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[Note from the Editors: the following information is based on contemporary news items, feature articles, reviews, interviews, memoranda and corporate records. Information obtained from modern sources is indicated. Some contemporary documents have been reproduced in modern sources. Because of the vast amount of material available, a comprehensive discussion of all aspects of Gone With the Wind is not possible here. Information included herein emphasizes the production of the film rather than the personalities of the filmmakers, the artistic reputation or cultural heritage of the film. The reader is advised to consult the Bibliography for titles of numerous books containing additional information on Gone With the Wind.] The opening credits read: "Selznick International in association with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has the honor to present its Technicolor production of Margaret Mitchell's Story of the Old South Gone With The Wind." Following the opening credits, a written prologue reads: "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." In the opening cast credits, actress Barbara O'Neil's surname is erroneously spelled "O'Neill."
The title Gone With the Wind is taken from the poem "Non sum qualis eram" by the nineteenth century poet Ernest Dowson, "I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion. I have forgot much Cynara! gone with the wind...." Margaret Mitchell's novel was published officially by the Macmillan Company on June 30, 1936, although advance reviews of the novel, which was at one time to bear the title Tomorrow Is Another Day, appeared as early as May 1936. The book immediately became a best seller, and many modern sources have cited it as the best-selling novel of all time. Magazines, newspaper articles and films of the time frequently alluded to the book, and characters and lines from the novel were well-known throughout the world. Producer David O. Selznick's Eastern Story Editor, Katherine "Kay" Brown, first became aware of the novel when she read it in galley form in May 1936 and brought it to Selznick's attention. A teletyped memo from Selznick to Brown, dated May 25, 1936 and reprinted in modern sources, indicates that Selznick initially considered Gone With the Wind "a fine story," but was reluctant to purchase it because his studio did not have a suitable female star under contract, and because he considered its Civil War setting "...very strongly against it." Selznick concluded his remarks by writing "most sorry to say no in face of your enthusiasm for this story."
A May 26, 1936 memo from Selznick to Brown stated "...the more I think about it, the more I feel there is excellent picture in it...." Additional memos and news items in trade papers between late May and late June 1936 indicate that Selznick's interest in the property increased, and by early July 1936, he had acquired the rights to the novel for $50,000. (Some news items erroneously reported the figure as $52,000.) Letters written by Mitchell, compiled in a modern source, indicate that Miss Annie Laurie [Willliams] acted as her literary agent and negotiated the sale to Selznick. Several letters also indicate that Mitchell was relatively distant from the actual negotiations, in part due to a severe eye problem that afflicted her at the time. Selznick memos and news items indicate that other studios were variously interested in the project but Selznick's firm offer was accepted by Williams. In a letter from Mitchell to Harold Latham of the Macmillan Co., dated August 13, 1936, the author noted that "the deal was closed up about two weeks ago," after some changes in the contract involving rights and liabilities were made at her request.
In September 1936, Selznick had brought director George Cukor onto the project, and by late September Selznick had hired noted writer Sidney Howard to do a treatment and subsequent screenplay. Other early additions to the staff who were instrumental in the planning and production phases included production manager Ray Klune, production designer William Cameron Menzies, costume designer Walter Plunkett, art director Lyle Wheeler and former newsman Russell Birdwell, who was to publicize the film and has been credited in contemporary feature articles and modern sources with maintaining public enthusiasm for the project. The major aspects of the film's pre-production stage, conducted simultaneously from mid-1936 until late January 1939, were production design, screenplay and casting.
Contemporary memoranda and news items reveal that general discussion about the cast began immediately. Selznick memos prior to his purchase of the novel mention Ronald Colman as a potential "Rhett Butler," and either Miriam Hopkins or Tallulah Bankhead as a possible "Scarlett O'Hara." Around this time Selznick also mentioned M-G-M contract stars Clark Gable and Joan Crawford as potential leads. News items in trade papers appeared frequently from late summer 1936. Hundreds of news and feature stories appeared in newspapers and consumer magazines throughout the world, and the status of casting was a frequent topic on Hollywood-oriented radio programs. Numerous persons were mentioned in contemporary sources as potential cast members, and contemporary news items document the extraordinary interest among fans in the casting of the film.
