"Gone With the Wind" fans give gowns another day

LOS ANGELES Wed Sep 1, 2010 9:47am EDT

1 of 4. The Green Curtain Dress (the Portieres Dress) worn by Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind, is seen in this undated handout photo.

Credit: Reuters/Harry Ransom Center/Handout

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Fans of "Gone with the Wind" obviously do give a damn about Scarlett O'Hara's extravagant dresses with a museum appeal for funds to restore gowns from the 1939 movie meeting its target in three weeks.

The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, which acquires and preserves cultural materials, launched a public appeal earlier this month to raise $30,000 to restore five dresses worn by Vivien Leigh in the Oscar-winning film.

The costumes, from the collection of filmmaker David O. Selznick who produced "Gone With The Wind" as well as "A Star Is Born" and "Rebecca," were described as being in a fragile condition and in bad need of restoration.

The museum said more than 600 people from 44 U.S. states and 13 countries contributed to the appeal.

"These generous donations confirm that the film's legions of fans do, in fact, care," Steve Wilson, film curator at the Ransom Center, said in a statement.

He said the donations will allow the Ransom Center to restore the dresses and purchase protective housing and custom-fitted mannequins to allow for them to be exhibited according to conservation best practices and standards.

The Ransom Center wants to display the costumes in 2014 as part of an exhibition to celebrate the 75th anniversary of "Gone With The Wind" and also to be able to loan the dresses to other museums around the world.

Jill Morena, the museum's collection assistant for costumes, said the Selznick collection came to the center in the 1980s and the gowns had been kept in humidity and temperature controlled conditions in acid-free tissue paper in archival boxes but damage was inevitable.

"Most costumes are not constructed to last beyond the production of the film nor are they finished in the same way as a ready-to-wear garment," said Morena.

"We've taken steps to prevent further damage, but we want to be able to safely display and share the dresses."

The dresses at the Ransom Center include a burgundy ball gown that Scarlett wore to Ashley Wilkes' birthday party, the wedding dress when she married Charles Hamilton, a blue velvet peignoir and a green velvet dressing gown.

The collection also includes the green velvet dress that a struggling Scarlett O'Hara made from some curtains before she went to ask Rhett Butler for financial assistance.

(Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Dean Goodman)

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