Gone with the Wind (1939) - Illustrated Reference
Gone with the Wind was directed by Victor Fleming and premiered on December 15th, 1939. Starring Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, Olivia De Havilland, Thomas Mitchell, Barbara O’Neil, Hattie McDaniel and Butterfly McQueen. Screenplay by Sidney Howard. Music by Max Steiner. 238mins.
Gone with the Wind was based on the mammoth best-selling novel by Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949) first published in 1936, the story of the spoiled daughter of a plantation owner in Atlanta, Georgia during the American Civil War.
The novel was a massive success and has sold 30 million copies to date winning Mitchell the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937. According to a 2008 Harris Poll, Gone with the Wind was the second favourite book by American readers, first being The Bible and third J.R.R. Tolkiens The Lord of the Rings.
In 1949 Margaret Mitchell was struck by a car while crossing the road to see a movie, she died in hospital five days later without regaining consciousness. Her novel of the Old South, one of the most widely read books of the 20th Century turned into one of Hollywood’s greatest and most beloved films, would be her enduring legacy.
Scarlett: Cathleen, who's that?
Scarlett: That man looking at us and smiling. The nasty, dark one.
Cathleen: My dear, don't you know? That's Rhett Butler. He's from Charleston. He has the most terrible reputation.
Scarlett: He looks as if... as if he knows what I look like without my shimmy.
Clark Gable (1901-1960) / Rhett Butler
Born in Cadiz, Ohio, Clark Gable the “King of Hollywood” won a Best Actor Oscar for It Happened One Night (1934), he was also Oscar nominated for Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) and Gone with the Wind.
His films include – Red Dust (1932), China Seas (1935), San Francisco (1936), Test Pilot (1938), Too Hot to Handle (1938), Boom Town (1940), Honky Tonk (1941), Adventure (1945), Command Decision (1948), Across the Wide Missouri (1951), Mogambo (1953), Soldier of Fortune (1955), The Tall Men (1955), Run Silent Run Deep (1958), Teacher’s Pet (1958) and The Misfits (1961).
Rhett: Open your eyes and look at me. No, I don't think I will kiss you. Although you need kissing badly. That's what's wrong with you. You should be kissed and often and by someone who knows how.
Scarlett: And I suppose you think you're the proper person.
Rhett: I might be... if the right moment ever came.
Scarlett: You're a conceited, blackhearted varmint Rhett Butler. I don't know why I let you come and see me.
Rhett: I'll tell you why, Scarlett. Because I'm the only man over sixteen and under sixty who's around to show you a good time.
Vivien Leigh (1913-1967) / Scarlett O’Hara
Born in Darjeeling, India, Vivien Leigh won two Best Actress Oscars for Gone with the Wind and A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), her films include – Fire Over England (1937), A Yank at Oxford (1938), Waterloo Bridge (1940), That Hamilton Woman (1941), Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), Anna Karenina (1948), The Deep Blue Sea (1955) and Ship of Fools (1965).
Leslie Howard (1893-1943) / Ashley Wilkes
Born in London, England, Leslie Howard was Oscar nominated Best Actor for Berkeley Square (1933) and Pygmalion (1938), his films include – Of Human Bondage (1934), The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), The Petrified Forest (1936), Romeo and Juliet (1936), Intermezzo (1939), Pimpernel Smith (1941), The 49th Parallel (1941) and The First of the Few (1942).
Olivia De Havilland (1916-) / Melanie Hamilton
Born in Tokyo, Japan, Olivia de Havilland won two Best Actress Oscars, for To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949). She was also nominated for the films Gone With the Wind, Hold Back the Dawn (1941) and The Snake Pit (1948).
Her films also include – A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935), Captain Blood (1935), Anthony Adverse (1936), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Dodge City (1939), The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), Santa Fe Trail (1940), They Died With Their Boots On (1941), My Cousin Rachel (1952), The Proud Rebel (1958), Lady in a Cage (1964), Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964), Airport 77 (1977), The Swarm (1978) and The Fifth Musketeer (1979).
Gerald O'Hara: Do you mean to tell me, Katie Scarlett O'Hara, that Tara, that land doesn't mean anything to you? Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin' for, worth fightin' for, worth dyin' for, because it's the only thing that lasts.
