Discover unknown facts behind Gone with the Wind

Third time lucky

The production of the epic romantic drama was nothing short of disastrous. The film’s first director, George Cukor, would be unceremoniously fired after less than three weeks. Rumors made the rounds that Gable believed the director was an unfit choice for the job, while Cukor and producer, Selznick, struggled to agree on the film’s script. Victor Fleming was next to take a seat in the director’s chair but would temporarily leave production after suffering a nervous breakdown. Sam Wood would then take over the director’s role during Fleming’s absence.

Hattie makes history

Hattie McDaniel played the role of Mammy, Scarlett’s scolding and golden-hearted house servant. In 1939, McDaniel would become the first African American to win an Academy Award- she was awarded the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The 12th Academy Awards were held at the Coconut Grove Restaurant of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Though the hotel had a strict policy against allowing African Americans on the premises, an exception was made so the actress to attend the event.

Boys don’t cry

Clark Gable, then widely known as ‘The King of Hollywood’, was regarded as one of cinema’s most dashing and accomplished actors. In one of Gone with the Wind’s most heartfelt scenes, Rhett Butler was required to cry. The actor reportedly refused to shed tears onscreen, concerned that the display of emotion would jeopardize his image as a masculine leading man. Olivia de Havilland, who starred alongside Gable as Melanie Hamilton Wilkes, persuaded the actor to go through with the scene.

History in the making

The American Civil War epic proved to be a groundbreaking cinematic marvel. When adjusted for monetary inflation, the film remains the highest-grossing box-office smash hit of all time. Gone with the Wind also set a record for Academy Award wins and nominations – it was nominated for a total of 13 nominations, winning eight trophies. The film was also the longest movie to ever be awarded the Best Picture Oscar, with a running time of 3 hours, 58 minutes.

Up in flames

The spectacular burning of Atlanta was the very first scene to be shot. With a cost of $25,000, it would also be the most expensive. The studio’s back lot was set aflame, as well as some abandoned sets from other notable films like King Kong. The blaze was so terrific that surrounding residents called the local fire department. It reportedly took almost 15,000 gallons of water to extinguish the flames. The director filmed 113 minutes of footage which would ultimately be cut down to mere minutes.

Howard’s hesitation

Leslie Howard played Ashley Wilkes, the Southern gentleman with whom young Scarlett becomes infatuated with. The actor behind Scarlett’s unrequited love allegedly loathed playing the role and did not feel he was right for the part. Howard was 40 years old when the film was shot and he was adamant he would not be believable as the handsome 21 year old Ashley. He was quoted stating he felt he was “not nearly beautiful or young enough to play Ashley”.

The search for Scarlett

Scarlett O’Hara is undoubtedly one of cinema history’s most memorable leading ladies yet the casting of the iconic part proved to be a mammoth task. The search for Scarlett would last two years, with a reported 1,400 actresses auditioning for the role of the tempestuous Southern belle. After coming in for a last minute screen test, the lovely Vivien Leigh would land the part of the precocious central character. The choice proved controversial because many Southerners were offended by the thought of a British actress playing the part of the iconic Southern role. Despite the public disapproval, Leigh would go on to with the Academy Award for Best Actress for her outstanding portrayal of O’Hara.

Dummy luck

In another heart-wrenching scene, Scarlett stumbles through a street littered with the corpses and injured bodies of hundreds of confederate soldiers on her quest to seek the aid of Dr. Mead. Selznick reportedly wanted to feature 2,500 extras in the now iconic scene. Due to regulations, only 800 extras were permitted to be used. The insistent producer ordered 800 life-like dummies to be included in the scene in order to ensure the image had the intended devastating effect on the audience.

Paycheck battles

While Gone with the Wind received widespread criticism concerning its portrayal and treatment of its black characters, little was said about the behind-the-scenes mistreatment of the film’s leading lady. It seems the lead actor’s paychecks reflected the gender inequality of the times. While Clark Gable was said to have received almost $120,000 for his 70 non-consecutive days of filming. Vivien Leigh would ultimately receive just $25,000 for her 125 days of work on set.