Kay Brown traveled through the South on a highly publicized "scouting" trip in 1936, and the same year she and George Cukor conducted tests in New York City for Scarlett and other roles. Much of this early scouting, however, May have been conducted more for publicity purposes than actual talent searching. Among the first actresses seriously considered for the role of Scarlett was Tallulah Bankhead, who was photographically tested in New York in the autumn of 1936. A Hollywood Reporter news item on October 26, 1936 stated that Bankhead had been tested in color, in anticipation of the picture being shot in Technicolor, however, surviving footage of the test is in black-and-white, and modern sources indicate that Paulette Goddard and Vivien Leigh were the only actresses tested in Technicolor for the role. Other actresses listed in Selznick International "daily reports," news items, the film's program and memoranda as tested or considered included Jean Arthur, Diana Barrymore, Joan Bennett, Marguerite Churchill, Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Frances Dee, Ellen Drew (using the name Terry Ray), Irene Dunne, Jean Harlow, Katharine Hepburn, Miriam Hopkins, Carole Lombard, Susan Hayward (under her real name, Edythe Marrener), Boots Mallory, Jo Ann Sayers, Norma Shearer, Margaret Sullavan, Margaret Tallichet, Lana Turner, Claire Trevor, Arleen Whelan and Loretta Young. Tests of many of the women considered have been included in documentaries on the film's production.
The names of other actresses mentioned in contemporary sources, but who were not seriously considered for the role included Marion Davies, Mrs. Jock Whitney, Betty Timmons (Margaret Mitchell's niece) and Lucille Ball. A June 1937 Cinema Arts article suggested that probably the only actresses not mentioned prominently in contention for the role of Scarlett were comedienne Martha Raye and child star Shirley Temple. News items and feature stories in contemporary magazines, as well as memoranda from Selznick and Brown prior to production, indicate that Norma Shearer was a serious contender for the role. News items in New York Times, Daily Variety and Hollywood Reporter throughout 1937 and 1938 indicate that Shearer was "signed" to play Scarlett, however, no contract was actually signed, and on April 1, 1937 Film Daily reported that both Selznick and Shearer had issued statements "ending the possibility that the latter might play Scarlett O'Hara...." The statements apparently followed discussions by Kay Brown with Edwin Balmer, then editor of Redbook magazine, Lois Cole of the Macmillan Co. and "a rank outsider" about Shearer. In a memo from Brown to Selznick on March 19, 1937, Brown reported that, among other things, the consultants felt "Shearer does not seem to be associated with sex."
Of the many actresses under consideration, Bankhead, Hopkins and Arthur were variously said to be "signed" for the role and a November 10, 1938 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Arthur issued a statement saying that she had turned down the role because her contract with Columbia prevented her from making the future picture commitments with Selznick which he required. Corporate information indicates that while several actresses were serious contenders at various times, Goddard was apparently the leading candidate before Leigh, followed by Bennett and Arthur. According to memos and news items, Vivien Leigh tested for the role in mid-December 1938, a few days after Selznick met her on December 10, 1938, the night the "Burning of Atlanta" sequence was filmed. Her signing was announced to the press in early January 1939, at which time she was signed to a six-picture contract with Selznick. Modern sources note that several columnists decried the selection of Leigh, an Englishwoman, for the role. Shortly after the announcement, a Gallup Poll released on February 21, 1939 reported that 35% of those polled favored Leigh, 16% disapproved, 20% were undecided and 29% had not yet heard of her selection.
Selznick memoranda, daily reports, and trade paper news items confirm that Clark Gable was the most serious candidate for the role of Rhett, however, Warner Baxter, Ronald Colman, Gary Cooper, Fredric March and Errol Flynn were variously mentioned in news items as being considered, tested or even "signed" for the role. According to news items, Flynn was offered by Warner Bros. for Rhett, along with Bette Davis for Scarlett, in 1938 when the studio was negotiating for distribution rights to the picture. Gable was mentioned in many feature and news items as the "public's" strong choice to portray Rhett. Negotiations for Gable were also linked to distribution rights for the film. While news items in trade papers in mid-June 1938 reported that Selznick was to release Gone With the Wind through United Artists, with whom he already was committed to release two more films, and that he was negotiating with Samuel Goldwyn to borrow Cooper for the role, the M-G-M deal was announced in early August. By terms of the agreement, which was signed in front of the press on August 24, 1938, Selznick agreed to let Loew's, Inc. (M-G-M's distribution arm) release the picture in exchange for Gable's services and an infusion of money into the project, which modern sources state was $1,250,000. Modern sources also note that in addition to a weekly salary of $4,500 for the film, Gable received a signing bonus of $50,000. In interviews Gable stated that he was reluctant to do the part, and in the film's program he was quoted as saying that he was "scared stiff" and "realized that whoever played Rhett would be up against a stumbling block...Miss Mitchell had etched Rhett into the minds of millions...It would be impossible to satisfy them all."