Thomas Mitchell (1892-1962) / Gerald O’Hara
Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Thomas Mitchell won a Best Supporting Actor for Stagecoach (1939), he was also Oscar nominated Best Supporting Actor for The Hurricane (1937). His films include – Lost Horizon (1937), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), Our Time (1940), The Black Swan (1942), The Outlaw (1943), The Fighting Sullivans (1944), Buffalo Bill (1944), The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), High Noon (1952), Destry (1954) and Pocketful of Miracles (1961).
Barbara O’Neil (1910-1980) / Ellen O’Hara
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Barbara O’Neil was Oscar nominated Best Supporting Actress for All This and Heaven Too (1940), her films include – Stella Dallas (1937), Tower of London (1939), I Remember Mama (1948), Whirlpool (1949) and The Nun’s Story (1959).
Prissy: Mammy, here's Miss Scarlett's vittles.
Scarlett: You can take it all back to the kitchen; I won't eat a bite.
Mammy: Yes'm you is, you's gonna eat every mouthful of this.
Scarlett: No... I'm... NOT.
Hattie McDaniel (1892-1952) / Mammy
Born in Wichita, Kansas, Hattie McDaniel won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Gone with the Wind, the first black person to win an Academy Award. Her films include – Alice Adams (1935), Showboat (1936), Saratoga (1937), Nothing Scared (1937), They Died With Their Boots On (1941), Since You Went Away (1944) and Song of the South (1946).
Prissy: Lawzy, we got to have a doctor. I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies.
Butterfly McQueen (1911-1995) / Prissy
Born in Tampa, Florida, Butterfly McQueen’s films include – The Women (1939), Affectionately Yours (1941), Cabin in the Sky (1943), I Dood it (1943), Flame of Barbary Coast (1945), Mildred Pierce (1945), Duel in the Sun (1946) and The Mosquito Coast (1986).
There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South.
Here in this pretty world Gallantry took its last bow.
Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave.
Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered. A Civilization gone with the wind.
- Opening title card –
David O’ Selznick bought the rights to GWTW for $50,000 and decided Clark Gable was the only actor who could play Rhett Butler. But Gable was under contract to MGM, its biggest star. An agreement was reached in which MGM would loan Gable to Selznick and provide $1.25m towards the production of the film, in return MGM would distribute the film and take 50% of the box office profits.
The Ku Klux Klan have a role in the novel but they were removed from the screenplay. Selznick told screenwriter Sidney Howard, "I do hope you will agree with me on this omission of what might come out as an unintentional advertisement for intolerant societies in these fascist-ridden times.”
At one point Selznick was worried the film was going to be too long for a single motion picture and considered releasing it as two films, the second part presumably to be released a few months later.
George Cukor was the original director but was replaced with Victor Fleming three weeks into production. Fleming had been busy directing The Wizard of Oz when he was offered Gone with the Wind. King Vidor finished filming the Kansas scenes on Oz while Fleming took over the reins on GWTW.
Sam Wood directed some scenes on GWTW when Fleming left the production temporarily, suffering from exhaustion.
Other actors considered for the role of Rhett Butler were Gary Cooper, Ronald Colman and Errol Flynn.
Cooper thought the film would be a huge flop and wasn’t interested.
Who would play Scarlett O’ Hara? A massive hunt was underway to find the right actress for the role, this was the movie’s biggest publicity campaign and hundreds of women were interviewed.
Actresses screen tested or considered for the role included Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn, Paulette Goddard, Jean Arthur, Carole Lombard, Norma Shearer, Joan Fontaine, Miriam Hopkins, Tallulah Bankhead, Barbara Stanwyck and Claudette Colbert.
According to one movie legend, Laurence Olivier was visiting the GWTW film set with his girlfriend Vivien Leigh while it was in pre-production and Selznick’s excited brother run up to the producer and yelled “David, meet your Scarlett!”.
Other reports say that Selznick had Leigh in mind after seeing her in the film Fire Over England (1937). And after her screen test she nabbed the role of a lifetime.
Only Paulette Goddard and Vivien Leigh were screen tested in Technicolor, which to my mind means Paulette would have been Scarlett O’ Hara if Vivien Leigh failed the audition.
