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.
Do you prefer to read the book before you see the movie? Or do you like to see the movie first?
Often we are disappointed and even critical, asking ourselves if the movie did justice to a brilliant piece or writing. Or did the screen adaptation improve the words of the author? Or perhaps you liked the book and the movie equally?
There have, however, been many excellent books made into movies. J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, for instance, as both books and movies have been equally well received and idolized by many! But that doesn’t happen very often.
My all-time favorite book/movie is “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell.
In my opinion, both the book and the movie are excellent, considering the fact that the book was written in 1936 and the movie was made in 1939 without benefit of the modern screen techniques of today. It soon became the most successful film in box-office history and the highest-earning film made up to that point, a record it held for the next quarter of a century.
Some facts about the book and movie you may not know:
Not everyone liked Gone with the Wind. Many reviews were uncomplimentary, including Ralph Thompson of the New York Times: “The book would have been infinitely better if it had been edited down to 500 pages . . . Every reader will agree that a more disciplined and less prodigal piece of work would have more nearly done justice to the subject.”
Unfortunately, Margaret Mitchell's life was cut short. Ten years after the release of the film, on August 11, 1949, she was fatally struck by a car as she and her husband crossed the street after leaving a movie house. She was only 48 and had never written another book.
The movie set a record with its many awards, receiving 10 at the 1939 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress, and Best supporting actress (Hattie MacDaniel), who set a record by becoming the first African American to win an Academy Award.
Production for the movie had been difficult from the start.
But the story certainly does not end there. There is, of course, the famous “burning of Atlanta” scene to talk about. That alone, and so much more about the actors and the movie, deserves another blog: next week!
What's your favorite scene in Gone with the Wind?
During the Victorian era, England saw many technological and economic changes and improvements that caused a separate group of people, the middle class, to evolve alongside wealthy aristocrats.
Sadly, there were many who slipped through the cracks—particularly the children without a family. These orphans were often abandoned in society by mothers who could no longer care for them. Most ended up in orphanages.
Many authors at that time, such as Charles Dickens, portrayed these orphanages as overcrowded and unsanitary, and most orphans were dirty and malnourished. Corporeal punishment was excessive. Often the people overseeing these facilities took a major part of the stipends themselves and spent very little on the children.
The mortality rate was atrocious. According to Dickens in Oliver Twist,
But some of the orphans placed in orphanages considered themselves lucky compared to other abandoned children. They were at least provided with food, clothing, and shelter and some minimal education. On the other hand, children sent to workhouses, were not so lucky. Life there consisted mostly of hard grind and no educational opportunities.
The ultimate goal for orphans was to be adopted or for a parent to return for them, but this did not occur very often unless a close relative came forward to take them on. Any adoption that did happen was usually on a very informal basis.
After the age of 15, orphans were expected to earn their own living in the world. As their education had been minimal, the only work available to girls was usually “in service” to the gentry as scullery maids. Boys from country orphanages might alternatively be hired on as farm laborers or gardeners.
Many orphans ended up as criminals living on the streets after the age of 15, doing menial work or begging for money in order to survive. Girls turned to prostitution.
Fortunately, some orphanages at that time actually helped children.
Two particularly philanthropic souls, the Reverend Edward Cridge and his wife, Mary, set sail from England in 1854 aboard the Marquis of Bute to take up tenure at Fort Victoria on the west coast of British Columbia.
Among their many contributions in the new world, including the betterment of education in Victoria, was the Protestant Orphans' Home, founded in 1873 to help the growing number of orphans who previously had depended solely upon the kindness of strangers to take them into their own homes. The Protestant Orphans' Home was officially opened in November of 1873.
Today, the Cridge Centre in Victoria still stands and continues the original work of hope and support for all vulnerable people, offering a women's transition house as well as children and seniors' services and a young parent outreach program.
The protagonist in my upcoming novel, Providence, begins life in a country orphanage in England in the 1840s, where I have depicted, with some poetic license, what life must have been like for those children abandoned in such places.
