Digital Photography Essays

Gone with the Wind – Gone are the days

Written by Gail Bjork

Photos of the 1939 Grand Opening of Gone with the Wind had to be delivered quickly to the newspapers to meet deadlines. But how does a photographer accomplish this task when a throng of 18,000 people lined the streets?

So, how does a photographer in the 1930s get through the crowds fast enough to deliver photos before the evening newspaper deadline? The shots, after all, had to appear in the paper early next morning!

One creative photographer used a very unconventional method. Try to guess what it is.

M-G-M Photo by Norman Kaphan

1939 Lowe’s Grand Opening: Gone with the Wind. M-G-M Photo by Norman Kaphan

The photographer was my dad, a staff photographer for many years for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. One of his jobs was to photograph Grand Openings of major movies on Broadway and other venues.

Dad related many interesting stories about his job at MGM, both as photographer and later in his executive position as head of the still publicity department.

But none were as amazing to me as the story I’m about to share.

New vs. old methods of delivering photos

The new

Modern photographers and photojournalists have a number of ways to get time-sensitive photos to his or her agency, newspaper or wire service. Photos are transmitted almost instantly by state of the art-equipment including cell and satellite phones, and via wi-fi hot spots and ship-board email. Some transmit images straight from the camera to a photo editor’s computer.

The old

In the old days, photographers would send rolls of film to laboratories for processing or use overnight mail get their shots to publishers on time. When a deadline was involved, they rarely developed the film themselves or knew which photo would be used until it was published.

But even these methods were too slow for Dad when photographing movie premiers. Grand Openings back then were big deals. Really big deals.

Grand Opening of Gone with the Wind

Brett and Scarlett

Cover: “The Story of Gone With The Wind by Bob Thomas” – 1967

One of Dad’s assignments was to photograph the Grand Opening of Gone with the Wind in Atlanta, GA. The epic film, the 1939 adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel, featured such well-known actors whose names that are still remembered by many today: Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland, Leslie Howard and Vivien Leigh. The movie received ten Academy Awards and is still considered one of the top American films of all time.

18,000 lined the streets

People came out not only hoping to get inside the theater to see the movie but also hoping to catch a glimpse of famous stars attending the opening. According to The New Georgia Encyclopedia, a crowd of 18,000 gathered in front of the Loew’s Grand on the opening night of the film.

How he met the photo deadline

I never asked Dad how he managed to get away with what he did, but he did. So, how did he get through the crowds to meet the deadline for the morning paper?

He hired an ambulance!

Images are from the private collection of the family of Norman Kaphan

Thanks to the pros at the Pro Digital Talk Forum for information they shared about photo delivery.

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.

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