Seventy-five years ago this week, record numbers of moviegoers made their way to Raleigh’s State Theatre to see the much-anticipated “Gone With the Wind.”
More persons than make up the entire population of the City of Raleigh will have seen “Gone With the Wind” when the film epic finishes its twice extended engagement at the State Theatre Wednesday, W. G. Enloe, city manager for the N. C. Theatres, Inc., said yesterday.
Before “Gone With the Wind,” he said, “The Jazz Singer,” in which Al Jolson opened talking pictures in the United States, held attendance records here.
Enloe believes the delay in issuing “Gone With the Wind” aided the film’s success. “There was so much anticipation and publicity,” he said, “that the picture was an assured hit a year before it ever was shown.”
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“Many persons here have seen the picture two and even three times,” Enloe remarked. “I would say that 10 percent of our attendance is repeat business. This is phenomenal when you consider that the production runs for four hours.” The N&O Feb. 24, 1940
Of particular interest was how Southerners would be portrayed to the rest of the world through this movie. Susan Myrick, a newspaperwoman from Macon, Ga., and technical adviser on the film, addressed a Raleigh audience at the Ambassador Theater and discussed the six months she spent in Hollywood ensuring the authenticity of Southern accents and manners. Her talk was sponsored by The News and Observer, and admission was free with a coupon printed in the newspaper. Columnist Nell Battle Lewis presided.
The talk was highlighted by some choice anecdotes from the filming of the super-movie and by a sensible discussion of regional accents.
Describing her fear on going to Hollywood that the Selznick studios would make GWTW speech sound like “Tobacco Road,” Miss Myrick said after many conferences it was decided to have the white characters speak with the accepted American accent represented by the best radio announcers and actors – “the kind that belongs to no particular region.”
Flavor was achieved, she said, by faithfully borrowing from Margaret Mitchell’s novel a wealth of Southern idiom. Except in rare instances, no G’s were dropped “even though you and I know that we Southerners are careless with our speech and leave a bushel basket full of G’s lying around after a conversation.”
Although she said she succeeded in getting Gable to “give up his R’s for the sake of the Confederacy,” Miss Myrick concluded that attempting to teach Southern accent to Yankees and Britishers would have resulted in a caricature. Besides, she said, there are many Southern accents, all different.
A confirmed reader of etiquette books of the sixties, Miss Myrick said it was difficult to convince the cast gathered to reproduce the barbecue at Twelve Oaks that Southern beaux and belles of that day did not hold hands and put arms around each other.
“In those days, there was no red nail polish, either, and no lady would think of crossing her legs. She put them side by side, with her feet flat on the floor. She might, under great strain, cross her ankles, but never, no never, her knees!” The N&O Feb. 3, 1940
Myrck’s qualifications for the job included being born in middle Georgia, being the daughter of a Confederate soldier, and knowing “by instinct” the manners and customs of the South, and she evidently took her post quite seriously.
She saw to it that no one used “you all” for the singular. The N&O Jan. 28, 1940
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