“If the novel has a theme it is that of survival”

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Following a trip to the Hollywood Costume Exhibition at the V&A (a kind of busman’s holiday for me, but quite a pleasant one) I was reminded, while studying Vivien Leigh’s costumes from Gone With The Wind that I had never got round to a planned post about my trip to the Margret Mitchell Museum in Atlanta in June of this year.

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Following a busy “working jolly” to Atlanta I had it in my mind that Mitchell had died from Tuberculosis, but its turns out, as normal I was wrong. she was hit by a speeding car as she crossed Peachtree street at 13th street in Atlanta with her husband, John Marsh, while on her way to see a movie on the evening of August 11, 1949 and later died. She never suffered from TB

My other reason for my visit was that The Margret Mitchell house is much like Keats House, a great writers past residence, in which magic was created and one to which people still flock

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Her apartment was set out as if she has just popped out, with dishes in the sink etc. As like many creative’s housework was not high on her list of important tasks.

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Her early drafts of the book and the typewriter on which she wrote the novel are also on display

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There is a whole gallery devoted to the film and here lies a real link to TB, as Vivien Leigh, suffered and died from from TB

Vivien Leigh, was (and still is) praised for her beauty, but she often felt that it prevented her from being taken seriously as an actress, but her greatest challenge often proved to be her poor health. For much of her adult life Leigh suffered from bipolar disorder and she earned a reputation for being difficult to work with. She also suffered recurrent bouts of chronic TB, which she was first diagnosed in the mid-1940s.

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In May 1967, she was rehearsing to appear with Michael Redgrave in Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance when she suffered a recurrence of TB. Following a few weeks of rest, she seemed to recover. On the night of 7 July 1967, Merivale left her as usual, to perform in a play, returning home around midnight to find her asleep. About half an hour later, he returned to the bedroom and discovered her body on the floor. She had been attempting to walk to the bathroom and, as her lungs filled with liquid, collapsed and died. She was 53.

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On talking to the staff at the end of my visit I discovered another TB link, Margret Mitchell was related to the famous American gambler, gunfighter and dentist of the American Old West, John Henry “Doc” Holliday (August 14, 1851 – November 8, 1887) Who is normally remembered for his friendship with Wyatt Earp and his involvement in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

As a young man, Holliday earned a degree in dentistry and set up a practice in Atlanta, Georgia. but in 1873 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, the same disease that had claimed his mother when he was just 15. He then moved to the American southwest in hopes that the climate would prolong his life.

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Holliday took up gambling as a profession, and acquired a reputation as a deadly gunman. By 1887 Holliday was prematurely aging and badly ailing, he made his way to the Hotel Glenwood, near the hot springs of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Like many before and after him he hoped to take advantage of the reputed curative power of the waters, but the sulfurous fumes from the spring may have done his lungs more harm than good. Holliday died on November 8, 1887. He was 36

My visit proved interesting in ways I had not expected, but I should confess that I have not read Gone with the wind (sorry!) and struggled to make it through the whole film (So Sorry!!) so the fact that I was touched by Mitchell’s story is testament to the interpretation at the Margaret Mitchell Historical House.

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About lholmes4keats

I have worked with Museums across the UK for the last ten years making costumes for exhibitions on everything from The Titanic to Tyrannosaurs. I have Run workshops and lectures on costume both nationally and internationally, my work has featured in exhibitions, films and theatre productions both nationally and internationally. In 2011 I curated The Needle is always at hand, an exhibition of dress based on Fanny Brawne's life while she lived at Keats House.
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