Even after over 70 years the movie remains a classic and it is easy to see why it has become one of the most loved movies of all time. There is a style, a passion, a breadth and a timeless grandeur to which few modern films can aspire.
The movie was derived from Margaret Mitchell's novel published in 1936. Producer David O.Selznick acquired the film rights to the novel for $50,000 - a record amount at the time for a first novel and then spent a budget of 3.7-million-dollar - again, an unheard of amount - on the movie. The results were spectacular. The film grossed nearly 192 million dollars and received more Academy Awards than any other film up to that time, with thirteen nominations in all and eight wins, including Best Picture, Best Director (Victor Fleming), Best Actress (Vivien Leigh) and Best Supporting Actress (Hattie McDaniel - the first ever nomination for an African-American). At four hours it was the longest running movie to win the Best Picture Oscar and also the first color movie to do so. There were an additional 2 awards, 1 honorary, and 1 technical, giving a grand total of ten. It set an Academy Award record which lasted until 1959 when 'Ben-Hur' won eleven awards.
PlotThe action of the movie takes place over four hours and describes 12 years in the life of Scarlett O'Hara, the beautiful, wilfully self-centred, and ultimately indomitable, Southern belle, and her various marriages and romances during the chaotic years of the Civil War and its aftermath. She is secretly in love with Ashley Wilkes, played by Leslie Howard, who is due to marry Melanie Hamilton, played by Olivia de Havilland. Scarlett meets the cynical, street-wise Rhett Butler, played by Clark Gable, who falls in love with her. After experiencing suffering and hardship due to the war, Scarlett matures and the spoilt and wilful young lady develops into a formidable young woman.
The movie's action includes the burning of Atlanta through to the famous closing line spoken by Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," which has been called the most memorable line in cinema history.
ProductionThe novel, "Gone with the Wind", by Margaret Mitchell was published in 1936 and became an immediate best-seller, winning the Pulitzer prize for fiction the following year. David O. Selznick at first thought the novel was too long for a film, but purchased the movie rights for $50,000, the most ever paid at the time, for a first novel. When he announced production plans there were competing offers from Warner Brothers, United Artists and, crucially, MGM, headed by Selznick's father-in-law, Louis B. Mayer. After many delays Selznick and Mayer made a deal whereby Selznick would get MGM's Clark Gable as star and $1.25 million toward production costs in return for giving MGM the distribution rights and half the profits.
Having secured the popular choice to play Rhett Butler, Selznick searched, very publicly, for a suitable actress to play the plum role of Scarlett O'Hara. Almost every actress in Hollywood would have jumped at the opportunity and most were considered by Selznick, including such famous names as Katharine Hepburn, Jean Arthur, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, Norma Shearer, Lana Turner, Mae West, Tallulah Bankhead, and Lucille Ball. In all, some 400 actresses performed readings for the part and almost 1,400 were given an initial interview. Finally, Selznick's brother, talent agent Myron Selznick, brought in a young English actress, Vivien Leigh, and the search was over.
There were three directors in all. The original director, George Cukor, was fired shortly after filming had begun for being too slow and apparently lacking a feel for the story. He was replaced by Victor Fleming, who had just finished 'The Wizard of Oz' and who directed roughly half the film. He was briefly replaced by Sam Wood while Fleming took some time off due to exhaustion.
The original screenplay was written by Sidney Howard, but, in an attempt to get it down to a suitable length, it underwent many revisions by several writers including Charles MacArthur, John van Druten and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Howard, himself, was accidentally killed in 1939 during filming, and became the first posthumous winner of an Oscar.
Everything about the film was large-scale. Almost 4,500 people were involved in making the movie and there were over 2,800 costumes and uniforms, 1,000 horses, 450 vehicles and Vivien Leigh wore 38 different hairstyles.
The whole work is swept along by Max Steiner's magnificent score which was ranked as the second greatest of all time by the American Film Institute. The movie itself has ranked between number four and number six in the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies listing. These lists are, of course, subjective. Whatever its position 'Gone with the Wind' is a magnificent cinematic achievement and is one of the greatest and most popular films of all time, and a wonderful monument to the golden age of Hollywood.
