Although much time has passed since Gone With the Wind’s national premiere in 1939, the film remains one of the most popular and iconic movies of all time. Regardless of its controversial storyline which includes, racial and political themes, an incredibly long running time, and a few inter-cast mate scandals, the film still has a cult following that cannot be broken. However, with a movie as tumultuous and lengthy as GWTW, there are still so many secrets about the movie that even the most devoted fans still, don’t know.
Someone Get This Man A Mint
Bad breath can sneak up on just about anyone even famous actors! Take Clark Gable for example. Although Gable and Leigh displayed steamy chemistry on screen, Leigh admitted that she dreaded scenes where she had to kiss Gable because of his bad breath. Gable had to wear false teeth, and Leigh said in an interview, “Kissing Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind was not that exciting. His dentures smelled something awful.” Leigh took one for the team!
Racial Equality At The Oscars
Hattie McDaniel received much praise for her performance in the film as the role of Mammy and even became the first ever African-American to be nominated for an Oscar and also the first to win one. McDaniel’s victory was seen by many as a big step in the progress of racial equality. However, the Academy Awards banquet which was held at the Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel, was subject to segregation laws which meant she couldn’t sit at the same table as her co-stars.
Not So Southern Belle
When the public found out that the English actress Vivien Leigh would be playing the part of Scarlett O’Hara, who is the embodiment of a Southern Belle, let’s just say that they weren’t very happy about it. However, Leigh isn’t the only Brit that was cast in the film to play a southerner. Leslie Howard, who played the role of Ashley Wilkes, Scarlett’s love interest, was also English, and if Ronald Colman had ultimately gotten the role of Rhett, there would have been three non-American main characters in the film.
Flipping The Script
While the screenplay of the film was originally written by Sidney Howard, it underwent several revisions by many writers in a bold attempt to shorten it to a length suitable for audiences. In the cutting process of the film’s script, parts of it were rewritten, it was altered a bit, lengthened again, and finally changed once more. About five weeks into shooting the movie a new script was delivered, which took seven 20 hour days to complete, during which executive producer Selznick didn’t allow any of the writers to have a lunch break, and instead fed them bananas for energy. A total of twelve writers were a part of creating the final script.
There Were Three Directors
As if the screenwriting process of the film wasn’t enough of a mess, the production of the movie was another epic disaster. Three weeks after filming began the film’s original director, George Cukor, was abruptly fired and was quickly replaced by Victor Fleming. But in true GWTW fashion, the tables turned once again, and Victor Fleming had to be replaced by Sam Wood because Fleming had to take time off as he was struggling with exhaustion.
Not everyone was happy with Cukor’s new replacement of Fleming as the new director, especially Vivien Leigh. Leigh found Fleming to be the typical boorish, man’s man and disagreed with most of the direction he gave. In an attempt to silently protest Fleming’s new status of director Leigh carried Mitchell’s book in her hand each day to the set, and read each scene, just to let Fleming know that she thought the original version of the story was much better than his own interpretation. But eventually, Leigh was called out by Selznick, as he shouted at her to throw the book away.
Burning Down The House
The first scene of the movie to be shot was the famous burning of Atlanta scene, which was filmed on the 10th of December in 1938. This was an incredibly crucial scene as just one mistake during filming could have resulted in the whole film being scrapped. During the scene, many old sets in the back lot of the studio that needed to be cleared were burnt down including sets from old movies like The Garden of Allah and the “Great Wall” set from King Kong. The fire, which cost them well over $25,000 to produce, gave the crew 113 minutes of footage, and it was so intense that residents began calling in thinking that MGM studios were actually burning down.
Top Secret Preview
When Selznick decided to preview the film he made sure it was so top secret that the people sitting in the preview didn’t even know what they were there for. Selznick walked into a movie theater, and told (not asked) the owner that he would screen his film after the movie that was playing ended, and the doors would have to be locked to make sure that none of the audience would tell anyone about what they were watching. The audience loved the movie even though the version they saw was the unfinished one.
Jim Crow Laws Kept Hattie McDaniel Out Of The Premiere
After an exciting, three-day festival, Gone With The Wind premiered in Atlanta, but not without a whole lot of controversy. Due to the Jim Crow Laws still in place in the south, the black actors couldn’t attend the premiere and people weren’t happy about this namely, Clark Gable after learning his buddy Hattie McDaniel would be left out. Gable was so angry that he threatened to boycott the premiere entirely. McDaniel cooled things down by sending a message to the director that she wouldn’t be able to attend anyway because of other commitments.
Special Effects Made Leigh’s Blue Eyes Look Green
Just as it is now, back, then it was very important to audiences and producers that films based off of books got every detail of the story correct even down to eye color. In the case of Scarlett O’Harra who had green eyes in the book, this was a problem as Scarlett actress Vivien Leigh had blue eyes. Unlike today the fix to this problem wasn’t as easy as popping in contacts. Instead, Leigh’s eye color was corrected by wearing lots of green clothing, and there were special lighting filters when close-up’s were shot to make her eyes appear greener.
Gable Broke His MGM Contract To Be In The Film
Oh contracts, they’re a necessary evil, especially when you’re Clark Gable. Back in 1939, Clark Gable was under contract with MGM studios when he was set to play the part of Rhett Buttler, which was problematic as they didn’t want to let him out of his contract, that was until an exorbitant deal was reached. The deal was that Gable would be paid $7,000 for a week for his work in GWTW and they would have to give MGM half of the film’s profits. That seems like a shakedown if we’ve ever seen one.
Leigh Hurried Home To Her Honey
Leigh was a key driving force to speeding up the already very behind production schedule, even though her reason may have been just a little selfish. The reason Leigh pushed to pick up the pace of the filming of the movie was so that she could return to her lover Olivier, who wasn’t in Hollywood so she couldn’t see him every day. It’s said that every day Leigh pleaded with the directors that just one more scene of the film would be shot.
Big Boys Don’t Cry
It turns out that Rhett Butler actor Clark Gable was not a happy camper when he found out that he would have to cry, and we mean sob, in a scene. Gable tried to fight this, but the director insisted that he would have to do it and gable almost quit. That was until Olivia de Havilland, the actress who he shared the scene with and played Melanie Hamilton Wilkes, convinced him to do the scene and stay on the movie, because that’s what friends are for right?
The making of the film was difficult and extremely slow from the start. One of the reasons that the filming of the movie was delayed for two years is because Selznick was determined to recruit Clark Gable to play the role of Rhett Buttler. Another reason is that Selznick was just as picky about who would play the role of Scarlett O’Harrah, which resulted in over 1,400 women trying out for the famous part, but in the end, Leigh was chosen.
Living Amongst The Dead Dummies
In the epic scene which shows Scarlett walking through hundreds of injured and dead Confederate soldiers on her quest to find Doctor Meade, the director had to get creative in order to comply with the union’s rules. Union rules required that at least 800 extras be used so in compliance 800 real people were used as extras, and 800 dummies were mixed in to create the picture of intense suffering Selznick insisted on portraying. This was far less, however, than the 2500 extras he insisted on having from the beginning, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Same Horse, Different Movie!
Acting is a profession not only limited to humans as some of the stars of the best movies are actually animals, for example, Beethoven, Flipper, Babe, and even Lassie. Gone With The Wind had its own four-legged star, and that was the noble white horse that the film’s star Thomas Mitchell was seen riding around. The horse must have done a great job because it was later cast as the horse named Silver in the 1994 film The Lone Ranger.
Howard Hated Playing Ashley
When Leslie Howard accepted the role of Ashley Wilkes, it was for the sole reason that producer Selznick promised to credit him as a producer in one of the upcoming films he would release. At the time of filming Howard was in his early 40’s and a skinny man who didn’t care much about looks and usually portrayed weak men so having to play a handsome 21-year-old man was totally and completely not his style. Howard wrote a letter to his daughter during filming and said,”I hate the damn part. I’m not nearly beautiful or young enough for Ashley, and it makes me sick being fixed up to look attractive.”
Censors Agreed To The D Word
One of Rhett’s most iconic lines from the film was when he says to Scarlett, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn,” The line is a culmination of all of Rhett’s suffering he endured during the years with Scarlett and himself as well as the finality and severity of his final goodbye. While at first, the line was almost changed to “My dear, I don’t care.” as damn was considered inappropriate, the censors ultimately agreed to allow the line to be included after Selznick convinced them that the film would be an absolute mockery if the line was changed.
The Power Of Math
In the gloriously beautiful shot where Scarlett and her father are looking out over the Tara while the sun fades away was possible thanks so advanced mathematics. The technology available at the time when the film was made wasn’t able to sync the video of the actors, the sunset effect, and two huge paintings, so the film crew reached out to the UCLA math department for a solution, and they came through with the answer. The team of mathematicians was able to get everything in the scene to fit together by using good ole calculus.
