GONE WITH THE WIND: The Essentials
The O'Hara family is one of the most prominent and wealthy families in Georgia and their plantation Tara is often host to the region's biggest social events. Among the O'Hara children, Scarlett is the most headstrong, vain and impetuous of three daughters. She has her choice of many suitors but becomes intent on marrying Ashley Wilkes, a sensitive intellectual whose fate lies elsewhere. When the Civil War erupts and brings devastation and poverty to the O'Hara family, Scarlett becomes the one who fights the hardest to preserve her family's beloved Tara. Through the roughest period of the Reconstruction, Scarlett struggles to maintain ownership of her estate while resisting and eventually succumbing to her most ardent suitor, Rhett Butler, who matches her in stubborn determination and unbridled desire.
Director: Victor Fleming
Producer: David O. Selznick
Screenplay: Sidney Howard
Based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell Cinematography: Ernest Haller, Ray Rennahan
Editing: Hal C. Kern
Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler
Music: Max Steiner
Cast: Clark Gable (Rhett Butler), Vivien Leigh (Scarlett O'Hara), Leslie Howard (Ashley Wilkes), Olivia de Havilland (Melanie Hamilton), Hattie McDaniel (Mammy), Thomas Mitchell (Gerald O'Hara), Barbara O'Neil (Mrs. O'Hara), Laura Hope Crews (Aunt Pittypat Hamilton), Harry Davenport (Doctor Meade), Ona Munson (Belle Watling), Evelyn Keyes (Suellen O'Hara), Ann Rutherford (Careen O'Hara), Butterfly McQueen (Prissy), Alicia Rhett (India Wilkes), Eddie Anderson (Uncle Peter), Rand Brooks (Charles Hamilton), Jane Darwell (Mrs. Merriwether), Mary Anderson (Maybelle Merriwether), Isabel Jewell (Emmy Slattery), Victor Jory (Jonas Wilkerson), Yakima Canutt (Renegade), Cammie King (Bonnie Blue Butler), Lillian Kemble-Cooper (Bonnie's Nurse), Ward Bond (Tom, a Yankee Captain), George Reeves (Brent Tarleton), Fred Crane (Stuart Tarleton)
Why GONE WITH THE WIND is Essential
"Selznick's Folly" had become the nickname applied by cynics to Gone with the Wind (1939) while David O. Selznick's film version of Margaret Mitchell's sprawling epic of the Old South was still in production. But when the $4 million movie had its premiere on December 15, 1939, cynicism was swept aside by such reactions as The Hollywood Reporter's headline description: "Magnificent and Supreme Triumph of Film History." When Oscar nominees for one of the greatest years ever in American film were announced, Gone with the Wind dominated the likes of Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights, Ninotchka and Goodbye, Mr. Chips with an unprecedented 13 nominations.
Gone with the Wind was the culmination of the development of the Hollywood studio system since the coming of sound, showing how much could be accomplished using the vast armies of designers and technicians that even an independent producer like David O. Selznick could keep under contract.
Gone with the Wind was the longest, most expensive and successful Hollywood film made up to that point in time. As such, it inspired the studios to create ever bigger and more impressive screen epics that would produce some of Hollywood's biggest hits but also make the industry increasingly risky financially.
It was the first true "event" movie since the days of silent films. Thanks to Selznick's publicity department, under the supervision of Russell Birdwell, the film became a publicity bonanza. His marketing techniques are still being imitated in the drive to raise public awareness of individual motion pictures.
Gone with the Wind was a breakthrough in the use of color on screen, taking advantage of recent developments in Technicolor® technology that allowed for a broader color palette than had been previously available for color films.
The film represents the pinnacle of Selznick's career, combining his epic vision with a strong grasp of the popular audience's romantic tastes and his devotion to the literary sources from which he took most of his best movies.
The success of Gone with the Wind raised the profile of independent producers in Hollywood. By the time the film came out, there were 20 independent production companies working through the major Hollywood studios, paving the way for a future in which the independents would eventually come to dominate American film production.
Gone with the Wind also struck the first major blow against Hollywood's repressive Production Code, presenting an adult view of marital relations in Scarlett and Rhett's discussions of the place of sex in their marriage. As such, it led to a softening of the Code that would gradually bring more adult content to the screen.
When Oscar® night came, Gone with the Wind continued to make history with eight wins, plus special awards to Selznick and production designer William Cameron Menzies. "What a wonderful thing, this benefit for David O. Selznick," Bob Hope cracked as he began his first year as master of ceremonies. The first two major awards for Gone with the Wind were not claimed by their winners. Selznick accepted for director Victor Fleming, explaining that he was ill. Screenwriter Sidney Howard, who had been killed in a tractor accident on his Massachusetts farm, became the first posthumous Oscar winner. When Frank Freeman presented Selznick with the Best Picture award, the Southern-born Paramount executive cracked, "David, I never saw so many soldiers as were used in Gone with the Wind. Believe me, if the Confederate Army had had that many, we would have licked you damn Yankees."
Fay Bainter, announcing the winner for Best Supporting Actress, described the award as "a tribute to a country where people are free to honor noteworthy achievements regardless of creed, race or color." A big "Hallelujah!" rang from the lips of Hattie McDaniel, honored for her Mammy in Gone with the Wind. A disappointed Olivia de Havilland, also nominated in McDaniel's category, slipped into the Coconut Grove kitchen for some private tears before composing herself and returning to congratulate her co-star. In his final appearance at an Oscar® ceremony, Spencer Tracy appeared to present Vivien Leigh with her Best Actress award for so memorably playing Scarlett in Gone with the Wind. Leigh ended her acceptance speech with special thanks to Tracy for coming straight from the hospital after two days of treatment for strep throat.
Gone with the Wind also won in the categories of Color Cinematography, Interior Decoration and Film Editing. But the movie's winning streak stopped with the Best Actor award. Clark Gable, nominated for the performance of his life as Rhett Butler, lost to Robert Donat for Goodbye, Mr. Chips.
by Frank Miller & Roger Fristoe