Archive for Friday, May 25, 2001

Protecting ‘Gone With The Wind’

Lawyers ‘keeping a promise’ to author’s brother

May 25, 2001


— They seem unlikely villains, two white-haired octogenarians former law partners of Margaret Mitchell's brother who are keepers of the keys to a literary kingdom, "Gone With The Wind."

From Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison to author Harper Lee, the literary community has vilified Hal Clarke and Paul Anderson as censors for their efforts to prevent the publication of Alice Randall's "The Wind Done Gone." But they say they are simply doing their job and keeping a promise to their late friend.

So far, they have succeeded.

Last month, a federal judge blocked the publication of Randall's novel, saying it borrowed too liberally from "Gone With The Wind." Publisher Houghton Mifflin filed for an appeal, which is set for today.

Many publishers, booksellers and authors say "The Wind Done Gone," told from the viewpoint of Scarlett O'Hara's mulatto half-sister, deserves to be released. While Houghton Mifflin defends the book as a parody, Clarke and Anderson say it is just another "Gone With The Wind" rip-off.

Sunk deep in leather chairs in their modest, three-room office, Clarke, 86, and Anderson, 82, talk about their work in quiet drawls.

"We know we are pictured as mean-spirited, heartless, insensitive and greedy, but we really are two very nice gentlemen," Anderson says. "We have very high legal and moral obligations but we're lawyers and we've got tough skin."

Anderson and Clarke, who acknowledges that he has only read the first 40 pages of Randall's novel, say that Randall's book is an example of the kind of product that Mitchell and her brother wanted them to fight against.

"Whether it was a legal obligation or not, we would want to keep our word to our friend," Anderson says. "It's not a matter of choice whether to let someone infringe the copyright or not to let them do it. If you let people chip away at it then very soon it would have no value."

Randall's book comments on the evils of slavery; Mitchell's book has been called racist. "Many of the things that I have heard being criticized in this case comes out of the mouths of characters," Anderson says. "They are not Margaret Mitchell's innermost thoughts."

"She was sensitive toward racism," Clarke says. "She donated a lot of her money and time to the education of the black people. She felt it was really incumbent on the white families to provide means ... (for) the colored people who had lived, really, as lower citizens."

Joseph Beck, Randall's lawyer, says the trustees have ignored other stories influenced by Mitchell's book but chose to target "The Wind Done Gone."

"There are 50 or 60 parodies of 'Gone With The Wind' on the Internet," he says. "Those parodies were left alone because they were harmless. They came after this one because it was an effective parody."

Anderson and Clarke say they only ignore harmless infringements.

"If someone opened a Tara restaurant in Georgia, we would probably ignore it," Anderson says. "But in terms of major infringement we don't ignore anything."

Mitchell's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel has been translated into more than 30 languages, including Vietnamese, Latvian and Arabic. It broke sales records when it was published in 1936, and still sells about 250,000 copies a year, according to the Margaret Mitchell House.

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