In preparation for the big event, a “Gone With the Wind” ball was held at the Charlotte Hotel, and a local woman was crowned as the city’s own “Scarlett O’Hara.” The following day, Charlotte’s “Scarlett” visited local businesses on a “thrilling Shopping Tour of Charlotte stores,” as billed by the Charlotte Observer. Chauffeured in a late-model Ford Mercury provided for the occasion by a local car dealer, “Scarlett” made stops at clothing stores, a dry cleaner and a candy shop featuring “Scarlett Chocolate,” among other Charlotte retailers.
When the movie opened, local film critics declared Gone With the Wind to be “the greatest motion picture drama of screen history” and an “experience that few moviegoers will ever forget.” During its first two weeks at the Carolina Theatre, the movie drew thousands of fans, and Gone With the Wind continued to play to sold-out audiences throughout its run in Charlotte.
Long after the film came and went, the thrill of seeing Gone With the Wind at the Carolina Theatre lived on in Charlotteans’ memories. Author Tom Wicker fondly recalled the excitement he experienced as a young child, traveling by train with his family to Charlotte to watch the movie: “I well remember riding with my mother and sister on a local train derisively called the Boll Weevil along the old Seaboard Air Line Railway to Charlotte, N.C., where at the Carolina Theater (sic) on Tryon Street we had mail-order tickets for the great event. Every seat was taken, though the movie had been showing for weeks. I loved it.”
The Charlotte Observer, January-February 1940.
The Charlotte Observer, September 29, 1998.
Mary Kratt, Charlotte, North Carolina: A Brief History. Charleston: The History Press, 2009.