Barbara O’Neil played Scarlett’s mother Ellen O’ Hara, the actress was 28 years old when she made the film and only 3 years older than Vivien Leigh.
The horse that Thomas Mitchell rode on later became famous as “Silver” in the Lone Ranger serials.
Hattie McDaniel wasn’t allowed to attend the premiere of GWTW in racially segregated Atlanta, a furious Clark Gable threatened to boycott the premiere but Hattie convinced him to go.
The burning of Atlanta was one of the first sequences to be shot. Old movie sets were set on fire including the great wall from the movie King Kong (1933) which you can see collapsing from the fire in the film.
Author Margaret Mitchell’s main complaint with the film was that Scarlett's home 'Tara' and the Wilkes home 'Twelve Oaks' were too impressive, she objected to Tara having columns and rolled her eyes at Twelve Oaks two big staircases. She wrote to a friend saying “When I think of the healthy, hardy, country and somewhat crude civilization I depicted and then of the elegance that is to be presented, I cannot help yelping with laughter... "
Scarlett: As God is my witness, as God is my witness they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again.
Margaret Mitchell's working titles for her book include – “Tomorrow is another day”, “Not in Our Stars” and the frankly baffling, “Baa! Baa! Black Sheep”
When she first started writing the first drafts of her novel in 1926 her leading lady was named Pansy O’ Hara, which doesn’t quite have the same ring as Scarlett O’ Hara.
Mitchell’s choice for Rhett Butler would have been Basil Rathbone and Miriam Hopkins her choice for Scarlett O’ Hara.
Clark Gable’s salary was $120,000 for 71 days work while Vivien Leigh was paid $25,000 for 125 days work.
Scarlett: Rhett, where are you going?
Rhett: I'm going back to Charleston, back where I belong.
Scarlett: Please, please take me with you!
Rhett: No, I'm through with everything here. I want peace. I want to see if somewhere there isn't something left in life of charm and grace. Do you know what I'm talking about?
Scarlett: No! I only know that I love you.
Rhett: That's your misfortune.
Scarlett: Oh, Rhett! Rhett! If you go, where shall I go, what shall I do?
Rhett: Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.
Rhett’s famous last line to Scarlett before leaving her gave the studio problems, the Motion Picture Production Code at the time was very strict and forbade the use of the word “damn”.
Alternatives suggested include “Frankly my dear, I don’t care”, “My indifference is boundless” and my personal favourite “Frankly Scarlett, I don’t give a hoot!”.
That damned word was finally allowed through when it was decided the quote was taken directly from an important literary work and did not offend good taste.
When the film was sneak previewed to an unsuspecting audience expecting to see Beau Geste, the audience erupted in applause as soon as Margaret Mitchell’s name showed up on screen.
Leslie Howard (Ashley Wilkes) was killed when his plane was shot down by Germans while flying to the UK from Portugal in 1943, 4 crew and 12 passengers were among the dead.
The only major GWTW cast member still alive in 2012 is Olivia De Havilland, she celebrated her 96th birthday in July. In the film her character, Melanie Hamilton, was the only one of the four main characters to die.
Ann Rutherford died in June 2012 aged 94, she played Scarlett’s younger sister Carreen O’ Hara.
Evelyn Keyes, Scarlett’s other sister Suellen O’ Hara, passed away in 2008 aged 91.
Max Steiner (1888-1971) composed the memorable music score for GWTW. Steiner was one of the greatest composers working in Hollywood, he was nominated 24 times, winning 3 Oscars. Ironically he failed to win an Oscar for his most famous score, 1939's Best Music Score Oscar went to Herbert Stothart for The Wizard of Oz.
GWTW ranked #4 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Films List, #2 on the AFI’s 100 Greatest Love Stories,
Max Steiner’s score was #2 on the AFI’s 100 Greatest Film Scores List (Star Wars is #1). #43 on the AFI’s 100 Most Inspiring Films, #4 on the AFI’s 10 Greatest Epics.
The quote “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” was #1 on the AFI’s 100 Greatest Movie Quotes list. “After all, tomorrow is another day” was at #31 and “As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again.” is #59.