Main CastClark Gable ... Rhett Butler
Vivien Leigh ... Scarlett O'Hara
Leslie Howard ... Ashley Wilkes
Olivia de Havilland ... Melanie Hamilton
Thomas Mitchell ... Gerald O'Hara
Barbara O'Neil ... Ellen O'Hara
Evelyn Keyes ... Suellen O'Hara
Ann Rutherford ... Carreen O'Hara
George Reeves ... Stuart Tarleton
Fred Crane ... Brent Tarleton
Hattie McDaniel ... Mammy
Oscar Polk ... Pork
Butterfly McQueen ... Prissy
Victor Jory ... Jonas Wilkerson
Everett Brown ... Big Sam
Howard Hickman ... John Wilkes
Alicia Rhett ... India Wilkes
Rand Brooks ... Charles Hamilton
Carroll Nye ... Frank Kennedy
Laura Hope Crews ... Aunt Pittypat
Eddie Anderson ... Uncle Peter
Harry Davenport ... Dr. Meade
Leona Roberts ... Mrs. Meade
Jane Darwell ... Mrs. Merriwether
Ona Munson ... Belle Watling
Ward Bond ... Tom, Yankee Captain
Cliff Edwards ... Unseen Reminiscent Soldier
Cammie King ... Bonnie Blue Butler
Paul Hurst ... Yankee deserter
Isabel Jewell ... Emmy Slattery
Yakima Canutt ... Shantytown renegade
Gable at one time dominated the movie industry to the extent that he was nicknamed "The King of Hollywood". His career spanned thirty years in which he made sixty-seven films.
He was nominated three times for the Best Actor Academy Award and won it once in 1934 for 'It Happened One Night'. In 'Gone With the Wind' he utters one of the most famous putdowns in movie history, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn".
The American Film Institute placed him at number 7 in their list of Greatest Screen Legends. He was a magnificent actor and a charismatic screen presence and his name still resonates today as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood history.
For most of her life this radiant, petite beauty fought mental illness, now known as bipolar disorder, and alcoholism, and she died at the young age of only 53. In her short life she achieved greatness as an actress with two Oscar-winning roles 12 years apart: In addition to the wilful Scarlett O'Hara at the end of the most famous casting search in film history, she played another Southern belle, Blanche Dubois in 'A Streetcar Named Desire' in 1951.
Howard spent a large part of his career creating and playing roles which showed an idealised, slightly old-fashioned type of civilised, genteel Englishness, although he was brought up in Vienna. He became an established Hollywood and Broadway star during the 1930's and his most famous role apart from Ashley Wilkes, was as Sir Percy Blakeney in 'The Scarlet Pimpernel' in 1934.
Olivia de Havilland(b. 1916)
Olivia is one of the great names from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Melanie is her best known role but she also twice won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She forged a memorable partnership as the love interest with the swashbuckling Errol Flynn and she was nominated five times in all for Academy Awards.
In addition she won a courageous courtroom battle in 1946 against Warner Bros over the terms of her contract, and the ensuing permanent law is still referred to as 'de Havilland Law.'
Hattie was an accomplished movie actress who rose to international prominence for her portrayal of Mammy in this film. She was a first class stage actress, and comedienne as well as a movie actress and she was the first black woman to sing on American radio. When she attended the Academy Awards ceremony she was the first African-American to do so as a guest, and not as a servant.
CreditsDirector ... Victor Fleming, George Cukor (Offscreen),Sam Wood (Offscreen)
Producer ... David O. Selznick
Production Company ... Selznick International Pictures
Screenplay ... Sidney Howard, based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell
Music ... Max Steiner
Cinematography ... Ernest Haller, Ray Rennahan
Running Time ... 220 minutes
Release ... 15 December, 1939
Format ... Color (Technicolor)
Academy AwardsEight Wins:
Best Picture ... David O. Selznick
Best Director ... Victor Fleming
Best Actress ... Vivien Leigh
Best Supporting Actress ... Hattie McDaniel
Screenplay ... Sidney Howard
Art Direction ... Lyle R. Wheeler
Cinematography ... Ernest Haller, Ray Rennahan
Editing ... Hal C. Kern, James E. Newcom
Two Special Achievement Awards:
Use of Color for the enhancement of dramatic mood ... William Cameron Menzies
Technical Achievement Award ... Don Musgrave and Selznick International Pictures
Five Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Actor ... Clarke Gable
Best Supporting Actress ... Olivia de Havilland
Music ... Max Steiner
Best Sound ... Thomas T. Moulton Special Effects ... Fred Albin (Sound), Jack Cosgrove (Photographic), Arthur Johns (Sound)