The Los Angeles premiere of Gone with the Wind was 71 years ago this very evening. Jean Garceau, Clark and Carole’s faithful secretary, attended the event with them. Here is how she described it:
The theater was decorated inside and out in keeping with the background and theme of the film. Huge searchlights probed the sky, bands played, streets were roped off and uniformed attendants held back the crowds as the police permitted only those cars with passes to draw up in front of the theater.
A long flower-decked canopy extended to the sidewalk and a master of ceremonies stood there to welcome the stars, announce their names over a loudspeaker and guide them towards a battery of microphones and cameras where they paused to extend their greetings as camera flashbulbs popped and fans shrieked their approval. Then they proceeded down the canopied walk into the theater.
When [my husband Russ] and I arrived, I was a step ahead of him after we left our car. The flashbulbs were blinding and I lost him in the crowd, partly because my long velvet cape billowed out so far he couldn’t reach me and partly because I was trying to avoid the cameras. We didn’t find each other until we reached the entrance, which seemed an interminably long time for me. For months afterward, Russ accused me of “going Hollywood” and trying to shake him so I could “make an entrance.”
Clark and Carole’s car was right behind us. Irene had designed a princess-like gold lame evening gown ad cape for Carole and she was breathtakingly lovely in it. Pandemonium broke loose in the stands when the fans caught sight of the Gables, and they were mobbed by cameramen. They posed with Marion Davis and Raoul Walsh.
Father Gable, Edna and Pinkie were there too, but Father Gable, who refused to ever wear a tuxedo, preferred to arrive quietly and occupy the seats Clark had reserved for them without being identified. Gone with the Wind was the only premiere Clark’s father ever attended.
It was an unforgettable evening. Every star in Hollywood was there and I’ve never seen a more glittering array of gowns and jewels, for everyone comes to “see and be seen.” Russ and I felt very elegant.
Of course I thought the picture was wonderful and Clark was superb. But there was so much going on that I actually enjoyed the picture more when I went back later to see if for the second time.
The premiere was THE premiere of the year and all of classic Hollywood’s elite attended.
Of course, here’s Clark and Carole. Carole’s gown and wrap were described as “stippled gold”.
Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. Her ensemble was described as “a white ermine coat over [fuchsia] sequin-sprinkled souffle with its matching veil and sequined bag.”
Ginger Rogers, on the arm of GWTW costume designer Walter Plunkett. He also designed Ginger’s ensemble, which was described as “a very smart tunic gown of palest blue and silver lame, exactly matched by the turban which serves to conceal her currently dark hair. Her wrap is silver fox.” Fun fact: By the time the pictures were printed, everyone knew, but Ginger had dyed her hair brown for the first time for her role in The Primrose Path and wore the turban so nobody would know until that film’s premiere.
Norma Shearer and George Raft. Yet another white ermine wrap (I am sensing a trend!) Her dress was described as “blue appliqued satin.”