In my book, I have painted a more optimistic picture of life for those abandoned children who did survive, and when you read it, I hope you'll admire my heroine as she strives to overcome her miserable fate—at all costs.
In today’s world, she would have been a “Me Too” woman, encouraging other women to believe they were capable of anything— if they put their minds to it.
Let me know what YOU think.
Many love themes run throughout my historical family saga series, The McBride Chronicles, set mainly in British Columbia, Canada, and taking place from the 1830s to present day.
While researching romance during those years, I discovered, for instance, that in the Victorian Era (1837–1901), there was a great deal of formal courting. In the upper classes, it was almost an art form.
A gentleman interested in a certain lady could not simply start up a conversation with her at a social event without a formal introduction. And it would be some time before it was considered appropriate to speak to her or for them to be seen together.
After they had been formally introduced at an event, the gentleman would present his card to her if he was interested and wished to escort the lady home. At the end of the evening, the lady looked over the cards she had received and then chose who would be her escort. She would then notify the lucky man by giving him her card in return.
Actual courting only took place in the young lady’s home and always with a chaperone close by, usually her parents. Eventually the courting might progress to the front porch. Any marriage proposal would usually be handwritten, after the gentlemen had first approached the lady’s father.
Fun Historical Tidbits
Here are some more facts I discovered about romance and courtship throughout history:
Love in the 19th Century
But, as I also discovered, not all courting couples adhered to the traditions of their time in history. I decided to portray some such characters in The McBride Chronicles, so I created relationships and love between different classes, women who risked their reputation for love, and love affairs during times of war, when men and women lived only for the moment.
In the 19th century, even the love affair between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert was far from ordinary or conventional. She had to propose to him because of their stations in life.
There was a great love between them, despite their frequent quarrels during the marriage. When Albert died at a young age, Victoria went into deep sorrow and mourned him for the remainder of her life.
My own grandparents, Ernest Coulson and Annie Letitia Barber (their wedding in 1898 seen below), had a traditional courtship and were apparently a very loving couple who raised six children.
But judging from their wedding picture, the celebration looked to be rather a sombre affair!
I must admit I regret how love and courtship has changed over the years—even since the 1960s and 1970s when I was young.
Relationships between partners today are more informal. Many choose to live together and have children without the benefit of traditional marriage.
But who am I to judge? Everyone should do what works for them—as long as love is present. Love is really all that matters.
Please leave a comment below and let me know your views about love and romance in the 21st century as opposed to days gone by. I would love to hear from you.
After years of writing historical nonfiction books, I am more than a little excited to announce my debut novel, Providence, the first in the McBride Chronicles historical family saga series, will be released later this fall.
Years ago, a very wise teacher once told me "only write about what you know." Well, I always loved history, my educational background was in history, and I thought I was pretty good at it!
But how, I wondered, can anyone know exactly what it was like to live back in the past?
As a nonfiction book writer, I was more than a little familiar with researching historical figures and situations and then writing about them—the true facts.
Now as a fiction writer, I seem to be doing even more research, analysis, and investigation into living life in another century while at the same time trying to forget everything about life as we know it in the 21st century. It's no easy process!
For the past weeks, months, and even years while the McBride Chronicles series has been coming to life, I have found myself researching some of the following topics while trying to think and act like someone living in the 19th century:
Placing my characters in these settings has been a challenge—but a most enjoyable one.
For a fiction writer, though, research alone is not enough. Creating real-life flesh-and-blood characters is essential.
Over the next several months, I will be blogging about some of these topics. SO if you enjoy historical fiction as much as I do, I hope you will follow along on my adventurous journey.
Please read my blogs, leave a comment (good or bad), join my email list by signing up for my "freebies" (the first is "Poker Alice"), and watch for the release of Providence, my debut novel, to be published by Sandra Jonas Publishing, Boulder, Colorado.
I hope you will be in for a treat . . .