1900 - 1949
Margaret Mitchell, who wrote the best-selling novel Gone With The Wind, died August 16, 1949. She was 48.
Mitchell was born November 8, 1900 in Atlanta, Georgia. She attended a local seminary before going to Smith College in 1918. A year later, her mother died, and she returned home.
Working as a reporter for the Atlanta Journal for four years, she injured her ankle in 1926 and left her job to pursue a career of writing novels.
Ironically her one and only work would make her a worldwide celebrity. After her forced retirement from the Atlanta Journal, Mitchell began writing a book about the old South, its antebellum plantation life, and the havoc wreaked after the Civil War.
Her main character, Scarlett O’Hara was a self-willed conniving woman who would do anything to get her way.
Mitchell had virtually finished Gone With The Wind in 1930, but shelved it for another five years until she was persuaded to submit it for publication. Its reception in the literary world was phenomenal.
In the first six months after its release to the public, the book sold 1 million copies, sometimes as high as 50,000 copies in one day. Gone With The Wind became the biggest publishing bonanza in U.S. history. By 1965, it had sold 12 million copies and had been translated into 25 languages in 40 countries.
Mitchell’s novel received the Pulitzer Prize in 1937. Hollywood came knocking and a major motion picture deal was made. Mitchell sold the rights to her book for $50,000 and producer David O. Selznick initiated a worldwide search for an actress to play Scarlett.
Vivien Leigh got the part and went on to win an Oscar for her portrayal in the 1939 film which won 11 Academy Awards. During the next 20 years, Gone With The Wind would be the biggest moneymaker in movie history.
Many observers say the overnight fame and notoriety stifled Mitchell’s writing ability. She never attempted another novel, and died tragically in an automobile accident in Atlanta on August 16, 1949.