Waterford author tracks ‘Gone With the Wind’ history in new book

Pauline Bartel and the cover of her new book.

Pauline Bartel and the cover of her new book.

WATERFORD Over the years, Waterford author Pauline Bartel has become a leading authority on the history behind the iconic film “Gone With the Wind.”

Her latest book “Gone With the Wind: 1939 Day by Day,” builds upon that reputation.

It’s one of several Bartel has penned on the classic film, based on the Margaret Mitchell novel by the same name. The book chronicles the production, premieres and reception of the film, which, in Bartel’s view, remains today.

She fell in love with the film somewhat reluctantly as a teenager growing up in Poughkeepsie.

Her mother asked her if she’d like to see it at the theater during Christmas vacation from school in 1968.

“I knew nothing about the plot. I knew nothing about it at all. And frankly, I felt that spending four hours in a theater was a colossal waste of my teenage time,” Bartel said.

But her mother made her a deal she couldn’t resist: go to the movie and Bartel could drive to the theater.

“So I drove to the theater and when we approached the parking lot there was a line that came from the box office all the way into the parking lot. [There] must have been 50 to 100 people on that line. I was astounded,” Bartel said.

Her curiosity was piqued and she settled in for the nearly four-hour-long movie.

“I sat absolutely mesmerized by that film. By the end of the movie, I was in tears and in love with that spectacular film. That afternoon proved to be a turning point in my life,” Bartel said.

After that, she started collecting newspaper articles and memorabilia surrounding the film and rewatched it many times. Her passion for the film later inspired her writing career.

Bartel started writing books thanks to several writing courses she took at the University at Albany while working an unfulfilling job. A professor there encouraged her to pursue non-fiction writing and helped secure her first book deal with publisher Franklin Watts.

Her second, “The Complete Gone With the Wind Trivia Book,” published by Taylor Trade Publishing, was released in celebration of the film’s 50th anniversary. That book swept her up in a whirlwind of sorts. As part of a press tour, the publisher sent her to a 50th-anniversary celebration in Atlanta, Georgia, where Bartel got to meet some of the surviving cast members, including Rand Brooks who played Charles Hamilton, Fred Crane who played Brent Tarleton, Evelyn Keyes who played Suellen O’Hara, and others.

“This was an indescribable moment for me. I had loved that film for so many years. And to think that I was meeting people that were in that movie, I just can’t describe what that was for me,” Bartel said.

The book landed her a spot on national television, including Entertainment Tonight.

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Next, Bartel wrote “The Complete Gone With the Wind Sourcebook,” geared more toward collectors. She has written a few other books unrelated to the film since then, but shortly before the pandemic, she got the idea to write a book that not only looked at what happened on the most notable production days of “Gone With the Wind,” but the production, premieres and reception of the film during each day of 1939.

“It’s a deeper dive, my newest book than my previous ‘Gone With the Wind’ trivia books,” Bartel said.

Entries for each day are broken down into three categories: In the Spotlight, Behind the Scenes and In the News. Bartel shares the trials, tribulations and triumphs of producer David O. Selznick and others before, during and after principal filming. She also highlights press speculation and reporting about the film’s casting and production.

One entry, dated Thursday, May 18 discusses how the strain of filming was getting to Vivien Leigh, who told reporter Harrison Carroll that she stays in bed most of the day on Sundays.

Throughout the book, four sidebars compliment the entries with commentary about the cast, the crew and the chaos of filming.

“Fans who really love this movie will just absolutely enjoy and get a kick out of those insider analyses about the film that the casual fan might not get or might not appreciate. But the diehard fans such as me, would get it and love it,” Bartel said.

There’s also a series of photos from filming and even storyboards from the production.

The research required to write it was extensive and gave her something to zero in on during the pandemic.

“I could focus on that and tune out what was going on in the world with COVID because it was such a frightening time,” said Bartel, who also ghostwrites and coaches fellow authors and is an instructor at Hudson Valley Community College and SUNY Adirondack.

The book was released in July of this year and so far it’s been well received, especially by fans of the film.

The movie’s enduring popularity is in part thanks to its message, according to Bartel.

“At its heart ‘Gone With the Wind’ is a story of survival. The main message is the last line delivered in the movie when Scarlett O’Hara says, ‘I’ll think of some way to get him back.’ [After all,] tomorrow is another day.’ That message resonated with people in 1939 when they needed hope that tomorrow would indeed be a better day,” Bartel said. She added that viewers were battling the Great Depression at the time and viewers today are facing plenty of global issues as well.

“But ‘Gone With the Wind’ shows viewers in 2022 and beyond, that if they’re brave and determined, if they let nothing stand in their way, like Scarlet, they can survive,” Bartel said.

For more information on the book, visit paulinebartel.com.

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