The movie Gone With The Wind came out in 1939 and celebrates its 75th Anniversary in 2014. Sally Tippett Rains is available for speaking engagements and can speak on the making of the film or the real-life Civil War history behind the book. For updates on 2014 speaking engagements check out her blog: http://gwtwbook.wordpress.com/
The Making of a Masterpiece, The True Story of Margaret Mitchell's Classic Novel Gone With The Wind contains the exclusive Civil War history behind Margaret Mitchell's story. Rains had access to a scrapbook from Mitchell's family which contains pictures from the 1800's as well as stories from Mitchell's Civil War ancestors. Some of these stories are very similar to stories in Gone With The Wind.
For more information: info@GWTWbook.com
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About Rip Upshaw
Gone With The Wind Is In His Lineage
Rip Upshaw. Sound familiar Gone With The Wind fans? Red Upshaw was the first husband of Margaret Mitchell. In fact many people (including Red himself) felt Mitchell based a little of her character Rhett Butler on Upshaw. When researching the book The Making of the Masterpiece, I wanted to find out all about Upshaw because he had been portrayed so badly in the books written about Margaret Mitchell. I wanted to give him a fair shake so I did genealogy research to try to locate relatives. I finally located Nancy Egerton, a half-sister who was very helpful to me.
Imagine the surprise I had when a month after the book was published I got a phone call, and the caller ID said "William Upshaw." William Upshaw was the name of Berrien "Red" Upshaw's father. I answered the phone and found out it was actually his grandson William Ripley Upshaw, known as Rip, calling me.
Several years ago I had seen his name as a family member in an obituary, and on a lark, I looked up his address and mailed him a letter.
"I received the letter and had every intention of calling you, but misplaced your phone number before I had the chance," he said to me on the phone in January of 2010. "You wrote to me several years back, but I just found your letter this past week while going through some boxes."
He was calling to see if he could help me with my book, but after I told him the book was out, we had the most enjoyable conversation. As it turns out, even though he is the grandson of Berrien "Red" Upshaw, he really didn’t know as much about certain aspects of his heritage as I did.
Here's the connection: After Upshaw divorced Margaret Mitchell, he married a woman named Billie Hitt. They had a child together, who they named Berrien Kinnard Upshaw, Jr. Shortly after the child's birth, Upshaw entered the Dorothy Dix Hospital for problems with tuberculosis and also for mental problems. This is all chronicled in The Making Of A Masterpiece, The True Story of Margaret Mitchell's Classic Novel, Gone With The Wind.
While Upshaw was in the hospital (listed as an "inmate" on the census that year), Billie and their son Berrien, Jr. lived with Upshaw’s parents, William and Myrtle.
Once Berrien came out of the hospital, Billie asked if he would reunite with her and their son, but he refused.
When Upshaw left his wife and son behind, the wife was so thankful to his parents for the kindness they showed her in letting her stay with them, she legally changed her son's name to William Francis Upshaw. William grew up never knowing his father and according to his son Rip, he was like Berrien Upshaw (with Margaret Mitchell.) His take on it is that they loved women who were not fully available to them, or capable of returning that love in the way they desired. Like Berrien, William married an attractive, intelligent, and accomplished woman: Kathleen Elizabeth Everett. Kathleen had a strong, independent character not unlike that of Margaret Mitchell’s. As a professional woman before her time, Kathleen’s passions lay in career and arts rather than children. But she acquiesced to William’s desire, and gave in to having children with him.
"And then he killed himself," said Rip Upshaw who was one of those children. "This was the same way his father, Berrien had died."
Rip and his brother Everett were raised by their mother, Kathleen, who Rip felt never really told them completely about their heritage. "Or maybe I wasn’t listening before it was too late," said Rip. "There are a lot of memories of my childhood that remain buried for me. I’m still working to uncover them all." He did know his lineage had ties to Gone With The Wind, but it was not until the last few years that Rip has begun to gain more interest in his heritage and learn about his past.
"These last few years have involved a lot of self-discovery for me. I probably disconnected from the whole Gone With The Wind thing on purpose. I was in denial for various reasons. It must have been more than I could handle at the time, because I now find it quite intriguing."
The Upshaw family did not talk a lot about Berrien, his wife Billie, or their child William, who was Everett and Rip's father; Rip, whose full given name is William Ripley, was named after his father.
"My upbringing was difficult," he said. "Now I want to find out about my past, but most of the people who could have answered my questions first hand are dead."
