Welcome back for more little-known information about Gone with the Wind, one of the most popular film adaptations.
It is hard to imagine that more than 30 million copies of Margaret Mitchell’s book have been sold around the world. The publisher offered Mitchell a $500 advance and a 10% royalty in 1936, which was pretty good at that time.
Although the movie was widely anticipated following the success of the book, there was still much opposition along the way.
For example, the Daughters of the Confederacy campaigned against Vivien Leigh playing the part of Scarlett O’Hara because she was British. But when they were told that the role might go to Katherine Hepburn, they stopped protesting, declaring “better an Englishwoman than a Yankee!”
The fact that the movie had three directors also caused many incidents on set. Vivien Leigh apparently brought a copy of the book to the set every day to irritate the second director, Fleming, because not only did she disagree with George Cukor being replaced by him, but she also thought the book was far superior to Fleming’s interpretation. When Selznick finally became the third and last director, Leigh recalled that he “shouted at me to throw the damned thing away.”
One scene called for Clark Gable (as Rhett) to resort to tears, but he refused to cry, claiming it would “ruin his image.” He even threatened to walk off the set.
Fleming decided to shoot two versions, one with Gable crying and one with his back turned away in heavy sorrow. He then managed to convince Gable that the weeping version was better as it would endear him to his audience.
Burning of Atlanta
And then of course there was the famous “burning of Atlanta” scene, the filming of which was so sensitive to many Southerners.
This scene was the first one to be shot even before Vivien Leigh had been cast as Scarlett O’Hara. It was the most expensive scene ever shot at that time at a cost of $25,000 and was a big risk for the studio to undertake. If something had gone wrong, the whole film might never have been made.
The studio chose to burn the old set of King Kong for the burning of Atlanta, and local residents thought it was so real that they called the fire brigade.
At that time in movie history, the Atlanta-burning scene was the most epic visual depiction ever shot. It managed to show the absolute terror of being trapped in a city while desperately trying to escape. It was accompanied by the brilliant Max Steiner musical score and marked a turning point in the relationship between Scarlett and Rhett, when he appears suddenly and whisks her to safety on a road exiting the city but then abruptly leaves her to make her own way. This turns her emotions upside down as she resents him while not wanting to be parted from him.
More Gone with the Wind Facts
Three other things about this iconic book-to-movie saga intrigue me:
So, even if you “don’t give a damn” about whether books or movies are better, remember one more thing about this saga. The famous line at the end of Gone With The Wind spoken by Rhett as he leaves—“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!”—came about with its own amount of controversy.
Producer Selznick had pleaded for months to keep the word “damn” in the film and past the Hays Code. It was an integral part of the story and summed up Rhett’s feelings about Scarlett and everything he had endured. “My dear, I don’t care,” would NOT have had the same impact. Even the dictionary definition of the word “damn” only records it as “a vulgarism.” Eventually Selznick won his point and the famous line remained.
Interesting how times have changed!
Enjoy this 1961 theatrical re-release trailer for Gone with the Wind, which marked the 100th anniversary of the Civil War in 1861.