NAACP Protests Resulted In Deleted Scenes
After learning of how blacks were depicted in the film, the NAACP put serious pressure on the filmmakers, and as a result, Selznick removed all the scenes deemed racially offensive. There were also massive protests to boycott the movie until the footage in question was completely removed. In order to make the film historically accurate as the story is set during the time of the Civil War, the depiction of the black people represented how they were treated at the time and wasn’t a reflection of how the producer or directors felt.
That Wasn’t Tea In Mammy’s Cup
It seems as though Clark Gable was the regular practical joker on the set especially when it came to Mammy actress Hattie McDaniel. During the scene where Bonnie is being born, Rhett pours up Mammy drink after the child is born, but instead of tea it was alcohol! As a joke Gable poured alcohol into the decanter instead of tea and McDaniel only realized the switcharoo after she took a big sip and spat it out! Not cool Clark! Not cool at all.
Critiques From The Author
During the making of the movie, producer David O. Selznick repeatedly asked the original author of the book, Margaret Mitchell, to give her critique on every single aspect of the production. Considering Mitchell was a very private person this was difficult for her, but she found one criticism which was the design of Tara. In the end, Selznick completely ignored Mitchell’s opinion so in protest, from then on out she refused to critique or comment on the film’s production even if she was begged.
Selznick Ignored Hitchcock’s Advice
Similar to the previous situation with the novel’s author Margaret Mitchell, Selznick also asked another famous producer Alfred Hitchcock for advice with the scene where the women are waiting for the men’s return after the raid on Shantytown and Melanie says, “David Copperfield.” Hitchcock composed a detailed screenplay, along with descriptions of camera angles and exact shots but in the end, Selznick decided not to use virtually any of the famous Hitchcock’s carefully composed screenplay. It’s no wonder the movie took so long to film.
Up In Smoke
Vivien Leigh was quite the glamours woman so when people working on the set found out how much she smoked they were incredibly surprised. It was reported that during the filming of the movie, Vivien would smoke on average up to four packs of cigarettes a day! Another famous smoker on the set was Clark Gable who smoked an astonishing three packs of cigarettes a day throughout his career. The set must have reeked of smoke at the rate the actors were puffing away.
It Wasn’t Leigh Dancing
You may not have known this but Vivien Leigh needed a body double, and it’s not for what you may have thought. It turns out that as talented as she was the beautiful Vivien Leigh could not dance! Because of this, she had her body double Sally De Marco fill in for her for during all of the dancing scenes where Scarlet is shown in shots that aren’t close ups. Sally De Marco was famous in Hollywood as a stunt double, so Leigh was happy to have her on the job.
All Taped Up
The incredibly macho GWTW director Victor Fleming decided that he wanted Scarlett, to look like Clark Gable’s “type of woman” which was a well-rounded one, as in real life Leigh wasn’t very well endowed if you catch our drift. So, in the scene in the second half of the film where Scarlett attends Ashley Wilkes’ birthday party she is seen wearing a stunning velvet burgundy gown that was decked out in jewels. To achieve the level of burstiness Fleming wanted her to have he made Vivien Leigh tape her breasts together.
The Movie Right’s Were Bought For A Pretty Penny
A month after the novel Gone With The Wind was published, David O. Selznick swooped in and bought the movie rights from the author of the book, Margaret Mitchell for $50,000 big ones. At that time it was the most that any author had made off of their first novel. But Selznick realized that he had dramatically underpaid Mitchell for the movie rights, so he gave her another $50,000 in 1942 when he sold Selznick-International Pictures, as an added bonus. Now that’s an honest man.
McQueen Took A Hard Hit
In the scene where Prissy says, “Oh Miss Scarlett! I don’t know nuthin’ ’bout birthin’ babies,” George Cukor directed Leigh to slap Prissy actress Butterfly McQueen and demanded McQueen to scream loud to make it more realistic. However, after plenty of takes McQueen began to cry and broke down saying Leigh was slapping her too hard. In an interview, McQueen admitted that she struck a bargain with Cukor that if Leigh hit her, she wouldn’t scream but if she pretended to she would scream as loud as possible. You could just see how that right arm is raising getting ready for the slap.
Call Of Duty
Leslie Howard wasn’t able to attend the movie’s premiere in Atlanta because he was called back to England following the outbreak of WWII. Howard served in the British military intelligence unit during WWII, and still managed to make three films including, The 49th Parallel in 1941, Pimpernel Smith also in 1941, and First of the Few in 1942. Each film was known for having a pro-Ally slant, and Howard even toured Portugal and Spain to give lectures about the films.
