At the tender age of 10, John Wiley Jr. was taken by his mother to see Gone with the Wind. “To this day I remember coming out of that theater. I grew up in Lynchburg, a small town in Virginia, and I just felt like I had known these people. Those characters, they’re living, breathing people, and they just grabbed me.” He insisted on reading the book, and took out a copy of Margaret Mitchell’s inimitable tale of the South from the local bookmobile in 1968. “I had to get special permission, because it was an adult book. It took me about a month to read and it was the best thing I’d ever read.” Then he was hooked and had to get his own paperback copy of the book, and then his own hardcover version. “In my teenage years I discovered that there were foreign editions of the book, and that absolutely fascinated me.”
Over the years, thanks to antiquarian booksellers, personal connections, and eBay and the like, Wiley has put together a collection of Gone with the Wind memorabilia that legions of book and movie fans would envy. Among the 10,000-plus items he’s amassed over the years , which includes 800 editions of the book from around the world, are items like the following.
• The printing plate for the original dust jacket of the book. “I bought it from a book dealer in New Jersey. He got it from an estate auction of a former traveler [salesman] for Macmillan.
• One of the bound presentation scripts of GWTW that producer David O. Selznick gave to people associated with the movie. Says Wiley, “I have the one he inscribed to John Hertz [of Hertz Rent-a-car], who was an original investor in Selznick International Pictures. I purchased it at auction.”
• A ticket stub from the movie premiere at Loew’s Grand Theatre in Atlanta on December 15, 1939. The collector notes, “More than 80,000 requests were received for the 2,031 tickets available to the premiere.”
• A woman’s girdle, which came out in 1940, that has a pink “Scarlett O Hara” tag on it. “After an article appeared about my collection, a woman called and told me she had found a “Scarlett O’Hara” girdle in a box of things she had bought at a yard sale, so I purchased it from her.”
Wiley is at BEA to promote his second Gone with the Wind book. The first, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind: A Bestseller Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood, (Taylor Trade, 2012) co-authored with rare book dealer Ellen Brown, was published to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the publication of the book. His latest , The Scarlett Letters: The Making of the Film Gone with the Wind (Taylor Trade , Oct.) features a collection of letters written by Margaret Mitchell that showcases her view of the making of the film based on her book, and honors the 75th anniversary of the release of the film. Wiley tells Show Daily, “She was such a great letter writer, and I thought, let’s give her perspective of the movie.”
Wiley adds, “Throughout her life she kept telling people, ‘I have nothing to do with the movie, don’t bother me. I can’t help you get the part of Scarlett’—that type of thing. But when you read her letters, she was as fascinated as everybody else with what was going on. She’d get little gossipy tidbits, even though she took this hands-off approach; she really was as much a fan as anybody else.”
The author is signing galleys today at the Taylor booth (1124A) at 1 p.m. The publisher is also holding a drawing: the winner will get a copy of Wiley’s first book, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, and from Wiley’s collection a motion picture edition of the novel that was published in December of 1939 that features 12 color plates from the movie and a 2-disc DVD of the movie. As an added bonus, BEA attendees can stop by the booth at any time to get their picture taken with Scarlett O’Hara.