ST. GEORGE — “Gone with the Wind,” the unprecedented, epic masterpiece of Hollywood cinema, is returning to the big screen Monday at The Electric Theater in downtown St. George, and one of the movie’s few living cast members, Patrick Curtis, will be on hand to introduce the movie, share behind-the-scenes stories, answer questions and sign movie memorabilia.
The “Precision Hearing Monday Matinee” is free admission and starts at 1 p.m. Donations can be made in support of the event’s beneficiary, Memory Matters, a nonprofit organization working to reduce isolation and improve wellness for individuals with dementia and their caregivers.
“Gone with the Wind,” an historical romance drama set in the Civil War-era American South, is considered a landmark in film history. The massive cinematic undertaking has been regarded as among the most beloved movies since its release in 1939, a fact that Patrick Curtis can well attest to.
Curtis, who was just an infant when he portrayed character Melanie Hamilton’s child Baby Beau Wilkes in the film, has been actively engaged with the movie’s fans for most of his life.
“People came from all over the world when there were more living cast members,” he said of the movie’s various reunions, anniversaries and fan-gatherings. “Just like Trekkies, there are ‘Windies’ – it’s exactly the same.”
Curtis said he loves talking about the movie and will welcome and encourage questions from long-time fans and first-time viewers alike at Monday’s screening.
“I always knew I was in the film as a kid,” he said, “but I didn’t see it until they re-released it in 1951.”
When he was about 12 years old, Curtis and a group of his young adolescent friends went to see the movie, but he had no intention of telling them that he was in it.
“As we’re leaving the house, my sweet wonderful mother said, ‘Now don’t forget to look for Patrick, he’s the baby in the movie,’” to which he said he responded with squirming embarrassment.
The kids then rode their bikes to a theater in Hollywood to view the film. Curtis said he had no real expectations for the movie and usually preferred seeing any one of the prolific westerns popular at the time.
“When I saw the film, I saw just how extraordinary it was.”
“Gone with the Wind” was among the first movies to be filmed in color and depicted sweeping scenes of the war-ravaged south, such as the burning of Atlanta.
“It’s held up over the years,” Curtis said of the film.
Curtis has maintained active friendships with his “Gone with the Wind” co-stars, of whom only two others are living, including his older Beau Wilkes counterpart, Mickey Kuhn, and 101-year-old Olivia de Havilland, who played the boys’ mother, Melanie Hamilton.
“Over all these years, we’ve communicated, and I’ve gone to visit her in Paris,” Curtis said of De Havilland. He also recently attended Kuhn’s 85th birthday celebration.
While the film’s all-star cast included the likes of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, Curtis said some of his fondest memories are those of co-star Butterfly McQueen, who played the part of housemaid Prissy.
She and the film’s other African-American cast members were not invited to the film’s original 1939 premiere, but that changed in later decades.
For the movie’s 50th anniversary, then-owner of the film, Ted Turner, threw a glitzy event emulating the film’s original premiere.
“The nice difference was that Butterfly McQueen was there,” Curtis said. “Unlike 50 years before – the black cast was just not invited – that’s just the way life was in those days.”
Through her screen career, McQueen was limited to parts portraying slaves, maids and simpletons, roles that belied her real-world intellect, Curtis said.
Off-screen McQueen spent most of her life as an educator working against the injustices wrought against black people.
At one of the film’s reunions, after giving an eloquent, philosophical speech, she said jokingly of her role, “I told Mr. Selznick that I’d play that silly, empty-headed slave girl for him, but I wouldn’t eat any watermelon.”
Curtis said he enjoys reminiscing about such interactions with the movie’s cast and his own career in the film industry. After his debut as 9-month-old Baby Beau, he made a career of acting in and producing westerns. His credits include such films as “Hannie Caulder” and “The Avenging Angel.”
It was his work on 1995’s “The Avenging Angel,” a movie starring James Coburn and Charlton Heston, set in old-west Southern Utah, that first brought him to St. George.
He and his wife, Annabel Curtis, later moved to St. George where he has remained active promoting good causes, including helping promote Memory Matters, the beneficiary of Monday’s “Gone with the Wind” screening.
“Places like Memory Matters are really worthwhile,” he said, “especially the community here in St. George. I think wonderful inroads have been made as far as dementia but it needs continual work, and a whole lot of really good people are doing their best.”
While dementia is usually associated with people in old age, he said research into Alzheimer’s disease and dementia benefits people of all age groups, given that it affects entire families and has a genetic component.
Attendees at the screening will have the opportunity to contribute donations toward Memory Matters’ campaign to open a senior Cognitive Activity Center in Southern Utah.
- What: Special Screening of “Gone with the Wind” with actor Patick Curtis.
- When: Monday, Nov. 6, at 1 p.m.
- Where: The Electric Theater, 68 E. Tabernacle St., St. George.
- Cost: Free. Donation opportunities available at the event.
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