Modern sources have concluded that Gable was finally convinced to do the part for the bonus, which thus enabled him to divorce his estranged wife, Rhea Langham, and marry Carole Lombard. In regard to Gable, in a July 25, 1936 letter Margaret Mitchell wrote, "All of my friends are determined that he [Gable] should play the part, as tho [sic] what anyone thought could influence casting directors!" An exchange of letters between Mitchell and Kay Brown over the next eighteen months indicated that the author had no "inside" knowledge about the casting of Rhett or any other roles, but frequently related suggestions garnered from fellow Southerners and in July 1938 expressed the opinion that Gable was "not as popular here in the South as in other sections of the country...in looks and in conduct Basil Rathbone has been the first choice in this section." The most specific comments about Mitchell's own choices for roles concerned Miriam Hopkins as Scarlett, whom she felt "would be fine as Scarlett. She has the looks and, best of all, the voice."
Because of the world-wide popularity of the novel and the familiarity of the public with its characters, tests and interviews to fill several major roles took place over a long period of time. According to contemporary sources, actresses tested or rehearsed for "Melanie Hamilton" were Dorothy Jordon, Ann Dvorak, Frances Dee, Joan Fontaine (Olivia deHavilland's sister), Andrea Leeds, Marcella Martin and Anne Shirley. In addition, the program for the 1940 film Our Town noted that its star, Martha Scott, was almost rejected for the lead in that film because producers had seen her test for Melanie in Gone With The Wind and thought it was terrible. Actors tested and/or considered for the role of "Ashley Wilkes" included Melvyn Douglas, Ray Milland, Tyrone Power, Lew Ayres, Douglass Montgomery, Joel McCrea, Jeffrey Lynn and Alan Marshall. Selznick memos indicate that he thought positively of Milland at one point, despite his accent, and, though favorably impressed with Douglas' performance in a test, considered him physically wrong for the role. DeHavilland was signed for the role of Melanie and Howard was signed for Ashley in mid-January 1939. Modern sources indicate that deHavilland convinced Warner Bros. to loan her to Selznick for the role after an emotional appeal to Jack Warner's wife, and Howard's reluctance to take on the role of Ashley was overcome by Selznick's offer to allow the actor to produce as well as star in a film for Selznick International. (For information on that film, Intermezzo, released in 1939, see entry in (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.2140).
In addition to Hattie McDaniel, Hattie Noel was considered for "Mammy" and was tested with various actresses in the scene set in Scarlett's bedroom just prior to the barbeque sequence. Evelyn Brent, Estelle Taylor, June Compson and Eve Arden tested or interviewed for the role of "Belle Watling." Other actors and actresses who were tested for various roles in the film or were mentioned in contemporary sources as possible choices for roles in the film included Margaret Tallichet as "Carreen," Walter Connolly and Joseph Crehan as "Gerald O'Hara" and Conrad Nagel as "Frank Kennedy." A Selznick memo dated November 26, 1937 mentions a number of potential cast members for the film, including Lionel Barrymore as "Dr. Meade," Billie Burke as "Aunt Pittypat," and Judy Garland as "Carreen." News items in October and November 1937 in Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety stated that Tallichet and Connolly were respectively the first and second actors to be "signed" by Selznick for the film. Tallichet was under contract to Selznick and tested for Scarlett and Melanie, but no available evidence confirms that she was specifically signed for a role in the film. News items about Connolly indicate that he was a strong possibility for "Gerald," but later reported that the role lessened in importance as the film approached production and hence Connolly's salary was deemed out of proportion to the size of the role and Thomas Mitchell was finally selected. Whether Connolly signed a general contract with Selznick and whether the de-emphasis of the role resulted in his being replaced has not been verified.
