Gone with the Wind
December 15, 1939: Gone with the Wind premieres in Atlanta, Georgia. The movie was based on the book of the same name written by Margaret Mitchell. Her book won a Pulitzer Prize in 1936 and was picked up for the movies. The 221 minute movie (longer if including overture, intermission, entr’acte, and exit music) was produced by David O Selznick and directed by Victor Fleming. The screenplay was written by Sidney Howard. The movie starred Clark Gable in the role of Rhett Butler and Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara. Leslie Howard played Ashley Wilkes and Olivia de Havilland had the role of Melanie Hamilton. The romantic-historical epic shows the lives of the four main characters against the backdrop of the US Civil War.
It took years to bring the movie from the drawing board to the theaters. Selznick was determined to have Gable in the film and it took a two year delay in order to secure the leading man for the role. There was no preconceived idea of who to have has the leading lady and so about 1,400 women were interviewed for the part of Scarlett. Howard wrote the screenplay and was tragically killed in an accident on his Massachusetts farm prior to the completion of the film. There were many revisions by many writers as it was necessary to cut scenes to shorten the entire film which is still 3 hours and 41 minutes long. Director George Cukor was fired shortly after filming began and Fleming took over, but had to leave production for a while to recover from exhaustion.
At the 1940 Academy Awards, the movie received ten Oscars, eight for competitive categories and two honorary). Best Supporting Actress went to Hattie McDaniel, the first time an African-American won an Academy Award. The number of Oscars won and the number of nominations garnered was a record at the time. The enormously successful film cost $3.85 million to create and brought in $390 million at the box office, making it the most successful film in box office history after adjustments for inflation. While not without criticism, especially about the revisionistic treatment of slaves, it also has been credited with the way African-Americans have been portrayed on the screen since.
The issue with the cast was that actors and actresses held contracts with studios who were often reluctant to lend them out. There were often prohibitively expensive strings attached. This was the issue with Gable. While 1,400 women were interviewed for the role of Scarlett, only a handful of famous and soon-to-be-famous women were actually given a screen test. Of the 31 women tested, Margaret Mitchell liked Miriam Hopkins the best, although she refrained from publicly claiming so. Hopkins was already in her mid-30s and was considered too old for the part. Leigh, 11 years younger, got the part after she was one of two actresses screentested in Technicolor. Paulette Goddard almost got the part, but her marriage to Charlie Chaplin was too controversial. Filming finally began on January 26, 1939 and ended on July 1 with post-production finally complete on November 11. Gone with the Wind opened on this date in Atlanta and has remained an iconic American film ever since.
As God is my witness, as God is my witness they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again. – Scarlett O’Hara
Dreams, dreams always dreams with you, never common sense. – Scarlett O’Hara to Ashley Wilkes
Open your eyes and look at me. No, I don’t think I will kiss you, although you need kissing badly. Rhett Butler to Scarlett O’Hara
Scarlett: Rhett, Rhett… Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?
Rhett Butler: Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.
Also on this day: James Naismith – In 1891, the game of basketball was invented.
Back Up Is Essential – In 1836, the US Patent Office’s records were lost in a fire.
JFK Assassination – In 1960, an attempt was made on President-elect Kennedy’s life.
Push Comes to Shove – In 1905, the Pushkin House was established to hold Alexander Pushkin’s works.
Bill of Rights – In 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified.