It’s been a while since I last posted a blog, so I thought I would start 2019 off right.
The New Year has been observed as a holiday celebration for over 4,000 years, since ancient times in Babylon.
At that time, however, a new year began after the vernal equinox, the first day of spring. It seemed more logical to begin a new year in spring, which is generally thought of as the season of rebirth.
January 1, on the other hand, has no particular significance other than the fact that in 153 BC the Romans decided that a new year should begin on that date. But the date wasn't firmly established until around 46 BC, when Caesar ordered the observance of the Julian calendar, which would then be coordinated with the sun.
So now around the world, we celebrate New Year’s Eve on December 31 with parties, festivities, and the playing of “Auld Lang Syne” at midnight. But did you know that December 31 is also important for many other reasons?
Here are just a few:
For all you trivia buffs out there, here are a couple of famous people who were born on New Year’s Eve:
Those Babylonian New Year celebrations apparently lasted for eleven days, with each day having its own particular role to play in the festivities.
Today, our New Year’s Eve celebrations—known as Hogmanay in Scotland, Evacuation Day in Lebanon (1946), Grand Purification day in Japan, and the day when the Grand Imperial Ball is held in Austria—all pale in comparison with those celebrations held in Babylon.
The significance of a baby to herald in the new year began in ancient Greece around 600 BC. The baby signified the annual rebirth of their god Dionysus, god of wine and the spirit of fertility. The image of a baby was continued by the Romans but was denounced by early Christians as a pagan practice. The tradition was brought to North America by the Germans who had used this image since the 14th century.
And if you're looking for good luck in the New Year, the shape of a ring is considered to bring good luck (symbolizing coming full circle and completing the year), and in that context, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year’s Eve will bring good fortune for the coming year! I particularly like that idea.
Cabbage is another good luck vegetable consumed by many cultures on New Year’s Day. Cabbage leaves are supposedly a sign of prosperity, and rice eaten on New Year’s Day is also considered by some to be lucky.
Whatever your beliefs or traditions might be, I wish each and every one of you a very happy and healthy New Year. And make sure that one of your resolutions for 2019 is to read more books!
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?
With all the craziness going on in the world today, both tragic and unbelievable, I thought I would take a break away from the serious side of life and work on a simpler, slightly amusing blog, while enjoying these strange "dog days of summer."
I was recently reminded of something that happened to me not long ago and it concerns dogs and cats.
I was at a meeting in the home of a friend who owns a cat. There were 14 people in the room. Thirteen of them were cat lovers. Enter one silky black cat. It surveyed the scene in typically superior feline manner and headed straight for the one person in the room who dislikes cats. Me!
Settling itself complacently on my lap despite my initial protest, I then pretended I was enjoying the attention. Inwardly I was trying to tell it—nothing personal, fella, but I’m a dog person! Always have been.
I admit that cats are definitely intelligent creatures. How else would every last one of them in the neighborhood know when there is a freshly dug border in our yard ready for planting? With an instinctive built-in radar system they all head straight for it. They then proceed to open an account and leave a deposit!
Another thing about cats is that they don’t seem to need people. Mostly they live out their nine lives as independent beings, oblivious to us humans other than for a need to be stroked, fed or to act as their obedient slave. I feel they are always judging us and more often than not we are found to be lacking.
Dogs, on the other hand, love you unconditionally. You are their pal for life. I know I am biased, but most dogs we have owned confirm this belief.
When I was a child we owned a German shepherd who was so intelligent she always knew when a visitor to the house had outstayed his or her welcome. She would stand up, stretch, walk over to the visitor and yawn very loudly. It always did the trick!
More recently we owned a dog that was part French poodle and part English Terrier known as a Terripoo. Because of his mixed heritage he was cursed with an adorable split personality. The poodle in him liked to be bathed, perfumed, fed treats, cuddled and thoroughly spoiled. His terrier blood enjoyed digging holes, chewing and eating rags and going for long walks with the wind in his nostrils and his ears blowing behind him. We named him Jake (a mixture of French Jacques and English Jack.)
Territory is always important to a dog. Jake knew exactly where he was or was not allowed to go. In our kitchen, breakfast nook, hallway and family room he was King, but he was never allowed in the front room or upstairs. The temptation for him was great, but his four tiny blonde paws never strayed across the imaginary lines. He respected our decision. We respected his control.
I could continue to extol the virtues of the dog although I have to admit that the last dog we owned, Rupert, was a little different from the rest. He was a breed apart. He was part poodle but mostly Shih-Tzu. He was lovable and cute but very stubborn and thought his Chinese background allowed him to lie on a cushion all day and guard the “palace” as his ancestors had once done.
I am sure I have already alienated myself from every cat lover I know and for that I apologize. And somewhere out there is a cat who knows I have written this piece and is lying in wait for me. He wants revenge and he means business.
So I will continue to enjoy these “dog days of summer,” an expression which dates back to ancient times when people in different parts of the world began drawing images of the sky by connecting the dots of stars now called constellations.
Among the images they drew were dogs (Canis Major and Canis Minor) and the brightest of the stars was Canis Major (a big dog named Sirius) which rises and sets with the sun in late July. This star adds heat causing sultry weather to follow, sometimes well into September, hence the name the “dog days of summer.”
And I think I will continue to “go to the dogs.”
But I’d love to hear from both dog and cat owners with your opinions. I have thick skin, so please let me know if you agree or disagree. I can take it!