It’s the birthday of novelist Margaret Mitchell (books by this author), born in Atlanta (1900), author of Gone With the Wind, which won the 1936 Pulitzer Prize. Her father was president of the Atlanta Historical Society, and she grew up hearing tales of the Confederacy. Before writing her one novel, she was a reporter for the Atlanta Journal for six years, then spent 10 years researching and writing her panoramic tale of the Civil War and Reconstruction from a Southern point of view.
For many years, Gone with the Wind remained the greatest publishing success ever, selling a record 1,383,000 copies its first year (50,000 in a single day). The movie came out in 1939, won the Best Picture Academy Award the next spring, and went on to make more money than any other film for more than two decades. By the time Mitchell died at 48, after being hit by a taxi while crossing an Atlanta street, 8 million copies of her novel had been sold in 40 countries.
She was stunned by her book’s phenomenal success. In a thank-you note to a reviewer, she wrote: “I haven’t any literary style, and I know it, but have never been able to do anything about it. I am very conscious of my lack in this particular, and I was expecting more brickbats about it than any other thing.”