... that David O. Selznick bought the movie rights to Gone With the Wind for $50,000 in 1936. He hestitated at first because he didn't think that he had an actress under contract at Selznick International Pictures who could play Scarlett. It would take three years and screen tests with virtually every big-name actress in Hollywood (Tallulah Bankhead, Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Susan Hayward, Carole Lombard to name just a few) to find the perfect choice ... Vivien Leigh.
... David O. Selznick wrote this memo regarding the casting of the movie Gone With the Wind.
"As to the casting of "Gone With The Wind", I feel that new personalities are
preferable - first, selfishly because of my belief the roles of Scarlett and Rhett
will make stars for us; and second, from the standpoint of illusion created by
the picture itself: wellknown personalities are liable to be identified with their
previous roles, whereas a new personality will be accepted, provided they are
sufficiently talented and properly cast as Scarlett and Rhett."
And so the Search for Scarlett began. After a failed attempt to find an "unknown" which you can read about here it was decided that Scarlett would be chosen from established actresses. Over thirty women were given screen tests for the part. You can see some of them here.
... that although he was everyone's first choice to play Rhett Butler, Clark Gable was adamantly opposed to the idea. He believed that the public so loved this character no actor could ever live up to their expectations. He even went so far as to call the role career suicide. It was only when his boss' at MGM agreed to give him the financial help he needed to obtain a divorce from his wife so he could marry Carole Lombard that he reluctantly agreed to be loaned out to Selznick Pictures and take the role.
... that Hattie McDaniel, winner of the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for his portrayal of Mamie was not allowed to attend the award ceremony because of her race.
... that the most famous movie line of all time was partially ad-libbed. In the book, Rhett tells Scarlett, "My dear, I don't give a damn." Clark and producer David O. Selznick threw in the "Frankly" at the last minute. And the entire sequence almost didn't make it into the movie at all. The infamous Hayes Office objected to the "damn" and suggested that the line be changed to "Frankly, my dear. I don't care." The filmmakers actually shot a version of the scene that way. Thankfully, clear heads prevailed and the "offensive" damn was allowed to be left in the movie.
... that Barbara O'Neill, the actress who played Scarlett's mother Mrs. O'Hara was only one year older than Vivien Leigh.
... that Victor Fleming wanted to have 2,000 soldiers laying in the streets during the siege of Atalanta scene but Selznick only allowed him to hire 800 extras. A solution was reached, each extra had to manipulate the hands and arms of two "dummies" in order to achieve the desired effect.
... that there were two directors. George Cukor worked on the picture all through pre-production and the first month of shooting. Clark Gable thought he was a "woman's" director and used his influence to get him fired. Victor Fleming was taken off the last few weeks of shooting for The Wizard of Oz and brought on to finish Gone With the Wind. Unbeknowst to Gable and David O. Selznick, Vivien Leigh and Olivia de Haviland would still discuss their parts and acting choices with George Cukor throughout the rest of the filming.
... The David O. Selznick Collection is housed in the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. In 1987 it was decided that the original costumes from the movie were very fragile and deteriorating. Reproductions of the dresses were commisioned. They are displayed as part of the excellent Gone With the Wind web exhibition which you can find here. There was not an Academy Award category for costume design in 1939 but surely if there was the GWTW costume designer Walter Plunkett would have been the winner.
... What color were Scarlett O'Hara's eyes? Why green of course and what color were Vivian Leigh's eyes? They were blue and we're not sure how they did that but that was just a part of the daunting job of make up done by Monty Westmore for Gone with the Wind. You can read about it here and see movie stills of the character's make up.
... The movie opens with an introduction that was not approved of by the author of the book Margaret Mitchell. It read:
"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..."
Other changes from the book included the elimination of the characters of Rhett's sister, Scarlett's uncle and Scarlett's first two children, Ella and Wade. Any references to the Klu Klux clan were taken out. Instead of reading from Les Miserables, Melanie reads David Copperfield. The love scenes and the portrayal of Belle were played down. And perhaps most famously the last line of the book, "My dear, I don't give a damn." became "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn
The author of Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell was born in Atlanta Georgia. Today you can tour the Margaret Mitchell house where she lived while writing the book. Margaret Mitchell was hit by a car and died in 1949. She was 49 years old.