It's quite possible that even today more people have seen Gone with the Wind
than any other film. It was the film that
brought the 1930s, the first and most
successful decade of the Hollywood
studio system, to a rousing climax; for
sheer size and visual splendour nothing
like it (except perhaps The Birth of a
Nation) had ever been seen before.
its appeal to audiences lay elsewhere -
in the way it took an enormous subject
the American Civil War, and made it
the background to the adventures and
misadventures of, essentially, four people. Thus it became an intimate spectacular, a small story told on an epic
scale. It's therefore a movie set in the
Civil War but not actually about the
Civil War. That's going on all the time,
of course, and most graphically is it
illustrated (e.g. the aftermath of the
battle of Atlanta), but apart from
knowing who's winning and who's losing we're not bothered with too many
details. What concerns the film, and by
extension us, is what's happening to
Scarlett and Rhett (Vivien Leigh and
Clark Gable) and Ashley and Melanie
(Leslie Howard and Olivia de Havilland). Stories about the making of
the picture have filled books: the role of
Scarlett O'Hara was so coveted that
almost every young female star
in Hollywood tested for it; David
Selznick, however, eager to find a new
face (and, of course, to gain maximum
publicity) organised a nationwide two-year search for the perfect Scarlett
before eventually signing the compara-
tively unknown Vivien Leigh; the original director, George Cukor, was
replaced at Gable's insistence by Victor
Fleming, who, because of illness, was
in turn replaced by Sam Wood; writers
as diverse as Scott Fitzgerald and Ben
Hecht had a go at reducing Margaret
Mitchell's book to filmable length; an
early choice for Rhett Butler was Errol
Flynn and so on.
At the end of it all
what emerged was a sumptuous, flamboyant entertainment, a cinematic
novel - not a work of art perhaps but a
rich, enjoyable wallow of a movie.
- 1939: Best film; best actress (Leigh); best
director (Fleming); best screenplay; best
supporting actress (McDaniel); best cinematography; best art direction (Lyle
Wheeler); best film editing (Hal C. Kern,
James E. Newcom); plus Irving Thalberg
Memorial Award to Selznick.
- 1939: Best actor (Gable); best supporting actress (de Havilland); best original
score; best sound recording (Thomas T.
Moulton); best special effects (John R. Cosgrove, Fred Albin, Arthur Johns).
Gone with the Wind Worldwide Film Repro. Posters
- Actual filming on the movie took around a year.
- The film cost $3.9 million, a fortune in the late 1930s.
- 1,400 actresses were interviewed for the part of Scarlett O'Hara. 400 were asked to do readings.
- Among the many famous actress considered for the part of Scarlett were Joan Crawford, Claudette Colbert, Carole Lombard, Katharine Hepburn, Olivia de Havilland, Margaret Sullavan, and Tallulah Bankhead. Bankhead (an authentic 'Southern Belle' from Alabama) was the clear frontrunner, but her unsavory personal life made producers reluctant to hire her.
- Production began with Robert Gleckler playing Jonas Wilkerson. After a month of filming, Gleckler died. His scenes were re-shot with replacement cast member Victor Jory.
- One month after the book was published, film producer David O. Selznick purchased the movie rights from Mitchell for an unprecedented $50,000. At the time, this was the highest sum that had ever been paid for an author's first novel.
- For the scene in which Scarlett escapes the fires of Atlanta, a horse was needed to play Woebegone, an old nag on the verge of collapse. A suitable candidate was finally found, but weeks later, when the horse was brought to the set, it had gained weight and its ribs were no longer visible. There was no time to find a replacement, so the makeup department painted dark shadows on its ribs to give the appearance of malnourishment.
- In the scene where Scarlett searches for Dr. Meade, making her way among 1,600 suffering and dying Confederate soldiers, to cut costs - and still comply with a union rule that dictated the use of a certain percentage of extras in the cast - 800 dummies were scattered among 800 extras.
- The crane shot where Scarlett searches for Dr. Meade, making her way among suffering and dying Confederate soldiers was Val Lewton's idea. He had previously been Selznick's assistant editor and went on to produce a string of B movies though the 1940s.
- In the scene where Rhett pours Mammy a drink after the birth of Bonnie, for a joke during a take, Clark Gable actually poured alcohol instead of the usual tea into the decanter without Hattie McDaniel knowing it until she took a swig.
- First scene to be shot was the fires in Atlanta, filmed on 10 December 1938. If there was a major mistake during the filming, the entire film might have been scrapped. What they actually burned were a whole lot of old sets on the studio backlot, including the "Great Gate" from King Kong (1933). 113 minutes of footage were shot, the cost of the blaze coming to more than $25,000. The fire was so intense that the unwarned public of Culver City jammed the telephones lines, thinking MGM was burning down. Scarlett was doubled by Eileen Goodwin and Dorothy Fargo, while Rhett was doubled by Yakima Canutt and Jay Wilsey.