Following Sidney Howard's completion of a treatment of Mitchell's novel, several other writers worked on the project. Howard, who died during the film's production in an accident on his farm in 1939, is the only writer credited onscreen, but contemporary and modern sources credit writer Ben Hecht with significant contributions to story development and dialogue. In addition, Hecht wrote the opening prologue and the six other narrative title cards seen throughout the film. According to news items and memoranda, other writers who worked on the project at various times included Karl Van Druten, Oliver H. P. Garrett and Jo Swerling. News items in January 1939 note that novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald was hired to work on the screenplay, but, according to modern sources, he only worked for two or three weeks and none of his work was included in the film. According to various contemporary and modern sources, after considerable alteration of Howard's original work, Selznick went back to it, in part on Hecht's recommendation.
To design the "look" of the film, William Cameron Menzies created watercolor storyboard sketches for every scene of the picture. An article in Hollywood Reporter on March 15, 1938 describes Menzies' use of watercolor for the storyboards and indicates that he had already completed some of the work by that date. A Selznick memo dated September 1, 1937 discusses Menzies' future role in the production: "Menzies May turn out to be one of the most valuable factors in properly producing this picture...I would probably give him some such credit as "Production Designed by William Cameron Menzies." This credit was also given to Menzies for his work on Selznick's 1938 picture The Young in Heart which, though shot and released prior to Gone With the Wind, was made after Selznick's decision to credit Menzies as production designer on the latter film. In addition to Menzies, art director Lyle Wheeler, costume designer Walter Plunkett and historian Wilbur Kurtz were instrumental in the overall "look" of the film and worked on the project from 1937 on. Hobe Erwin was hired for the picture's interior decoration in March 1938, but by the time the film went into production in late 1939, Erwin was no longer available and Joseph B. Platt and Edward G. Boyle replaced him. A number of other persons involved in various aspects of the film's art direction, and exterior and interior decoration were credited onscreen and in the official program. News items appeared in trade papers throughout 1937 and 1938 indicating various start dates for the production, but the various aspects of pre-production caused repeated delays.
The first shots were filmed on the evening of Saturday, December 10, 1938, when the "Burning of Atlanta" sequence was filmed on the Selznick International backlot in Culver City, CA. At that time, the casting of Scarlett and a number of other major characters had not yet been finalized. As noted above, Selznick was first introduced to Leigh during the filming, and the images of the characters Scarlett and Rhett were filmed only in long-shot. Because Scarlett had not yet been cast, modern sources note that the stuntwoman dressed as Scarlett had to be obscured to allow for any physical type. The structures burned during the sequence included sets from old RKO films that were shot on the lot when RKO was headquartered at the location. Among the sets burned, which can be identified in slow-motion and still photography, are the gates from King Kong, on which Selznick acted as executive producer (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.2288). According to modern sources, the fire was controlled by a series of dual pipes carrying water and oil that could be regulated to control the intensity of the flames. Lee Zavitz is credited in contemporary sources as the person in charge of "Fire effects," and according to modern sources created the pipe system. News items noted that seven Technicolor cameras were used for the sequence, which according to modern sources, included every Technicolor camera in existence in Los Angeles at the time.
Principal photography began officially on January 26, 1939, although modern sources note that the first day's production was largely ceremonial. At the time that the film began shooting, George Cukor was the director and Lee Garmes was the cinematographer. According to modern sources, professional relations between Cukor and Selznick had become strained as pre-production dragged on, and the cost of Cukor's exclusive services became a large financial burden. On February 14, 1939, news items in trade papers announced that Cukor and Selznick had issued a joint statement to the effect that Cukor was withdrawing from the film. The statement read: "Mr. Cukor suggested his withdrawal, but acquiesced to my [Selznick's] request that he continue shooting the picture until another director is selected...." As stated in news items, Cukor and Selznick had argued increasingly over the direction of the film. A letter from Selznick to Cukor dated February 8, 1939 alludes to disagreements between the men concerning Cukor's checking with Selznick on specific points and Selznick's visits to the set. In interviews in later years, both Selznick and Cukor stressed that their personal friendship remained throughout the years despite their disagreements over the picture. Numerous contemporary and modern sources have speculated on the reasons why Cukor was removed. Reasons cited for Cukor's removal include, among others, disagreements over "the birthing scene" to Cukor's slow and costly directing pace, to Gable's feelings that Cukor would give Leigh and the other women in the cast a better presentation in the picture than him.
