- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 25, 2002

NEW YORK — You'd never know this was a Yankee town. Dozens of devoted fans of the classic Southern film "Gone With the Wind," some wearing Vivien Leigh photos as earrings, gathered yesterday to bid on the renowned collection of Sharpsburg, Ga., collector Herb Bridges.

More than 348 lots everything from scripts to "Gone With the Wind" board games to Madame Alexander "Scarlett" dolls were auctioned off in two two-hour sessions at Christie's offices in Rockefeller Center.

"This is the first time Christie's has dedicated a full auction to one film," said spokeswoman Bendetta Roux, adding that it was "an exceptional collection."

At the day's end, 98 percent of the lots had been sold, for a total of $334,588.

The day's biggest money-grabber was the wool sweater worn by Olivia de Havilland in two of the beloved movie's key scenes: when her character Melanie meets Ashley at the train station and when she accepts prostitute Belle Watling's money for the hospital. The sweater was expected to sell for no more than $6,000, but fetched an eye-popping $16,730.

Former Hollywood makeup artist Jim Tumblin purchased the item for his "Gone With the Wind" Movie Museum in Marietta, Ga.

An off-white cotton petticoat worn by Vivien Leigh as Scarlett in the movie had been expected to garner the highest bids. But the item fetched $6,572, no more than what had been anticipated.

But many items, including a movie poster from 1939 that sold for $3,800, sold at higher-than-expected prices.

A few items were less popular than expected. Bound copies of the Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitution newspapers from 1939 that were supposed to sell for $1,000 to $1,500 went for less than $500.

Some fans were eager to get their hands on anything.

"I would love to have Rhett's vest or any of Rhett's clothes, and I would love to have them a lot more if he was still in them," said Ann Rossi of Glenside, Pa.

"I have always adored this movie since I was 7 years old, and I especially adore Clark Gable," she said. "I guess you could say I've always been a romanticist, and Clark Gable really does it for me."

Miss Rossi said some Hollywood bigwig was buying up lots of the items, and she wasn't sure she could compete. But she ended up winning some movie posters for a few hundred dollars.

The item most coveted by rabid fan Carol Cavenaugh of Lambertville, N.J., was a signed 1938 black-and-white photograph of Hattie McDaniel, who played the servant Mammy.

"She was my absolute favorite. She was just so fun to watch," Miss Cavenaugh said. "Of course, I wouldn't mind getting my hands on Clark Gable's top hat either. Who wouldn't?"

Another female fan said she would have "sold her soul" to have Rhett's fancy dress shirt with a ruffled front.

The one big-time "Gone With the Wind" fan missing from yesterday's auction was Mr. Bridges himself.

The retired mail carrier decided last year it was time to give up his collection of "Gone With the Wind" memorabilia, purported to be the world's largest, because his children didn't want it and he wanted to contribute money to his grandchildren's education.

The 72-year-old began amassing the collection in 1962 when he discovered a version of the book with photographs from the film for $1 while browsing in an Atlanta bookstore.

The most valuable item in his collection was said to be a 1938 hard-cover copy of the novel signed by the 1939 film's primary stars. It was owned by Ona Munson, who portrayed Belle Watling. The book fetched the day's second-highest price, $11,352.

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