- One of the movie's most enduring myths is that Vivien Leigh was a last minute "discovery" after filming had already started (the "burning of Atlanta" scene). The truth is that David O. Selznick masterminded a free publicity campaign of "Who will play Scarlett?" by keeping Leigh's participation a secret till the last minute. Among Selznick's many memos is the one dated as early as 1937 that had Leigh secured in the role. Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier (who was to begin filming Wuthering Heights (1939)) came over from Europe, then traveled by train to California to arrive just before the first scene was filmed (the Atlanta scene). Selznick conveniently had the reporters present when his brother arrived with Leigh in tow to loudly announce his (scripted) lines that HE had THE Scarlett that Selznick had been looking for. Filming stopped and David was later quoted as saying (also scripted) that when he saw Leigh's face reflected by the flames of Atlanta, he immediately knew she was Scarlett. Amazingly, decades after the film's release, many people still believe that Selznick was stupid enough to begin filming (with money secured through his own studio, not MGM) the most expensive movie in history (up to that time) without securing the star (who is in almost every scene). But the scheme worked and the public ate it up.
- With Vivien Leigh already secured in the role as early as 1937 by David O. Selznick (secretly), neither Bette Davis nor any other actress had a chance for the role; even though thousands of dollars were spent on "testing" other actresses; an investment considered well spent for all the publicity it generated.
- The first rough cut in July 1939 ran four and a half hours, 48 minutes longer than the final release.
- All seven of Hollywood's then-existing Technicolor cameras were used to film the fires of Atlanta. Flames 500 feet high leaped from a set that covered 40 acres. Ten pieces of fire equipment from the Los Angeles police department, 50 studio fireman and 200 studio helpers stood ready throughout the filming of this sequence in case the fire should get out of hand. Three 5,000 gallon water tanks were used to quench the flames after shooting.
- Female costumes were made complete with petticoats, although they wouldn't have been missed had they not been there.
- The scene where Scarlett digs up a turnip then retches and gives her "As God is my witness" line, the vomiting sounds were actually made by de Havilland since Leigh could not produce a convincing enough retch.
- This film had three directors, George Cukor > being the first. Victor Fleming, (who had just finished Wizard of Oz, The (1939)) was brought in, and he was replaced by interim director Sam Wood, for a few weeks while recovering from exhaustion. Cukor filmed about 33 minutes of footage, 17 of which appear in the first half of the film, they are: Ellen O'Hara returns home (except for Victor Jory and closeup of Thomas Mitchell); evening prayer services at Tara; Mammy and Scarlett prepare for the Twelve Oaks barbecue; the widow Hamilton tries on a bonnet in her bedroom (single shot); various non-dialogue shots at the Atlanta Bazaar, including far shots of Scarlett and Rhett waltzing; Scarlett gives Ashley a sash and begs his love; all scenes in and around Aunt Pittypat's house on the day of evacuation (except for Scarlett stops a dispatch rider); the burning of the Atlanta Depot (except for actors' close-ups).
- Leigh worked for 125 days and received about $25,000. Gable worked for 71 days and received over $120,000.
- Margaret Mitchell wrote her novel between 1926 and 1929. In her early drafts, the main character was named "Pansy O'Hara" and the O'Hara plantation we know as Tara was called "Fountenoy Hall."
- A few of Mitchell's working titles for the novel included "Tomorrow is Another Day," "Not in Our Stars," "Bugles Sang True" and "Tote the Weary Load."
- In 1939, the Hollywood Production Code dictated what could and could not be shown or said on screen, and Rhett Butler's memorable last line raised red flags. A few of the suggested alternatives were "Frankly my dear... I just don't care," "...it makes my gorge rise," "...my indifference is boundless," "...I don't give a hoot," and "...nothing could interest me less." Fortunately, producer Selznick elected to pay a $5,000 fine and keep the original, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn."
- The film sequence that is commonly referred to as "the Burning of Atlanta" was not the actual burning of the city by General Sherman in November 1864. Instead, the scene represents the night, two months earlier, when the retreating Confederate army torched its ammunition dumps to keep the Union army from capturing them.
- Selznick asked Alfred Hitchcock for help with the scene in which the women wait for the men from the raid on Shantytown and Melanie reads "David Copperfield". Hitchcock delivered a precise treatment, complete with descriptions of shots and camera angles. Hitchcock wanted to show Rhett, Ashley etc. outside the house, dodging the Union soldiers. He also wanted an exchange of meaningful glances between Melanie and Rhett inside the house. Virtually nothing of this treatment was used.
- Gable was so distressed over the requirement that he cry on film (during the scene where Melanie is comforting Rhett after Scarlett's miscarriage) that he almost quit. Olivia de Havilland convinced him to stay on the film.
- Hattie McDaniel would have been prevented from attending the film's Atlanta premiere because of Georgia's racial segregation laws. So as not to put David O. Selznick in the awkward position of having to fight for her right to attend, she wrote to him, saying that she would be "unavailable".
- The premiere was held in Atlanta, Georgia. It was supposedly the first time that David O. Selznick had been in the South.