Whereas Berrien Upshaw felt the same way about children as Margaret Mitchell--they were cute to hold, but not something they wanted to have, Rip Upshaw is completely the opposite.
"I am blessed with the most wonderful children in the world," he said. "My goal is to break the cycle. I hug them every day. That is something that did not happen unconditionally for me as a child, or probably for my parents when they were children, and so on. Recently, I took my children on a vacation to Hawaii, and I treasured every minute with them. I have tried so hard to be a good dad to them. I feel that I have a long way to go yet, but that I ‘get it’ a little more each day."
While he said his mother was a good mother and a good provider, he felt she lacked the emotion he would have liked to have had growing up. He tries to provide that to his children.
"I feel like Berrien and my dad had emotions that they did not know how to deal with," said Upshaw. "Obviously, there was a disconnect for them. As I’ve grown older, I have experienced that disconnect, and have consciously worked to overcome it. Believe it or not, I have never seen my own father's grave. It's in Richmond, VA."
When writing The Making Of A Masterpiece, I had found out that Upshaw's father committed suicide but I chose to leave it out of the book. I knew that somewhere out there were two sons-- and this was their father I was talking about. Never did I dream I would end up making a connection with them. Our conversation was helpful to him because I was able to fill him in on a part of his history that he had always wondered about.
While Berrien "Red" Upshaw has been portrayed as a bad guy in most of the books, I had done enough research that I feel he was an unfortunate person who was dealt some bad circumstances. As I say in my book, shortly before he started dating Margaret Mitchell, his father was transferred from Atlanta to North Carolina when Berrien was in high school, and he was devastated; his brother was hit by a truck and eventually institutionalized; his mother died in the flu epidemic of 1918; and his father re-married. That is a lot for a stable person to take, but as my research showed, he was not mentally stable.
Growing up, Rip never really grasped completely the role his grandfather played in Gone With the Wind, but in later years, his mother filled him in a little. She died from cancer in the 1990's, and after that Rip began to wonder more.
"It's pretty sad that I've never read Gone With The Wind," said Rip Upshaw. "It's on my to-do list, and I will get to it. I just have my hands full with the present right now, as I want to make sure I experience everything I can with my kids. Not having read Gone With The Wind is a funny thing, given that it is such a well-known work. There was probably some sort of subconscious denial on my part."
One of the most interesting things that Rip has recently realized is one connection his father William had with his grandfather, Berrien.
"My mother was a writer," he said. "She wrote at least eight novels, though she had none of them published."
He recalled from his childhood in the 70s that she would "type away on her dated Smith Corona, on onion skin paper, and use 'liquid paper' when she made a mistake."
"It is interesting that my father was attracted to a woman who was a writer, when his father had done the same."
Rip Upshaw saw other similarities with Margaret Mitchell's first husband (his grandfather) and his father.
"They both demonstrated love-addictive behavior in their attraction to women with love-avoidant tendencies,'" he said. "Both may have had clinical depression, but back then things were so different. My father spent time in an institution just like his father had, and then they both committed suicide. These days, there are so many different treatments available for mental illness. Things might have been completely different for them today."
Upshaw works in the field of Customer Relationship Management and Direct Marketing technology. He has come to embrace his heritage, just as Nancy Egerton (Berrien Upshaw's half-sister) did. At first when I contacted Nancy, she wasn't sure how people would take her since she was Berrien's sister, and he had received such bad publicity. She had lived a very successful life and wasn’t sure if she wanted to come out on record as "Margaret Mitchell's first husband's half-sister."
She found that those who love Gone With The Wind embraced her because she had a connection to Margaret Mitchell. She was actually the sister of the man who married the famous author.
That is how Rip Upshaw is beginning to feel. He plans to read Gone With The Wind and then he wants to watch the movie. He will tell his children about their grandfather, and maybe take them to meet their great-aunt.
"We thought about the Gone With the Wind connection," said Upshaw. "My brother was just more aware of the dysfunctional aspects of our family than I was. I just didn't pay attention at the time. But I am going to find out more."
"Life doesn't allow us to have the perspective as children that we develop as parents," he said. "I know that I need to read Gone With The Wind. I am lucky to have such wonderful children, and I want to be able to fully share our connection to this work with them. Like my father and grandfather, I don’t have a dad to depend on, but if I can help it, that’s not going to happen for these two. I am learning more about my heritage every day. I wish I would have asked these questions while my relatives were alive, but I'm lucky to be able to find out what I can now."