GWTW was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry in 1989 for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Gone with the Wind won 10 Oscars - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress (Vivien Leigh), Best Supporting Actress (Hattie McDaniel), Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Editing, a Technical Achievement Award to Don Musgrave and an Honorary Award to production designer William Cameron Menzies.
It also received Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Clark Gable), Best Supporting Actress (Olivia De Havilland), Best Music Score (Max Steiner), Best Sound Recording and Best Special Effects.
GWTW had many successful re-releases. In 1954 the film, which was filmed in the old academy ratio of 1.37, was cropped top and bottom so it can be released in 1.75 widescreen. And in 1967 the picture was cropped even further and released in 70mm 2.20 ratio and with stereophonic sound.
The most iconic GWTW movie poster, Clark Gable embracing Vivien Leigh against a fiery backdrop, was painted by Howard Terpning for the 1967 re-release.
Gone with the Wind cost $3.85m to make, one of the costliest movies of that era..
The film was a huge success and by the end of 1940 had overtaken Walt Disney’s Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs (1937) as the most successful movie of the Sound era. Its total worldwide gross to date is $400m. Gone with the Wind has sold more cinema tickets in the USA than any other film.
It was worked out in 2005 that Gone with the Wind’s worldwide gross would be about $3,785,107,801 adjusted for inflation, surpassing Avatar’s 2,782,275,000 total.
A sequel to Gone with the Wind was written by Alexandra Ripley in 1991 and titled Scarlett, it was panned by critics but still sold millions of copies. Scarlett the 6 hour mini-series appeared in 1994 directed by John Erman and starring Timothy Dalton as Rhett Butler and Joanne Whalley-Kilmer as Scarlett O’ Hara.
No film symbolises the golden age of Hollywood more than David O' Selzniick's Gone with the Wind.
Scarlett: Tara! I'll go home... And I'll think of some way to get him back. After all... tomorrow is another day.
The Critics Wrote –
"Miss Leigh's Scarlett has vindicated the absurd talent quest that indirectly turned her up. She is so perfectly designed for the part by art and nature that any other actress in the role would be inconceivable. Technicolor finds her beautiful, but Sidney Howard, who wrote the script, and Victor Fleming, who directed it, have found in her something more: the very embodiment of the selfish, hoydenish, slant-eyed miss who tackled life with both claws and a creamy complexion, asked no odds of any one or anything—least of all her conscience—and faced at last a defeat which, by her very unconquerability, neither she nor we can recognize as final.
We still feel that color is hard on the eyes for so long a picture—and about pictures of this length in general. Anyway, the film has arrived at last, and we cannot get over the shock of not being disappointed; we had almost been looking forward to that." (Frank S. Nugent, New York Times)
"Superbly comprehensive canvas embraces enchanting romance, thwarted love, heroic sacrifice and brutal savagery... enhanced by lovely Technicolor. Narration reaches rare heights of emotional intensity... Brilliant direction, flawless leading portrayal, dynamic support, wholly admirable production quality." (Today's Cinema on the 1947 re-issue)
"Reduced the gigantic panorama of history to a painted backcloth for the cavortings of a group of vulgar little egoists." (Dilys Powell)
"It's inevitably racist, alarmingly sexist (Scarlett's submissive smile after marital rape), nostalgically reactionary (wistful for a vanished, supposedly more elegant and honourable past), and often supremely entertaining." (Geoff Andrew, Time Out)
"It's been criticised over the years for racism and sexism; but it's a film of its time. The Civil War is merely a backdrop, and although the detail is well observed, there's little attempt to take a political stance on the conflict. Gone with the Wind is above all wonderful entertainment, handsomely produced, and another of those classics, like Casablanca, which proves that some of the best films are born out of collaboration and chaos. It was, of course, one of the biggest hits in screen history; and, despite a few longueurs and an uncharismatic performance by Leslie Howard, it's as enjoyable now as it ever was." (Chris Tookey)
More by this Author
A look back at the most famous monster movie of them all, with facts, reviews, posters and photos.
A look back at one of the greatest movies ever made. With facts, quotes, posters and rare photos.
A tribute to Alan Lee, best known as the illustrator of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.