic, a commissioned artist for Warner Brothers who has painted many scenes honoring Gone With the Wind; Anne Edwards, author of Vivien Leigh: A Biography and Road to Tara: The Life of Margaret Mitchell (scheduled for re-release on June 23, 2014); and Dr. Chris Sullivan, owner of the Bengaline Gown and the collection featured at the Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum.
GWTW panelists at the Marshfield Cherry Blossom Festival (left to right): Angela Danovi, moderator and GWTW social media administrator; Joe Yakovetic, commissioned GWTW artist; Anne Edwards, author of Margaret Mitchell and Vivien Leigh biographies; and Chris Sullivan, owner of the GWTW collection featured in Marietta, GA.
The panel was a great delight for me to moderate as I shared the stage with three people whom I have admired for many years, most especially Miss Anne Edwards whose books I first approached when I was in middle school. As always, Anne brought her charisma to the discussion as she talked about tracing Margaret Mitchell's steps in writing her biography Road to Tara: The Life of Margaret Mitchell. Anne also told this audience that her unpublished sequel to GWTW will go into public domain and thus become available to the public sometime around 2026! I will not forget this information, ever!! Chris amazed us all sharing his experiences of restoring the Bengaline Gown and giving us some insight on how costumes differed in real life from what we saw on screen. Amazingly, he shared with us that the waist of the costume is actually 2 inches smaller than Scarlett's dimensions at 16 inches. Joe brought over 20 slides matching fashion plates of the time to the GWTW costumes that we see on screen, connecting the real clothes and designs to the film and the work of Walter Plunkett.
One of the highlights of the panel was sharing Ann Rutherford stories. Ann was loved by everyone, especially those associated with Gone With the Wind. Each of us took the opportunity to share our favorite stories from our time with her and I think my favorite and the most memorable of the day was the story of driving with Ann in a 1960-something car that only had 32,000 miles and Ann informing her passenger that she only made right-hand turns!
It's these kinds of stories and experiences that are so important for us to share because the lives, spirits, and passion of those who were directly affiliated with GWTW live on through the sharing of stories and I am glad I was able to be a part of it.
Probably the highlight of the panel and of the festival happened before anyone on stage said anything about GWTW because a surprise was awaiting all of us.
Before our panel began, we were all treated to a special recorded message from Miss de Havilland to Nicholas Inman, festival chair, the GWTW panel, and the attendees and participants of the Marshfield Cherry Blossom Festival. It was a special moment as time seemed to stop and we all heard Miss de Havilland's message for us for the first time. It is with great pleasure that I am able to share the message with you now...
Message from Olivia de Havilland to the Marshfield Cherry Blossom Festival
How I wish I could be with you who have gathered together at Marshfield, Missouri’s Cherry Blossom Festival to celebrate not only the beauty of its cherry blossoms and the history of our country, but also the 75th anniversary of Gone with the Wind – a film which, with its universal theme, its beloved characters and their interpreters has touched the hearts of people all over the world for seven and a half decades.
What makes this year’s Festival even more meaningful to me is that the Cherry Blossom Festival Committee has chosen to dedicate it to Alicia Rhett, as India Wilkes – Alicia, who has recently rejoined our fellow cast members in The Great Plantation in the Sky – and also, as Melanie Hamilton Wilkes, to me, still on this side of Heaven.
It is an honor I value deeply and for which I am profoundly grateful to the Cherry Blossom Festival Committee and to The Reverend Nicholas Inman.
I am certain it is an honor also deeply valued by Alicia – and that she and her companions: Vivien, Clark, Leslie, Hattie, Butterfly, and all those others who have long been reunited, are now, seated on their favorite veranda, mint juleps in hand, ready to join me in a toast not only to the Cherry Blossom Festival Committee and Reverend Inman, but also to you each of every one of you.
May this be for you have a memorable weekend, full of happy experiences which you will treasure all your lives.
~ Olivia de Havilland
Thank you to Joe, Anne, and Chris who were so welcoming me to me all weekend. As excited as I was, I was also incredibly nervous to live up to the standards you have set when sharing your talents through GWTW to others. Thank you for your kindness and friendship. Thank you to Nicholas Inman, chair of the Marshfield Cherry Blossom Festival and a good friend, for inviting me to moderate and including me in the festival. I must admit I've daydreamed about being on an organizing committee for the 100th anniversary in 2039 (when I'll be 61) but I really never expected to play a significant role in any celebration for GWTW's 75th. You gave me this special opportunity to share GWTW in your hometown and with your friends and family and I will never forget it. I also thank Nicholas for reaching out so successfully to Miss de Havilland and to Miss de Havilland for sending such a beautiful and timeless message to all of us for the festival and the 75th anniversary of Gone With the Wind.
A few photos from the Marshfield Cherry Blossom Festival
To learn more about the cherry blossom festival or to make plans to visit the 2015 Marshfield Cherry Blossom Festival, please visit http://www.cherryblossomfest.com/
About the Blog
Olivia de Havilland has reached her centenary! July 1, 2016 marks her 100th birthday! Olivia stands as the oldest living recipient of an Academy Award and is a member of a class of only four other women currently living to receive at least two best actress Academy Awards! Her career, life, and legacy continue to inspire and engage generations of fans around the world!
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