This baby is taking me all the way to Madison on Saturday!
I had some people ask to read it some time ago, so here it is.
In the late 1920’s Margaret Mitchell started her masterpiece novel with these words: "There is a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South. Here in this pretty world, Gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a Civilization gone with the wind..."
The year is 1939 and Oscar buzz is consuming Hollywood. Nominated for "Best Picture" are some of the greatest American films of all time... "Of Mice and Men," "Wuthering Heights," and, the infamous "Wizard of Oz." But none of these films has nearly as much buzz surrounding it as the highly controversial Victor Fleming/George Cukor film. It is racially heated and is considered profane. Everyone knows... only one picture can win. Just a few lines, its obvious what film I'm talking about. For example: "Sir, you are no gentleman... And you, Miss are no lady." or "Fiddle dee dee. War, war, war. This war talk is spoiling the fun at every party this spring.” and "I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies!"
Gone with the Wind and its stars are riding a tidal wave through Hollywood. The race to the Oscars is on!
Margaret Mitchell penned Gone with the Wind throughout the late 1920s and into the early '30s. And Mitchell said she, “Couldn't imagine a publisher being silly enough to buy it." In 1936, Macmillan Publishing Company was just silly enough. The book sold a million copies during its first month in print.
Selznick International Pictures bought the rights to Gone With The Wind for $50,000. Sidney Howard wrote the screenplay and tremendous star Clark Gable signed on for the lead male role. The promising young Vivian Leigh won the role of Scarlett O'Hara and before shooting began, the film was expected to be phenomenal.
The movie tells the story of the Civil War from an undeniably Southern point of view. Vain Southern Belle Scarlett O'Hara hates that all of the eligible young men, including her not-so-secret crush, Ashley, are off fighting in the war.
Soon, Scarlett meets her match in the brash and witty Captain Rhett Butler and they love to hate each other from that day forward.
During most of the Civil War, Scarlett lives in Atlanta. That is, until the fateful day General Sherman burned the city to the ground and Scarlett flees back to her family home with Rhett.
When Scarlett gets to Tara, she and the entire family face starvation and bankruptcy, but the feisty Southern belle refuses defeat.
Scarlett leaves Tara and marries Rhett, but both halves of the manipulating pair grow more agitated by each other every day. Soon, Rhett can tolerate Scarlett’s flirting with Ashley no longer, and he coldly informs Scarlett he's leaving her for good and doesn't care what she does or where she goes. Scarlett resolves to go back to Tara where she is determined she will survive.
The film ends with Scarlett's silhouette standing tall and strong- not to be defeated by any war or any man.
Over two hundred and fifty thousand man-hours were spent before a foot of film was shot! Then, seven hundred and fifty thousand man-hours were spent in the actual production of Gone with the Wind. Over one hundred and fifty thousand dollars were spent on costumes alone. Seven thousand feet of streets were laid, ninety sets constructed and fifty-three buildings were erected for the movie. By the end of productions, Gone with the Wind came in 1.5 million dollars over budget.
Then, twenty-three weeks were spent editing the film. But just before the picture was to debut, reviewers told the director that the picture was 'profane' and could not be released. Fortunately, the studio paid the $5,000 fine to get Rhett Butler’s infamous "frankly my dear" line into the film.
The film went on to earn an unprecedented $14,000,000 at the box office in the first year of release.
With a movie coming in at almost 4 hours in length, it's hard to believe that something could have been left out. But with even the most tailored film, there's one thing you never see: what went on when the cameras weren’t rolling.
While now, no one can imagine anyone but Vivien Leigh as Scarlett, back then, Katharine Hepburn, Lana Turner, Mae West, Tallulah Bankhead, and Lucille Ball could... they all auditioned for the part!
Even the role of Rhett Butler wasn't secure. In fact, Gable only accepted the role because MGM offered to pay for his pricey divorce if he’d agree to be in the picture.
Hattie McDaniel, or “Mammy” as she’s better known, wasn’t allowed to attend the Oscars because of her race. Regardless, she was awarded “Best Supporting Actress.”
Within the thirty years following the picture’s release, its three biggest stars, Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, and Leslie Howard were dead.
As you can see, Gone With The Wind was not only fascinating before filming, but during filming and after filming as well.
The 1930s were a decade in the shadow of the “Roaring '20s” and plagued by the Great Depression. Nonetheless, the film grossed 32 million dollars domestically by 1940. Considering that $1.00 was the cost of a ticket to performances in 1939, we can agree that this was no small feat.
Now... back to that Oscar buzz I mentioned earlier! For the Academy Awards of 1939, Gone with the Wind gained 13 Oscar® nominations and won 10 awards including Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Direction, and of course Best Picture.
I can't imagine thinking of the 1930s without thinking of two things: The Great Depression and Gone with the Wind. Now, it's easy to see why the film caught on with the people of the '30s. The picture shows Scarlett embodying and living the attitude that so perfectly captured the post-Depression American spirit, the desire to triumph over any obstacle, no matter how great. I can almost feel an entire working-class audience sighing along in perfect empathy as Scarlett determinedly says, "If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill as God as my witness I'll never be hungry again."