Directors mentioned in news items as possible replacements for Cukor included King Vidor, Clarence Brown, Robert Z. Leonard and Jack Conway, who all worked at M-G-M at the time. On February 17, 1939, news items reported that Victor Fleming would be taking over the direction of Gone With the Wind instead of completing work on M-G-M's The Wizard of Oz (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.5154). Although Selznick apparently planned to restart the production within a few days, it went on hiatus until 2 Mar. Some scenes shot by Cukor were later reshot, including the opening sequence of the film, but, according to a January 22, 1940 letter from Selznick to Frank Capra (then president of the Directors Guild) about the direction of the film, "three solid reels" of Cukor's work remained in the completed film. Shooting continued on the picture with Fleming as the director, and Menzies and Reeves "Breezy" Eason acting as second unit directors.
On April 28, 1939, however, news items reported that due to Fleming's "exhaustion" he would be leaving the production for about ten days. News stories also mentioned that M-G-M director Sam Wood was to replace Fleming in work with the principals while Menzies directed backlot exteriors, Chester Franklin directed location work in Chico (where the "shantytown" sequence was filmed), and Richard Rosson directed the battle scene sequences. Rosson is not mentioned in any other available sources after this date, and a Selznick International "Statistical Report of Completed Production" contained in the AMPAS Library file on the film does not include Rosson's name among the various directors, second unit or assistant directors. Rosson was a well-known second unit director at M-G-M during the 1930s, and it is possible that he was considered for a second unit position on Gone With the Wind but was unavailable. Later news items credit Eason with battle scene direction. When Fleming returned to the production in mid-May 1939, Wood continued to work for ten days. According to news items, upon Fleming's return the crew was then divided into five units to speed up production. The statistical report notes that of the three principal directors, Cukor worked for eighteen days, Fleming for ninety-three, and Wood for twenty-four, as of July 1, 1939, the end of principal photography. Fleming continued with retakes and, according to the film's program, the last shot was made by Fleming on November 11, 1939. In addition to location shooting in Chico, some exteriors were done at Busch Gardens in Pasadena, Malibu, Big Bear and Triunfo, CA, according to news items. Throughout the summer and early autumn of 1939, editing and post-production continued.
The first preview of the film was held in Riverside, CA on September 11, 1939. According to modern sources, the preview print was shown without completed titles and without special photographic effects. In interviews, film editor Hal Kern related that only he knew the location of the preview and kept the information secret even from Selznick. Editing continued on the film almost until the premiere. According to modern sources and interviews, Selznick, film editor Hal Kern, special effects man Jack Cosgrove and others worked continuously on the project, often for stretches of forty-eight hours or more without rest. Cosgrove and his crew created many exteriors in the film with matte shots. In the novel, Rhett's last words to Scarlett are, "My dear, I don't give a damn." In the film, his last words are, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." According to Selznick memos, considerable time was spent by the producer and others to write another line for the film that did not use the word "damn" which was unacceptable by Production Code standards. By September 1939, Joseph I. Breen of the Hays Office had refused to grant the picture certification if the word "damn" was used. Permission was finally granted for the picture to receive a certificate by the Hays Office in late October 1939. A letter to Will H. Hays from Selznick, dated October 20, 1939 notes "It is my contention that this word as used in the picture is not an oath or a curse. The worst that could be said against it is that it is a vulgarism, and it is so described in the Oxford English Dictionary." According to modern sources Selznick was allowed to retain the word "damn" in the film after paying a $5,000 fine. The word "damn" had been used before the strict implementation of the Production Code in 1934. According to modern sources, the word was not used again until the 1941 Twentieth Century-Fox film How Green Was My Valley.
To ensure that the film was shown according to his precise specifications, Selznick had a special booklet prepared for exhibitors that gave a detailed description of how the film should be projected. Details included the screen's proper illumination level, sound intensity, care of the film and projector, and the length of the overtures. According to the instructions, before the film began, a decorative title card was projected while an overture, "carefully designed to establish a mood for the enjoyment of the film" was played for ten minutes, thirty-one seconds. Another title card was used during the film's intermission, which ran for seven minutes (or longer if theater managers desired to allow the audience more time during the intermission), and finally a four minute, fifteen second musical program ran at the end of the picture.
