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'Gone with the Wind' exhibit brings film treasures to Chicago

Published Monday, April 20, 2009
by Philip Potempa



'Gone with the Wind' exhibit brings film treasures to Chicago

A FRIENDLY FACE - - James Tumblin is shown greeting legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor in this late 1980s file photo. Tumblin owns the world's largest "Gone with the Wind" collection, some of which, he has allowed on loan for display at Hollywood Blvd. Cinema in Woodridge, Ill. through October 2009 to celebrate the 1939 film's 70th anniversary.


I have an early tip about an amazing exhibit that has somehow managed to make its way to our backyard.

I've written about my favorite Chicagoland movie palace, Hollywood Boulevard Cinema Bar and Restaurant, 1001 W. 75th St., in neighboring Woodridge, Ill., in the past.

And if you've never taken my advice and visited it in the past, I have a multimillion dollar reason why readers really need to take a field trip to this movie-treasure destination.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the MGM movie classic "Gone with the Wind," as well as Northwest Indiana festival favorite made the same year, "The Wizard of Oz."

Hollywood Boulevard owner and all-around-good-guy Ted Bulthaup, who first successfully executed the "dinner and a movie" theater concept in 1991 in Indianapolis, has made the deal of a lifetime, with Hollywood studios make-up man legend-turned-famed movie-treasures collector James Tumblin. Tumblin's collection of costumes and artifacts from "Gone with the Wind" are on loan at the Woodridge, Ill., property through October.

Tumblin, who now lives in Hawaii and worked as the head of the Universal Studios make-up and hair department until retiring in 1982, owns the largest collection of "Wind" memorabilia in the world, which carries a valued price tag of $66 million.

For this traveling exhibit, he included the "Best Actress" Oscar statuette of Vivien Leigh, who played Southern-belle heroine Scarlett O'Hara, which he originally bought for $500,000 and is now valued at $2.6 million.

He's also brought his pride and joy, which is also the wardrobe piece that inspired his collection from the Civil War big-screen epic.

Shortly after he first was hired by Universal while getting his start in the hair and make-up department, he noticed a large gown on the floor in one of the dressing areas that needed to be returned to its hanging rack. When he looked at the label, he noticed a description that read "Selznick International - 'Scarlett,' " a revelation the dress had been used in one of the most famous films ever made.

"What so many people don't realize is, so many of these costumes used in films are used over and over again," Tumblin told me Thursday at a cocktail reception exhibit preview.

"In the case of 'Gone with the Wind,' many of those costumes were the property of the Western Costume Co. and with this gown that I had found, it was later used in a movie western."

He asked permission to buy the dress, and, along with the $20 he paid for it, he conceived the idea to develop a collection to preserve memories and artifacts from the film to share with future generations.

The exhibit includes a small shawl worn by actress Olivia de Havilland, who played sweet Melanie Wilkes; a tiny bell worn in the hair of actress Ona Munson, who played the infamous brothel owner Belle Watling; and the wide-brimmed straw hat Scarlett wears to a barbeque in one of the film's opening scenes. Other clothing items on display include those worn in the movie by Clark Gable and young actress Cammie King, who played Scarlett and Rhett Butler's daughter Bonnie Blue Butler.

In fact, mark your calendars, because King, who's now 75, will visit the exhibit and make a guest appearance at Hollywood Boulevard Cinema next month over Memorial Day weekend and answer questions before screenings of "Gone with the Wind." The movie is playing at the property with special showings this weekend as well as part of the exhibit's opening weekend.

For more information, or (630) 427-1880.

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