Friday, September 18, 2009

'Gone With The Wind" Is Not Gone At All

(At left is a photo of Frank Coghlan Jr. as he appeared in "Gone With The Wind" as a collapsing Confederate soldier. Michael Jones collection)

I recently came across the obituary of an uncredited cast member of the Southern classic movie, "Gone With TheWind." His name was Frank Coghlan Jr. and he died 7 September 2009 at age 93 in Saugus, California. He just happened to be the actor who played in my favorite scene in the movie. It was in the part where, in the evacuation of Atlanta, a young Confederate soldier collapsed and is picked up and carried by an old veteran. I had no idea who the actor was until I saw that obituary.

Coghlan was very young when that scene was made, 23, and, according to his obituary, he had an interesting acting career, but spent prime working years serving his nation in the armed forces. But before he entered the Navy aviation program in World War II, he was one of the co-stars in the classic 1941 movie serial, "The Adventures of Captain Marvel." He played Billy Batson, the young man who would turn into Captain Marvel, played by Tom Tyler. He went on to become a naval aviator in the war and spent 23 years in the military.

Anyway, that got me to thinking about how important "Gone With The Wind," both the movie and the original novel by Margaret Mitchell, have been in preserving Confederate and Southern heritage, mostly from a Southern point-of-view. I saw the film for the first time when it was re-released in theaters, I believe, in 1961. It was a really big deal then in the days before it had ever been shown on TV and before videos, DVDs and Blu-ray.

But the popularity of the novel and the movie seen to transcend generation after generation. This year is the 70th anniversary of the movie's premier 15 Dec. 1939 in Atlanta, Ga. Reportedly, there is going to be a new "ultimate" DVD and Blu-ray collection of "Gone With The Wind" released amid a major advertising campaign. The book is still in print and continues to sell. I've even seen an original, first edition copy of the book on sale for $5,500. The movie is ranked as the highest ticket seller of any movie in North America or the Un ited Kingdom. The novel has sold 30 million copies since 1936.

It is very unlikely that anything having such an impact, from a mostly positive Southern point-of-view, will ever be made again. Fortunately, "Gone With The Wind" has not gone anywhere, and is more popular than ever.

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