In preparation for the release of the film, Howard Dietz of M-G-M coordinated the national publicity campaign, and Frank Whitbeck, also of M-G-M, prepared and narrated the trailer. Unlike most film trailers of the era, Gone With the Wind's did not include footage of the film. According to an exchange of memos between Dietz and Selznick, Selznick was adamant that the film not be promoted as an M-G-M picture, but as a Selznick International production and an M-G-M release. As part of the film's publicity, several national magazines featured cover stories on the picture, including the December 25, 1939 issue of Time magazine, which had a photograph of Vivien Leigh on the cover. In order to give the picture the earliest possible review, Time's critic, Whittaker Chambers was even flown to Los Angeles for the 9 December press preview. The world premiere of the picture was held on December 15, 1939 at the Loew's Grand Theater in Atlanta, GA. Leigh, Gable, deHavilland, Selznick and Margaret Mitchell were among the many celebrities who attended the premiere, parade and ball that took place in conjunction with the film. Contemporary news items estimated that the parade attracted as many as 1,500,000 people. The Atlanta Journal, the newspaper on which Mitchell had once worked, devoted large sections of its issues to the festivities during the week of the premiere, and sold a special souvenir supplement edition on the film on 15 Dec. Premieres followed in New York on December 19, 1939 and in Los Angeles on 28 Dec, and the film opened at roadshow engagements at a number of large cities over the following few weeks. Film Daily Year Book and other contemporary sources printed a production breakdown on the picture that figures the total negative cost of the film at $3,957,000. Some modern sources have placed the total cost at $4,250,000. According to modern sources, the film grossed twenty million dollars by the end of May 1940 when the film completed its first run at roadshow prices. The picture was released nationally at "popular" prices on January 17, 1941. Many modern sources have indicated that Gone With the Wind is the highest grossing film ever, taking into consideration the original release, all re-releases, and factoring the difference between ticket prices in 1939 and current prices.
The film was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards and won eight of the nominated categories. Those awards included Picture, Director (Victor Fleming), Actress (Vivien Leigh), Supporting Actress (Hattie McDaniel), Screenplay (posthumously to Sidney Howard), Art Direction (Lyle Wheeler), Color Cinematography (Ernest Haller and Ray Rennahan), and Film Editing (Hal Kern and James Newcom). Other nominations included Actor (Clark Gable), Supporting Actress (Olivia de Havilland), Original Score (Max Steiner), Sound Recording (Thomas Moulton and the Samuel Goldwyn Studio Sound Department) and Special Effects (Jack Cosgrove and Frank Albin). An Oscar also went to William Cameron Menzies for "Outstanding achievement in the use of color for the enhancement of dramatic mood" in the film and to Don Musgrave and Selznick International Pictures for "pioneering use of coordinated equipment" on the picture. David O. Selznick also received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. McDaniel was the first black actor to win an Academy Award. Thomas Mitchell also won the Supporting Actor award the same year, but for his work in Stagecoach (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.4284).
Although the film did win other awards, it was not honored in any category by the National Board of Review and only Vivien Leigh was honored by the New York film critics. The film did appear on the New York Times "Ten Best" list, was Film Daily Year Book's top film of the year and was included in the Variety list of the top twenty money-makers of the 1939-40 season. In 2007, Gone with the Wind was ranked 6th on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies-10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films, moving down from the 4th position it occupied on AFI's 1997 list.
Reviews were, for the most part, highly laudatory of the film. Hollywood Reporter called it "more than the greatest motion picture which ever was made. It is the ultimate realization of the dreams of what might be done..." The Variety reviewer said it "...appears finally as one of the screen's major achievements, meriting highest respect and plaudits, and poised for grosses which May be second to none in the history of the business." Consumer magazines and newspapers generally gave the picture excellent reviews, with many calling it the greatest film ever made. Some notable reviewers disagreed, among them Frank S. Nugent of the New York Times who wrote, "Is it the greatest motion picture ever made? Probably, not, although it is the greatest motion mural we have seen," and John Mosher of The New Yorker described many moments in the film he didn't appreciate and concluded, "there might have been managed one full hour of superior material." Carlton Moss of The Daily Worker wrote, "Whereas The Birth of a Nation was a frontal attack on American history and the Negro people, Gone With the Wind...is a rear attack...sugar-smeared and blurred by a boresome Hollywood love story." Moss, a black playwright, entitled his review "An Open Letter to Mr. Selznick." Many contemporary and modern sources have noted that Moss's condemnation of aspects of the film reflected the feelings of black Americans about any romanticised or patronizing portrait of the Old South and slavery.
