Yesterday was the anniversary of the Atlanta premiere of Gone with the Wind. The National Archives has at least two connections with this movie, and one of them is a mustache.
The National Archives was given a copy of the award-winning and controversial film. It was given to the first Archivist in 1941 by Senator Walter F. George of Georgia and Eastern Division Manager Carter Barron of Loews. [UPDATE: The multi-reel 35mm technicolor print, which was accepted as a gift donation (we still have the accession dossier), was later destroyed in a 1978 fire at the National Archives nitrate vaults at Suitland.]
But in the end, it all comes back to the mustache–in this case, the trim but bristley lip hair of actor Clark Gable, who portrayed Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance.
It’s not the only movie connection with Gable. We have stills from Call of the Wild that came into our holdings as part of records from the National Parks Service. This movie is also notable in Clark Gable’s personal life–his offscreen affair with with onscreen lover Loretta Young resulted in a daughter, Judy Lewis. Young hid her pregnancy from the public but later adopted Judy.
The National Archives also holds a copy of Combat America, a film produced by Gable. On the promotional poster, a mustachioed Gable gazes off into the distance, his flight goggles strapped to the top of his head.
Gable had combat flight experience. During World War II, Gable flew five combat missions as an observer-gunner. When MGM requested that their star be put in a non-combat duty, he returned to the United States and joined the First Motion Picture Unit, where he was promoted to major. In 1944, Gable used the footage from his missions to create Combat America, which he narrated.
Eventually, Gable requested a discharge. Like all citizens who serve in the U.S. military, his service records are part of the permanent holdings at the National Personnel Records Center. But Gable’s separation papers have a special twist: they were signed by Capt. Ronald Reagan.