Scarlett's damned again

By Maria Ricapito
February 10, 1995 at 05:00 AM EST

Tomorrow really is another day for Scarlett O’Hara. Last week, St. Martin’s Press announced plans for a second sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, though Alexandra Ripley — whose 1991 novel Scarlett sold 2.5 million copies in hardcover — won’t be at the word processor.

Instead, British novelist Emma Tennant, author of two follow-ups to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, will pen the as-yet unnamed novel (Tara is a possible title). Ripley declined to comment. But St. Martin’s said that Warner Books, which published Scarlett, chose not to exercise its option for a second sequel (St. Martin’s paid Mitchell’s estate $4.5 million for the rights).

Tennant’s tome, due out in ’97, will pick up where Ripley’s oft-criticized work left off (with the reunion of Scarlett and Rhett Butler). ”They said to do what I want,” says Tennant, who will bring the couple back to the South from Ireland. The novelist’s other plans for the famed Southern belle include her being painted by American artist John Singer Sargent, exploring the feminism of the day, and staying in a Paris hotel that boasts such then-futuristic inventions as ”elevators, electricity, and ice machines.” As to the fate of the lovers, all Tennant will say is: ”Obviously, there has to be a great love affair and a great risk.”

Scarlett producer Robert Halmi Sr. holds the rights to negotiate first for the TV version of the new sequel, but he’s not sure yet whether he will develop the project. Though Scarlett helped CBS win the November sweeps, its ratings were not nearly as high as the network had promised its advertisers. And Halmi doesn’t sound optimistic: ”It would have to be something very special for me to be involved in it.”

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