Gable’s outrage

Fans might be surprised to learn that the movie’s leading man almost boycotted the film’s premiere. Due to Atlanta’s lingering Jim Crow segregation laws, Hattie McDaniel was not allowed to attend the 1939 event. McDaniel and Clark Gable had become fast friends during the many months of filming and the actor was reportedly rightly outraged at the African American actress’s treatment. Gable threatened to forego the premiere in protest, but McDaniel managed to convince him to attend.

The Oscar mystery

The classic continues to charm millions of viewers, but the movie gained one particularly notable famous fan. The King of Pop, the late Michael Jackson, proved his love for the epic when he purchased David O. Selznick’s Best Picture Academy Award for a whopping $1,542,500 from an auction in 1999. Bizarrely, when the superstar passed in 2009, executors of his state began taking inventory of his assets only to discover the golden statue was missing.

Premiere pandemonium

In a true reflection of the film’s wild popularity, the premiere proved to be a grand spectacle. Over 300,000 people flocked to the streets of Atlanta in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the movie’s stars. The governor of Georgia, declared the day, December 15, a state holiday. A parade of limousines transported the stars to Loew’s Grand Theater and the star-studded evening would also include a lavish costume ball. American President Jimmy Carter called the affair “the biggest event to happen in the South in my lifetime.”

Public backlash

After the film’s initial screening, it received some severe public backlash for its onscreen depiction of its many African American characters, particularly Scarlet’s house servants. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) protested outside movie theaters, campaigning to have the scenes they deemed offensive removed. The masses threatened to boycott the film if the producer did not comply. Selznick caved to the pressure and had multiple scenes deleted from the finished product.

The secret preview

Selznick went to some extreme lengths to ensure the first screenings of the classic were kept confidential. The first preview was so secretive, the audience actually had no idea of what they were about to view. The movie theater doors were locked throughout the screening to prevent any information being leaked. Despite viewing an unfinished version with an even longer running time than the ultimate cut, the majority of the test audience was thrilled by the film.

By another name

Margaret Mitchell penned the original novel the movie would be based on. It’s difficult to conceive, but the author actually considered several other titles for the story. ‘Bugles Sang True,’ ‘Baa! Baa! Black Sheep,’ ‘Not in Our Stars,’ ‘Tomorrow Is Another Day,’ and ‘Tote the Weary Load,’ all made the shortlist of potentials. The final title was taken from a poem by Ernest Dowson named Cynara. The line for the title’s inspiration reads: “I have forgot much Cynara! Gone with the wind.”

Pained performance

British-American Actress Olivia de Havilland memorably starred as the wholesome and compassionate, Melanie Hamilton. In a particularly demanding scene, Hamilton gives birth. The director of the film, Victor Fleming, was determined to make the actress’s performance as believable as possible. He went to unconventional lengths to insure the scene had the desired effect on audiences. Fleming sat beside the actress, just beyond the camera’s view, and painfully pinched her toes while the scene was shot.

Less than loving

While generations of moviegoers have long considered the characters of Scarlett and Rhett one of cinema’s most captivating couples, the heated scenes between the actors were supposedly far from romantic. Leigh apparently dreaded shooting the impassioned scenes with Gable, claiming he had foul-smelling breath. The actress recalled in an interview, “kissing Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind was not that exciting. His dentures smelled something awful.” This must attest to how great of an actress she is.

Quote quibble

There are few people who have seen Gone with the Wind who will not recall Rhett Butler’s iconic retort, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a d***.” The scripted quote was wildly controversial. This was only the second time in movie history that an expletive was featured on film. Contrary to the popular belief that Selznick was fined for using the obscenity, the curse word was, in fact, pre-approved after much deliberation. The line has since become one of cinematic history’s most referenced and beloved quotes.

Selznick’s snub

During the many arduous months of the film’s development, a host of writers would struggle to adapt the novel into a more concise screenplay. Selznick turned to renowned director and producer, Alfred Hitchcock, for assistance with the movie’s screenplay. Hitchcock composed a detailed screenplay for numerous scenes alongside detailed descriptions of camera angles. In a rather insulting move, the producer didn’t use any of Hitchcock’s suggestions. Ultimately, it took 16 writers almost two years to adapt the novel.

A pretty penny

Just a mere month after the novel Gone With The Wind made its way to book stores, Selznick bought the movie rights from the author of the book for $50,000. More than 30 million copies have been printed and sold worldwide. According to a 2014 poll, the novel is the second favorite book of American readers, preceded by the bible. It was reported that the ambitious producer had not read the novel but was impressed by its public and critical acclaim.

