GONE WITH THE WIND
GWTW had three directors, George Cukor being the first. Victor
Fleming, who had just finished The Wizard of Oz, was brought in,
and he was replaced by interim director Sam Wood for a few weeks while recovering
from exhaustion. Cukor filmed about 33 minutes of footage, 17 of which appear
in the first half of the film; the remainder were cut or reshot.
1,400 actresses were interviewed for the part of Scarlett O'Hara. 400
were asked to do readings. Actresses under consideration for the role included
Bette Davis, Paulette Goddard, and Katherine Hepburn.
Bette Davis turned down the role of Scarlett, thinking that her co-star
would be Errol Flynn, with whom she refused to work.
The first scene to be shot was the burning of Atlanta, filmed on December
10, 1938. What they actually burned were many old sets on the studio backlot,
including the "Great Gate" from King Kong (1933). The fire
was so intense that the unwarned public of Culver City jammed the telephone
lines, thinking MGM was burning down. The roles of Scarlett and Rhett had
not yet been cast; this is why "Scarlett" (a stunt player) is
seen covering her face as the wagon goes by.
When Scarlett and Melanie are nursing the wounded soldier, their shadows
don't match their movements.
Producer David O. Selznick asked Alfred Hitchcock for help with the scene
in which the women wait for the men from the raid on Shantytown and Melanie
reads David Copperfield. Hitchcock delivered a precise treatment,
complete with descriptions of shots and camera angles. Hitchcock wanted
to show Rhett, Ashley, etc., outside the house, dodging the Union soldiers.
He also wanted an exchange of meaningful glances between Melanie and Rhett
inside the house. Virtually nothing of this treatment was used.
Big Sam saves Scarlett from hooligans outside Atlanta and gets in the
buggy with Scarlett. The film cuts to the buggy driving away. Big Sam should
be in the buggy, but is not.
Gable did not want to do the film and refused to do a Southern accent.
After signing on, he was so distressed over the requirement that he cry
on film (during the scene where Melanie is comforting Rhett after Bonnie
has died) that he almost quit. Olivia de Havilland convinced him to stay
on the film.
Since Gable could not dance, a floating platform was used during the
waltz scene to make him and Scarlett appear to glide around the room.
Women's costumes were made complete with petticoats, although they wouldn't
have been missed had they not been there.
Melanie's pregnancy spans important Civil War events much farther than
nine months apart.
In rehearsal for the scene where Scarlett slaps Prissy (Butterfly McQueen),
she hit her so hard that McQueen refused to scream properly unless Leigh
did a fake slap that would not make contact. McQueen also refused to eat
watermelon in the film.
The black actors in GWTW were criticized by much of the African-American
community for portraying slaves as being docile and friendly with their
masters. Selznick, keenly aware of the plight of Jews in Europe at the time,
was sympathetic to his black actors and removed much demeaning and offensive
material from the script, including the "n" word.
The script was constantly under revision during most of the production
period. At one point, the entire script was thrown out, and production was
shut down for 17 days while it was rewritten. The sets stood empty at a
holding cost of $10,000 per day.
After Ashley Wilkes is carried into his room, Melanie picks up a lamp
which has an electric cord attached. Similarly, when trying to find Doc
Meade, Scarlett runs past a lamp post containing an electric bulb.
In the scene where Scarlett digs up a turnip, then retches and gives
her "As God is my witness" speech, the vomiting sounds were actually
made by de Havilland since Leigh could not produce a convincing enough retch.
In the scene where Rhett pours Mammy a drink after the birth of Bonnie,
for a joke during a take, Clark Gable actually poured alcohol instead of
the usual tea into the decanter without Hattie McDaniel knowing it until
she took a swig.
Leigh worked for 125 days and received about $25,000. Gable worked for
71 days and received over $120,000.
GWTW swept the 1940 Academy Awards, being nominated for 15 Oscars and winning 10. If not for GWTW, The Wizard Of Oz would surely have won more Oscars than two, for best music and best song.
See Current Reviews
See FilmQuips Archive