When Gone With the Wind was released in 1939, it quickly became a box office hit. And with a cast including Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, and Olivia de Havilland…how could it not be popular? The movie follows Vivien Leigh’s character, Scarlett O’Hara, on the eve of the Civil War. And without posting too many spoilers, she finds love, loses it and tries to gain it back. And it’s truly magical. If you want to know even more, take a look at these Gone With the Wind Secrets…
The production of Gone With The Wind was nothing less than an abominable mess, and they encountered so many problems it’s amazing that they produced what they did. The first director of the movie was fired after just three weeks, and then the script was written, re-written, written again, lengthened and altered. Eventually, the new script was finalized after seven 20-hour days. It’s been reported that David Selznick didn’t allow any of his writers to leave the room during these days, and they survived off bananas and water.
Leigh wasn’t the first choice
Finding the right leading lady for your movie can be a tough job. And it seems that Gone With The Wind’s producer, David Selznick, was having a hard time trying to find the right woman to fit the bill. He had a whole host of maybe’s in his pile and just didn’t know which one to choose.
And she was cast after filming began
Yes, she really was cast after filming began. Because Selznick was taking so long to decide, the production team made the decision to begin filming the ‘Burning of Atlanta’ scene because they only needed a stand-in for this scene. It’s been said that Leigh joined Selznick on set (she knew his brother) and he knew she was the one so asked her in for a screen test.
The public wasn’t happy
As you may know, Vivien Leigh was a British actress, with, understandably, a very British accent. She was also relatively known within the acting world at that time. And this combination – to the public’s eye – was not a good portrayal of the Southern belle, Scarlett O’Hara.
Film vs. book
If you’re going to produce a movie that is based on a book, it’s important to get small details correct – otherwise, the fans go wild. And eye color is one of those small details that really make or break an adaptation. Vivien Leigh had naturally blue eyes, whereas Scarlett had green eyes. So, to ensure her eyes looked green, she wore lots of green clothing and light filters were used during her close-up shots to make them look less blue.
Tears and tantrums
A lot of men don’t like to cry (although we think everyone needs a good cry now and then). So when Clark Gable was told he had to cry as Rhett Butler, he was not happy. When he was told that he simply had to do it, he even threatened to quit! But eventually, Olivia de Havilland managed to persuade him to shoot the scene and shed a few tears.
At the time of filming, Clark Gable was under contract with MGM, who refused to release him to star in Gone With The Wind. Instead, they came to an agreement where MGM would receive half of the profits from the movie, and that Gable would be paid $7,000 a week for his work. That was a pretty good deal for MGM…
Because of this contractual dispute, the pay gaps between the main character and Cable was extortionate. Clark Gable worked for 71 non-consecutive days and was awarded upwards of $120,000. Vivien Leigh, however, worked for 125 consecutive days and received around $25,000. We just don’t think this is fair…
When you’re filming a scene where there are thousands of wounded Confederate soldiers on the ground, it would be handy if you had actors to work with. Originally, Selznick wanted 2500 extras to star in the scene, but the Screen Actors Guild only had 1500 available. So Selznick decided to make up the rest of the bodies in dummies.
There were firsts and segregation
In the ‘30s, black people were still widely segregated. But one black woman in Gone With the Wind made history. Hattie McDaniel played Mammy in the movie and was the first African-American actress to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. However, she was forced to sit at a segregated table at the back of the Oscars venue and was only allowed to read an acceptance speech that was written for her.
Even more firsts
As a movie, Gone With the Wind was hugely successful. In fact, it was the first movie, ever to win more than five Academy Awards and ten Oscars. It kept that title up for 20 years until it was overtaken by Ben-Hur in 1959. That’s no easy feat, but so well deserved.
Leigh was sassy
When the first director was fired after three weeks, Leigh began a silent protest because she disagreed with the choice of their new director. Each day, she took the original book of Gone With the Wind to set and outlined each part she thought would be better if they stuck with the original version. Unfortunately, Selznick forced her to throw the book away.
David Selznick didn’t like to do things by the book (quite literally). They set up the first preview of the movie in secret. They decided to fill a theater up with people, without telling them what they were seeing, and play the movie. It was a risky move, but everyone seemed to love it, and even said that the three and a half hour movie didn’t need to be cut any shorter.
Frankly dear, I don’t give a damn
Back in the day, there were many words that you couldn’t say on the screen, as they were deemed too inappropriate, and there was one line in the movie that Selznick campaigned for weeks to be allowed into the movie. After much convincing, they eventually let him include
the iconic line, ‘Frankly dear, I don’t give a damn.’
There was a three-day festival
The city of Atlanta was a huge fan of the Margaret Mitchell book, Gone With the Wind, and the premiere of the movie was something everyone was looking forward to. So much so, that millions of people traveled to Georgia to be there for the premiere. In fact, the Governor of the City decided to declare it a public holiday and ordered a three-day festival for the release. Wow.
All of the characters together
Gone With The Wind stars four main characters; Scarlett, Rhett, Olivia, and Ashley. But there is only one scene in the three and a half hour movie where all four of these characters are together. This is the scene where Scarlett is made aware that her second husband is dead.
Leigh and Gable had some of the best on-screen chemistry that we’ve ever seen in a movie. But what if we told you these scenes were a struggle? It’s been reported that Vivien Leigh hated having to kiss Clark Gable because he had to wear false teeth, and the dentures were extremely smelly. Lovely…
It all goes up in flames
The ‘Burning of Atlanta’ scene was one of the most epic and most expensive scenes within the whole movie. It cost around $25,000 at the time – which was a heck load of money in the ‘30s. It’s even been said that if that scene had gone wrong, that would be the end of the movie altogether because they could not afford to reshoot anything.
The big fire in the ‘Burning of Atlanta’ scene was created by burning the back parking lot of the studio, complete with old sets – they even burned the set from King Kong. Selznick shot 113 minutes of footage of the fire, to accommodate for a few minutes of airtime. But it was worth it.