GWTW star: Bridges 'will be missed'

by W. Winston Skinner

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Mickey Kuhn, left, who played Beau Wilkes in 'Gone With the Wind,' takes a stroll around downtown Newnan with Herb Bridges in 2007.

Mickey Kuhn, who played Beau Wilkes in 'Gone With the Wind,' remembers GWTW collector Herb Bridges fondly.

'He will be missed by all of us involved with GWTW,' said Kuhn, who was 6-years-old when he played Ashley and Melanie's son in pivotal scenes at the end of the film classic. Bridges died unexpectedly Tuesday at his home near Sharpsburg.

Terry Crane-Crabtree, the widow of Tarleton twin Fred Crane, also remembered Bridges' hospitality. Fred and Terry Crane and Mickey and Barbara Kuhn were, at different times, guests of Bridges and his wife, Eleanor - enjoying Southern hospitality in Coweta County.

Kuhn, 81, has the distinction of having appeared onscreen with Vivien Leigh in both of her Oscarwinning performances, 'Gone With the Wind' and 'A Streetcar Named Desire.' He also appeared in 'Red River' with John Wayne and 'Broken Arrow' with James Stewart.

Bridges amassed a collection of GWTW memorabilia and was involved in numerous anniversary celebrations of Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel and the film made three years later.

Kuhn met Bridges in 1989 at the 50th anniversary of 'Gone With the Wind.' 'Then we were in contact over the years at various events throughout the country,' Kuhn recalled.

The Kuhns - en route to Florida in June 2007 - stopped in Coweta County and spent the night at the Bridges' home. 'I 'pigged out' on Miss Ellie's pecan pie,' he remembered.

Fred Crane, a New Orleans native who spoke the first words in 'Gone With the Wind,' died in Atlanta in 2008. A few years earlier, he and his wife, Terry, bought an antebellum house in Barnesville, which they named Tarleton Oaks.

Crane would entertain guests at Tarleton Oaks with stories about the making of the movie.

The Cranes, the Bridges and GWTW collector George Terrell got together for lunch at O'Charley's in Newnan in September 2006. 'So many of our friends have passed on. We do have our memories,' Crane-Crabtree reflected last week.

She said there were 'many occasions' when she and Fred Crane would 'appear at various personal appearances with him and his wife, Eleanor.'

Bridges 'will be missed,' she said. 'I feel for his family.'

Crane-Crabtree said she has 'good memories' of the times spent with Herb and Eleanor Bridges. Kuhn said, 'Herb was a typical Southern gentleman, a walking encyclopedia on GWTW and a dear friend.'

John Wiley Jr., a Virginia expert on 'Gone With the Wind,' publishes a newsletter, 'The Scarlett Letter,' for fans of the book and movie. Wiley traveled to Newnan for Bridges' funeral at Central Baptist Church on Friday.

'Whenever he gave a presentation or greeted people at an exhibit or gave an interview, he always wore a coat and tie. He respected and appreciated his audience,' Wiley recalled.

Bridges 'was a wonderful speaker,' Wiley said. 'He was so animated and excited about his subject - and this carried over into his personal conversations, as well.'

Bridges' GWTW connections were mentioned by Dr. Joel Richardson, Central's pastor, at his funeral. The stately sanctuary was filled, with some people standing. People from Bridges' hometown of Sharpsburg, from the GWTW world and from Central Baptist were there, as well as a large number of relatives and people connected with his many historical preservation projects.

Richardson related that Bridges' passion for 'Gone With the Wind' grew out of a disagreement with a friend about who played Belle Watling in the film. Bridges subsequently purchased a copy of the movie edition of Mitchell's novel.

'He was hooked,' Richardson said. 'That was the beginning of what was probably the greatest collection of 'Gone With the Wind' memorabilia in the world.'

Richardson talked about how much Bridges enjoyed f ishing and history, how he would stand up for his strongly held beliefs, his personal magnetism - and his great love for his family. Playing off the most famous quote from Mitchell's novel, the pastor concluded, 'Herb gave a damn - about his family, about his church and about you. He wanted the world to be a far better place because he lived in it, and he made our lives better because we got to share it with him.'

Central Baptist Church has its own 'Gone With the Wind' tie. One of the charter members was Annie Gibbs Kinnard Upshaw, the mother of Berrien 'Red' Upshaw, Mitchell's first husband.

Wiley said Kuhn, Olivia de Havilland, Alicia Rhett and Mary Anderson 'are the only remaining cast members with screen credit.' de Havilland, who played Melanie, has lived in France for many years, and Anderson played Maybelle Meriwether.

'Gone With the Wind' was Rhett's only film. She returned to her hometown of Charleston, S.C. where she became an artist. At least three Coweta families own pieces of her art.




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