- The final shooting script dated 24 January 1939 had a price tag of $25,000 by late 1999.
- The horse that Thomas Mitchell rode was later Silver of Lone Ranger fame.
- Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to be nominated for, and to win, an Academy Award.
- Priscilla Lane was considered for the role of Melanie Wilkes.
- Mickey Kuhn, who played Vivien Leigh's nephew, Beau Wilkes, also played the young sailor who helps her off the train in A Streetcar Named Desire. It's not recorded as to whether they recognized each other after twelve years or not.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald was asked to write for the film, but little of his work remains on it.
- Rhett was not allowed to say, on film, "Maybe you'll have a miscarriage" right before Scarlett falls down the stairs; the line is changed to "Maybe you'll have an accident."
- If box office receipts for Gone with the Wind were adjusted for inflation it would be the top grossing movie of all time, Star Wars would be the second most successful movie of all time.
- The Reminiscent Soldier was played by Cliff Edwards, who was also the voice of Jiminy Cricket.
- When the film was first released, shocked audience members often would leave the theater in disgust at the "I don't give a damn" line.
- If the number of total admissions are calculated, this is the most popular movie of all time in the US. While having the advantage of being released several times in theaters, the shocking thing is that there were half as many Americans alive when it was released, compared with Titanic, Star Wars, and Jaws.
- Out of the four leads, three of them (Howard, Leigh, and Gable) died young. Olivia de Havilland is the only one that's still alive. Ironically, her character was the only one that died in the film.
- Vivien Leigh reportedly did not like kissing Clark Gable because she said that he had excessively bad breath.
- David O. Selznick was required to give M-G-M the distribution rights in exchange for the use of Clark Gable and $1,250,000 in financing.
- Margaret Mitchell, author of the novel, was begged by producer David O. Selznick to criticize every aspect of the production. An intensely private person, Ms. Mitchell gave one criticism of the facade of the design for Tara (which was ignored), and thereafter refused to make any comment whatsoever on the film, before, during, and after production.
- In a March 1939 newspaper article, David O. Selznick was reported to be considering producing Gone with the Wind as a serial, as it was felt the novel was too long and too complex to be successfully made into a single motion picture..
- The interior sets of Tara were built without ceilings. These were later added using matte paintings.
- Sidney Howard's screenwriting Oscar was the Academy 's first posthumous award. Howard died in an accident in August 1939 while the Civil War epic was still being filmed.
- When Rhett and Mammy were celebrating the birth of Bonnie Blue, they were actually drinking water. Hattie McDaniel complained that she was getting sick of it, so for the next take Clark Gable switched the water with actual booze, which she did not realize until she had chugged it down. The next day on his way to the set Gable called out to Hattie "Hey Mammy, how's the hangover?"
- Gary Cooper screen tested and was offered the role of Rhett Butler but turned it down
- When Melanie says that Bonnie's eyes are "as blue as the 'Bonnie Blue' flag", she is referring to the popular name of the single-star secession flag that was flown over Georgia after it seceded from the union (as well as over all other states that did so). Is consisted of a single white star over a field of blue. Tradition holds that it flew over Georgia for the first few months of 1861 before being replaced by the more known "Stars And Bars" Confederate flags of later years.
- Billie Burke was considered for Aunt Pittypat Hamilton, but the producers thought she was too young (she was 54).
- When Scarlett receives the letter that her husband Charles has died, the letter is signed by Wade Hampton. In Margaret Mitchell's book, Wade Hampton is the name of Scarlett and Charles' son (the character was not used in the movie). It is explained that the first born son would be named after the father's commander. Hence, the name signing the letter.
- Barbara O'Neil was only 28 when she appeared as Ellen O'Hara (Scarlett's mother). Vivien Leigh was 25 when she appeared as Scarlett, who is only 16 at the beginning of the film.
- Prominent Atlanta preacher Martin Luther King, Sr. was invited to the cotillion ball held in honor of the premiere. He was urged to boycott by other community leaders because none of the black actors in the film were allowed to attend. A forward thinker, King attended because he was invited, and he brought his son, Martin Junior, with him.
- The character of Ashley Wilkes was based on Margaret Mitchell's cousin by marriage John "Doc" Holliday. Melanie was based on Mitchell's third-cousin, Doc's one-time wife Mattie "Sister Melanie" Holliday. Doc and Mattie were never married. They were cousins, and staunch Catholics. Marrying a blood relative was strictly forbidden by the church. Doc left Georgia, heartbroken, when they couldn't be together, moved West and became the outlaw we know. Mattie joined a convent and became a nun, thus the title of "Sister Melanie".
- At nearly four hours long, this is longest running of all movies to win the Best Picture Academy Award.
- Was voted the 8th Greatest film of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
- Voted #4 film of all time by the American Film Institute.
- Before casting had actually started, author Margaret Mitchell was asked (during an interview) who, she felt, should play Rhett Butler. She replied (in all seriousness), "Groucho Marx."
5 STARS OUT OF 5
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