The Soundtrack’s Strict Deadline
Famous music composer Max Steiner was appointed to compose the music for the film and was given a strict deadline of only three months to complete it! This was tough considering 1939 was an extremely busy year for Steiner as he had to write the music for 12 other films. To meet the strict deadline, Steiner would work for 20 hours at a time and even took Benzedrine pills to keep him awake. Steiner managed to finish on time and completed three hours of music for the film which at that time was the longest soundtrack ever composed.
Public Casting Call
In true Selznick fashion, he decided to turn the search for Scarlett into a way to promote the movie, by asking the public for suggestions, and holding open auditions for the role of Scarlett in the south. Selznick’s tactics worked as many people came out for the cause to audition. There were also many A-list actresses who were under consideration for the role of Scarlett including Joan Crawford, Tallulah Bankhead, Bette Davis, Miriam Hopkins, Barbara Stanwyck, Jean Arthur, Norma Shearer, and Paulette Goddard, which whom Selznick was initially leaning towards.
Un-Equal Opportunity Employment
Allegedly, one of the reasons producer David Selznick fired director George Cukor was because Cukor was a homosexual, and he wouldn’t be able to comfortably direct Rhett and Scarlett’s lovemaking scenes. So Selznick’s solution to this was to hire the ever so macho Victor Fleming as Cukor’s replacement. It turns out that Cukor had the last laugh as he continued to coach Vivien Leigh and Olivia de Havilland privately on the weekends per their requests; and this, of course, was unknown to Selznick and Fleming. Cukor even coached the famous bombshell, Marilyn Monroe.
The Movie Won 10 Oscars
The film itself has been nominated for a total of 13 Oscars and out of them won 10, including awards for Best Director, Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Supporting Actress, Best Set Decoration, and last but not least, Best Editing. The fact that the film took home so many awards isn’t shocking as it was and still, is considered one of the greatest films ever made, and remains a cult classic amongst many generations of audiences all over the world.
Rhett Butler Was A Darker Character In The Book
The way Margaret Mitchell describes Rhett Butler in her book was more dark and wicked than the Rhett Butler portrayed by the polished and swaggering Clark Gable. Since Mitchell had been attacked by the public and the press following her decision to sell the rights to the film, she decided she had enough and in exasperation joked that the comedian Groucho Marx best embodied Rhett’s qualities, to show that she really didn’t care. But who can blame her, after all, she was paid very nicely.
The Word Miscarriage Was Not Permitted
As most of the controversial scenes in the film, most of them were forced to change certain aspects to appease the public, and the scene in which Scarlett fell down the steps was no exception. While shooting the scene, it was declared that Rhett would not be permitted to use the word “miscarriage” on film, so the line was changed and instead the world “accident” was used at the moment right before Scarlett is seen tumbling down the steps. This was clearly quite the PC movie.
Clark Gable And Carole Lombard Eloped
In case you all weren’t already aware, this cast was quite the scandalous one, and Clarke Gable was usually involved. One of the best-kept secrets from the show occurred during a two- day break from filming. During that time Clark Gable eloped with his fellow actress Carole Lombard to Arizona where they tied the knot in a private ceremony. The wedding reception took place in Gable’s agent’s car and consisted of coffee and sandwiches. Not quite as lavish as we were expecting.
Women Worked More But Got Paid Less
While the film faced a lot of criticism regarding racial equality, no one ever really touched upon gender equality which was another very visible issue when it came to the making of the film. A prime example of that was the fact that Vivien Leigh worked on the film for a total of 125 days and received $25,000 pay, but Clark Gable worked almost half the amount of days as Leigh but made well over four times the amount of her. This doesn’t seem fair or in any way equal to us.
Garry Cooper Turned Down The Role Of Rhett
When Garry Cooper was approached with an offer to play the famous role of Rhett Butler he didn’t just turn it down, it’s said that he was extremely against playing the role. Cooper is even quoted saying “Gone with the Wind is going to be the biggest flop in Hollywood history and I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his face and not Gary Cooper.” I’m sure he’s biting his fist now, after seeing what a big success the film ended up being. Your loss Cooper!
Michael Jackson Had His Own GWTW Oscar
There were many fans of Gone With The Wind, but the super fan award has to go to Michael Jackson, as he took his love for the movie to the next level. In 199, Jackson reportedly forked over $1,500,000 in cold hard cash because he wanted to buy David O. Selznick’s Oscar award for Best Picture for Gone With the Wind. I’m not sure what kind of fantasy this fulfilled for Jackson, but when you have money like that, I guess it doesn’t really matter.
