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American Masters (2012 Season) – "Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel"
Air date: 04/02/2012

THIRTEEN’s American Masters explores the Pulitzer Prize-winning women behind classic novels Gone With the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird Monday, April 2 on PBS

Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel premieres nationally at 9 p.m. followed by Harper Lee: Hey, Boo at 10 p.m. (check local listings)

Preview videos and connect with other cultural icons at pbs.org/americanmasters

Though their successes were nearly 30 years apart, Margaret Mitchell (11/8/1900 – 8/16/1949) and Nelle Harper Lee (born 4/28/1926) share much in common: two Southern white women who each won the Pulitzer Prize for their debut novels – Gone With the Wind (1936) and To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), respectively – two of the bestselling classic books of all time, both adapted into timeless, Oscar®-winning films. Both women were ahead of their time, challenging the social order and making a cultural impact with their books that still resonates today. THIRTEEN’s American Masters delves into the lives of these authors in two documentaries premiering nationally on Monday, April 2: Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel from 9-10 p.m. (ET/PT), immediately followed by Harper Lee: Hey, Boo from 10-11:30 p.m. (ET/PT) on PBS (check local listings).

“I am delighted to present these two remarkable writers on the same evening. Each woman so distinct in her own right, each so similar in many respects – both contributing novels that became the collective inheritance of the American reader,” says Susan Lacy, American Masters series creator and executive producer.

Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel engages leading historians, biographers and personal friends to reveal a complex woman who experienced profound identity shifts during her life and struggled with the two great issues of her day: the changing role of women and the liberation of African Americans. A charismatic force until a tragic accident lead to her death at age 48, Mitchell rebelled against the stifling social restrictions placed on women: as an unconventional tomboy, a defiant debutante, a brazen flapper, one of Georgia’s first female newspaper reporters, and, later, as a philanthropist who risked her life to fund African American education. Emmy®-winning executive producer/writer Pamela Roberts uses reenactments based on Mitchell’s personal letters and journals to show how her upbringing and romantic relationships influenced the creation of Gone With the Wind. The film also explores Scarlett and Rhett’s place as two of the world’s greatest lovers and the public’s initial reception to the book and David O. Selznick’s 1939 epic film – from racial lightning rod to model for survival. 2012 marks the 75th anniversary of Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize win for the only book published during her lifetime and Gone With the Wind’s lasting popularity seems permanently etched in the American cultural landscape.

Harper Lee: Hey, Boo illuminates the phenomenon behind Lee’s first and only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the 1962 film version, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Offering an unprecedented look into Lee’s mysterious life, Emmy®-winning filmmaker Mary McDonagh Murphy (author of Scout, Atticus & Boo: A Celebration of To Kill a Mockingbird) interviews Lee’s friends and family, including her centenarian sister Alice, who share intimate recollections, anecdotes and biographical details for the first time: her rise from small-town Alabama girl to famous author, her tumultuous friendship with Truman Capote, and the origin of her most memorable characters: Atticus Finch, his daughter Scout, her friend Dill, and Boo Radley. The documentary also explores the context and history of the novel’s Deep South setting and the social changes it inspired after publication and through the film starring Gregory Peck. Tom Brokaw, Rosanne Cash, Anna Quindlen, Scott Turow, Oprah Winfrey, and others reflect on the novel’s power, influence, popularity, and the ways it has shaped their lives. Lee gave her last interview in 1964 and receded from the limelight.

In 2011, American Masters earned its eighth Emmy® Award for Outstanding Primetime Nonfiction Series in 11 years. Now in its 26th season, the series is a production of THIRTEEN for WNET, the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21, New York’s public television stations, and operator of NJTV. For nearly 50 years, WNET has been producing and broadcasting national and local documentaries and other programs to the New York community.

To take American Masters beyond the television broadcast and further explore the themes, stories and personalities of masters past and present, the companion website (pbs.org/americanmasters) offers streaming video of select films, interviews, essays, photographs, outtakes, and other resources.

Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel is a GPB production in association with THIRTEEN’s American Masters for WNET. Pamela Roberts is executive producer and writer. Kathy White is director of reenactments. Charlene Fisk is co-producer and editor. Kevan Ward is director of photography. Harper Lee: Hey, Boo is a production of Mary Murphy & Company, LLC. Mary McDonagh Murphy is producer, writer and director. Rich White is director of photography. Christopher Seward is editor and producer. Susan Lacy is the series creator and executive producer of American Masters.

American Masters is made possible by the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding for American Masters is provided by Rosalind P. Walter, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Rolf and Elizabeth Rosenthal, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Jack Rudin, Vital Projects Fund, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation, and public television viewers.

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About WNET

New York’s WNET is America’s flagship public media outlet, bringing quality arts, education and public affairs programming to over 5 million viewers each week. The parent company of public television stations THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Need to Know, Charlie Rose, Tavis Smiley and a range of documentaries,  children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online.  Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Noah Comprende and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJ Today and the new online newsmagazine MetroFocus.

 

Photos
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Margaret Mitchell, circa Gone With the Wind’s publication in 1936. Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

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Margaret Mitchell in her early 40s (Macmillan author portrait). Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

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(l to r) Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Margaret Mitchell, David Selznick, and Olivia de Havilland at the Gone With the Wind film premiere in Atlanta, December 15, 1939. Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

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Clark Gable and Margaret Mitchell at the Gone With the Wind film premiere in Atlanta, December 15, 1939. Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

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“Red” Upshaw (pictured fifth from left) and Margaret Mitchell’s (pictured sixth from left) wedding photo, September 2, 1922. Upshaw is believed to be the model for the Rhett Butler character in Gone With the Wind. Best man John Marsh (pictured second from left) would become Mitchell’s second husband, July 4, 1925, and her editor when writing Gone With the Wind. Also pictured, Mitchell’s older brother Stephens (far right). Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

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Margaret Mitchell. Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

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Publicity shot of Margaret Mitchell writing Gone With the Wind (1936). Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

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Margaret Mitchell circa her rebellious tomboy phase. Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

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As a teenager Margaret Mitchell wrote her own plays, many with cross-gender themes, and she often performed the male roles. Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

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Margaret Mitchell in her early 20s, circa her debutante-flapper phase. Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

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Margaret Mitchell, age three. Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

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Margaret Mitchell as a Red Cross volunteer during World War II. Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

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Margaret Mitchell’s family home, a mansion on Atlanta’s Peachtree Street mansion, which she never liked. Courtesy of Atlanta History Center

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In this reenactment from American Masters Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel, a young Margaret Mitchell (Lucy Zornes) between the ages of 3-4 listens to the stories of a Confederate veteran (Harper Harris), which would later influence her writing Gone With the Wind. Courtesy of Georgia Public Broadcasting

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In this reenactment from American Masters Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel, six-year-old Margaret Mitchell (Abigail Zornes) rides in a carriage to Jonesboro, Georgia, with her mother Maybelle (Jennifer Lindskoog) where she views burned-out old plantations. Maybelle scolds Margaret for not wanting to go to school and shows her the plantations to remind her of what happened to many of the women who once occupied them and had no education to support another way of life for themselves. Courtesy of Georgia Public Broadcasting

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In this reenactment from American Masters Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel, Margaret Mitchell (Katie Leslie), now in her 20s, begins writing Gone With the Wind, at her apartment in Atlanta, known as “the Dump.” Courtesy of Georgia Public Broadcasting