No tears

Clark Gable really didn’t want to cry on camera, worried that sobbing would ruin his image. When Melanie tells Rhett that Scarlett has lost their baby, the news is supposed to make Rhett cry. However, Gable really didn’t want to film this scene and even threatened to walk off set. Fleming agreed to shoot two versions; one with the crying and one with Gable’s back turned, seeming sorrowful. Eventually, Fleming managed to convince Clark Gable that the audience would empathize with Rhett and not feel as though he was weak. The crying scene stayed and was one of the most moving parts of the entire movie.

Seventeen days

It’s no secret that Gone with the Wind went through some serious scripting issues. No one seemed to be happy with it, especially not the actors. George Cukor (the first director) and producer Selznick also came to blows over it. In the end, the entire thing had to be hastily rewritten in just seventeen days. They even shelved a much better version in the meantime! Luckily, they finally managed to get things exactly how they wanted them. Kind of.

Movie in color

Color film wasn’t really the done thing when Gone with the Wind was first released, due to it being such a new invention. In fact, it was so new that this movie became the first ever winner of the Best Picture Oscar to be filmed in color. Of course, it seems strange to think that there weren’t really any color movies before this one. However, it’s good to see that filming in color wasn’t just a fad that died out.

Happy author

It’s thought that Margaret Mitchell, who wrote the original novel, was best pleased with the movie. However, there is one person in particular who caught her attention. It is said that she was entertained by the performance of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett. Mitchell is also alleged to have said she was impressed by the whole thing – which is quite an achievement! Authors are rarely happy with movie adaptations of their books.

A lot to say

Fans of Gone with the Wind will know that it is one seriously long film and it seems as though Vivien Leigh knew this better than anyone else. Her performance in the movie is around two and a half hours, meaning she had a whole ton of lines to learn! Considering she didn’t get paid as much as her male counterpart, it hardly seems fair when you realize how much work she put into the role. At least she got her well-deserved Academy Award!

Secret help

We know that Cukor was replaced as director by Victor Fleming, but it wasn’t the end of his time helping out on Gone with the Wind. According to rumors, Vivien Leigh didn’t really click with Fleming and struggled to get direction from him. So, to help her out, she turned to Cukor where she asked for some private coaching. It was allegedly the first director who turned her character into the Scarlett everyone loves today.

Gable not keen

According to some reports, Clark Gable didn’t actually want the role offered to him in Gone with the Wind. However, it had something he had to pay for… an impending divorce! He was in the process of splitting up with his second wife, Maria Langham, and needed to pay for the proceedings. The big bucks he was offered to take on the role would undoubtedly have come in handy for his split with the Texas socialite.

Third wife

Clark Gable divorced his second wife, Maria Langham, on March 7, 1939, while he was filming Gone with the Wind – and didn’t want too long before securing his third! During a production break for the film, he married his third wife, Carole Lombard on March 29, 1939. He clearly wasn’t the kind of man to wait around! Or perhaps they had always been a thing… Unfortunately, Lombard passed away in a plane crash back in 1942.

A missed opportunity

Clark Gable wasn’t the first person to be offered the role of Rhett Butler. Gary Cooper, who was a big star in the Golden Era of Hollywood, reportedly turned down the role as he thought the whole film would be a flop. He later admitted that it was “one of the best roles ever offered in Hollywood” but that Clark Gable had played it to “perfection.” It is thought that he mocked Gable initially, for taking on the role. He soon ate his words!

Not a dancer

You may be surprised to learn that Vivien Leigh was not exactly known for her dancing skills. In fact, when it came to dancing in the movie, everyone discovered she had two left feet. She was so shockingly bad that they knew they couldn’t include her busting moves in the film. Instead, they decided to opt for a body double to cover the parts where Scarlett was dancing. That could have totally ruined the mood otherwise!

All the slaps

The scene in which Vivien Leigh slaps Butterfly McQueen is a pretty iconic one in Gone with The Wind. However, it wasn’t without its fair share of troubles. Cukor was reportedly unhappy with the slap over and over again, meaning that it had to be filmed over and over again. There were so many takes that apparently McQueen started crying as she had been slapped so much. That’s gotta hurt!