Selznick Agreed To Buy The Movie Rights Without Reading The Book
It’s known that Kay Brown sent a copy of Margaret Mitchell’s novel to Selznick along with a letter urging him to purchase it, but after Selznick read the novel’s synopsis and understood that it was a story about the Civil War, he rejected the idea. This was because his most recent attempt at a Civil War movie had flopped, and he didn’t want to repeat his mistake but, after the chairman of his company’s offered to front the money, Selznick decided to go ahead and but the film rights. Selznick then read the book during the week he was in Hawaii on a trip.
An Outdated Mindset
One of the film’s main characters almost had a very different face. Although Clark Gable is now best known for his role as Rhett Butler, but he almost did not participate in the filming of Gone With the Wind. Even once Gable agreed to star as the famous leading man, he was still unhappy with his participation in the film. The reason he did not initially want to be a part of the film? He said it was considered “a woman’s picture.”
What’s In A Name
Margaret Mitchell, who wrote the original novel, Gone With the Wind, considered several other titles for the story before choosing its final title. A few examples are: “Bugles Sang True,” “Baa! Baa! Black Sheep,” “Not in Our Stars,” “Tomorrow Is Another Day,” and “Tote the Weary Load.” She selected the final title from a poem by Ernest Dowson named Cynara. The line reads: “I have forgot much Cynara! Gone with the wind.” After reading this line, Mitchell knew that this would be the title of her novel.
The Fire Scene
Since Gone With the Wind was filmed before special effects and computer editing, Technicolor cameras were used in order to film special effects. There were a limited amount of cameras available, but all seven of the existing Technicolor cameras were used in order to film the fire scene in the movie. The flames reached around 500 feet in height and spread across forty acres. Over 15,000 gallons of water were needed to extinguish the flames. Since Vivien Leigh had not been cast in the film yet, Scarlett’s stunt double is not seen clearly.
In order to save costs on the set, the top portions of the exterior sets were modified through used of matte paintings, which caused an optical illusion. Additionally, the interior sets did not have any ceilings at all. The street facades and land sets from Gone With the Wind eventually were used in other productions such as Mayberry in The Andy Griffith Show, New York City in The Untouchables, and also as Gotham City in the Adam West version of Batman.
When the husband of Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind, saw the post-battle scene with all of the wounded soldiers in Atlanta strewn along the ground he reportedly reacted by saying: “If we had had that many soldiers, we wouldn’t have lost the war in the first place.” Speaking of wounded soldiers, the actor who portrayed the soldier in the makeshift hospital in Atlanta, named Cliff Edwards, wound later become the voice of Jiminy Cricket in the1940 Disney classic animated film Pinocchio.
The film’s script almost never had a final version written. The script was changed on an almost daily basis, and the cast did not have a final script throughout the entire period of filming. The most final edition of the script was completed until after the film was actually finished. The final edition of the shooting script, which was dated from January 24th, 1939, was priced at $25,000 by 1939. The final cut of the movie was edited down from half a million feet to about 20,000 feet.
Melanie Hamilton, played by actress Olivia de Havilland, had to deal with a bit of costume improvisation in order to wear her famous blue dress. The hoops of the blue dress had to be removed, but this was still not enough to fit in the aspect ratio of the time. Therefore, the dress was only shot from the waist up in order to avoid having to accommodate two dresses with hoops to be filmed in the same shot.
In addition to dealing with costume difficulties, actress Olivia de Havilland had to deal with other unusual circumstances while filming Gone With the Wind. During her character Melanie’s birth scene, the director of the film, Victor Fleming, tried to help make the scene feel more realistic. He did this by sitting beside her, off camera, and pinching her toes every once in a while to make her feel pain and make the discomfort in her face be as realistic as possible.
A Little Disgruntled
Despite the fact that they all agreed to take on their parts, a good amount of the cast members, and particularly the main cast did not like the characters that they portrayed in the film. Leslie Howard, who played Ashley, felt that he was too old and not attractive enough to play his character. Rand Brooks, who played Scarlett’s first husband Charles Hamilton, hated his character completely. Butterfly McQueen also disproved of the stereotypes that her character, Prissy, was scripted to play.
An Unknown Actress
Vivien Leigh was an unknown British actress when she was cast in her role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. While casting was going on, fans were asked to vote for which actress they felt should play the character of Scarlett in order to help promote the film. Leigh received only one vote. However, by the time that the movie was released, she had become an overnight sensation, and later became the main star in the biggest and most successful film of the time.