The first scene filmed for Gone With The Wind (1939) was the burning of the Atlanta Depot. And it remains some of the most iconic film images of all time.
Shot on December 10, 1938, using some nine cameras — including all seven of Hollywood’s then-existing Technicolor cameras, the 40 acre set was actually many old MGM sets that needed to be cleared from the studio backlot. Flames 500 feet high leaped from old sets, including the “Great Skull Island Wall” set from King Kong. The fire was so intense, Culver City residents, thinking MGM was burning down, jammed the telephones lines with their frantic calls. Ten pieces of fire equipment from the Los Angeles Fire Department, 50 studio firemen, and 200 other studio help stood by throughout the filming; three 5,000-gallon water tanks were used to put out the flames after shooting. This and other costs put the bill for this famous film fire at over $25,000 for a yield of 113 minutes of footage (some of which was later used in other films; for more on this and the special effects in Gone With The Wind, see Matte Shot).
Now it seems fire plays another role in Gone With The Wind; on February 10, 2012, a fire spread through Hudson Self-Storage in Stockbridge, Georgia. Though firefighters extinguished the fire, all 400 storage units and their contents were damaged, sustaining some degree of fire, smoke, or water damage. Among the storage units, was one leased by the Road to Tara Museum, containing rare memorabilia from Gone With The Wind.
While many items remain safe in the museum, such as the priceless signed first editions of the movie script, Frenda Turner of the Road to Tara Museum fears much of the $300,000 collection in storage was lost. Turner said that among the items not currently on display at the Jonesboro museum and stored in the unit included the large oval paintings of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh seen hanging prominently from the front of the Loew’s Grand Theatre during the movie premier — Loew’s itself caught fire on January 30, 1978, the damage led to the demolition of the historic venue.
Frankly, my dear, we do give a damn.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and local authorities are investigating for signs of arson.