Since the film was first released, many popular polls have placed it as "the best" or "most popular" film of all time. A poll by the American Film Institute of its membership in 1977, and a Los Angeles Times poll of its readers in 1978 both listed Gone With the Wind in first place, although the prestigious Sight and Sound poll of international film critics, conducted every ten years, has never included the picture in the top ten. Articles of the money the film has made in theaters, on television and video have overwhelmingly indicated that it has earned more money and been seen by more persons than any other film. The picture was rereleased on many occasions, most notably in 1947, 1954, 1967 and 1989. For the 1954 re-issue, the picture was shown in a "wide-screen" version to compete with the newly introduced CinemaScope process, and for the 1967 re-issue the film was blown up to 70mm. In 1989 a "Fiftieth Anniversary" of the picture was undertaken by Turner Entertainment to restore the picture to its original state while enhancing the sound and picture. A special video edition was subsequently released of the newly restored picture. Selznick sold the rights to the picture to Jock Whitney in 1942, and Whitney, in turn sold the rights to M-G-M in 1943. Turner Entertainment obtained the rights to Gone With the Wind and other M-G-M pictures when they purchased the M-G-M library in the early 1980s. The possibility of a sequel to the story was raised even before the film was made. Margaret Mitchell emphatically rejected the idea of working on a sequel to her novel on numerous occasions. As early as September 1936, in a letter written in response to a reviewer's inquiry Mitchell stated, "...I am not writing a sequel. I have no intention of writing a sequel." According to modern sources this sentiment was repeated to Selznick in early 1941 when Selznick himself was considering a sequel tentatively entitled The Daughter of Scarlett O'Hara. For many years after Mitchell's death in August 1949, repeated speculation on a possible sequel, to be written by a writer selected by Mitchell's heirs surfaced. Various articles mentioned a possible television remake which, according to modern sources, was considered as a project by Selznick, who also tried to develop a Broadway musical version to be entitled Scarlett O'Hara. A screenplay was written by James Goldman for the Zanuck Brown company in the early 1980s, but was not produced. Author Anne Edwards wrote a sequel to the novel entitled Tara: The Continuation of Gone With the Wind, and was mentioned in news items as the choice to write a screenplay based on her book, but the novel was never published. In 1991, Warner Books published a sequel authorized by the Mitchell estate, written by Alexandra Ripley and entitled Scarlett. That novel became an immediate best-seller (though not of the proportion of the original), and follows the characters of Scarlett and Rhett from the end of the original novel. Shortly after Scarlett's publication, film rights were sold to the Halmi Brothers, who turned the novel into a television mini-series of the same title, starring Joanne Whaley-Kilmer as Scarlett and Timothy Dalton as Rhett. The mini-series was broadcast on the NBC television network in 1994. Additional stories featuring characters from Gone With the Wind and Scarlett were announced by the author as future possibilities. The "phenomenon" of Gone With the Wind has made the film one of best known of all time. Satires on the film have appeared in print, motion pictures and television; lines from the film, such as "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," are familiar throughout the world, as are visual images, such as Rhett's white suit and hat, Scarlett's white and green "barbecue" dress and Rhett carrying Scarlett up the stairs.
Marketing of characters from the story began as early as 1937 when Selznick International granted a license to the Madame Alexander Doll company for the exclusive manufacture of dolls based on the as-yet unproduced film. Licensing of the characters and images from the film has been almost continuous, with items as diverse as Scarlett O'Hara wedding dresses, paper dolls, limited edition plates, figurines and a 1989 U.S. Postal Service stamp featuring Rhett and Scarlett.
In 2002, the Mitchell estate settled a copyright infringement lawsuit brought against the Houghton-Mifflin Company over publication of the novel The Wind Done Gone by African-American author Alice Randall. That book was set on the O'Hara plantation, but told from the perspective of a slave. The lawsuit had temporarily blocked publication of The Wind Done Gone on the basis of copyright infringement of characters and situations in Mitchell's novel. After Mitchell's heirs won their suit in a lower court, a Federal appeals panel overturned the decision, ruling that The Wind Done Gone was "political parody," rather than an unauthorized sequel to Gone With the Wind.
Both contemporary and modern writers created puns, slogans and jokes about the vast production, as exemplified by a limerick printed in Irving Hoffman's "Tales of Hoffman" column in Hollywood Reporter on December 30, 1939: "The Civil War was quite a fight and not a mere diversion; I never knew how tough it was before Dave Selznick's version."