30 Revealing Facts About the Iconic Film Gone With the Wind



It is one of the most iconic and celebrated films of all time. With its breathtaking imagery and award-winning cast, Gone With the Wind remains a true cinematic marvel. Here are some of the revealing facts behind the making of the world-renowned epic.

Hattie’s Triumph


Hattie McDaniel played the role of Mammy, Scarlett’s endearing house servant. In 1939, following the film’s release, McDaniel became the very first African American actress to win an Academy Award. The film reflected the controversial and dark nature of race relations in the civil war era. The entertainment industry was widely known to exclude and overlook the work of African American actors. Amidst the segregation laws of the time, an exception was made by the event’s venue in order to permit the actress to attend the prestigious ceremony.

ADVERTISEMENT

Set Ablaze


The burning of Atlanta was very first scene to be shot. The thrilling sequence cost $25, 000 to produce, becoming the film’s most expensive scene. Unused movie sets, including the set of the hit film King Kong, were set ablaze. The fire was so enormous that local residents frantically called the fire department. It took over 15, 000 gallons of water extinguish the raging fire.

ADVERTISEMENT

Director Drama


The film’s first director, George Cukor was fired after just two weeks in the director’s chair. Clark Gable, who starred as the film’s leading man, Rhett Butler, believed Cukor was unfit for the demanding role. Gable was a notoriously strong-willed man who was particularly concerned about maintaining his reputation as Hollywood’s most strapping and masculine lead actor. Rumors soon came to light that the actor took issue with the controversial nature of the director’s romantic life.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Three of a Kind


The film’s production proved to be disastrous. The film would ultimately go through three directors. George Cukor, Victor Fleming and Sam Wood would all try their hand at the role. Fleming found the shooting schedule particularly challenging, he would take a leave of absence from the set after he suffered a reported nervous breakdown.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

The Quote


The film includes one of the most memorable quotes in the history of cinema. In a climatic and dramatic scene, Butler bids a fierce farewell to Scarlett after years of her mistreatment and selfish antics. When asked by his desperate wife what she is to do without him, he famously declares, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a d***.” Though many believe the film was fined for using the obscenity, it was in fact pre-approved. This was only the second time an expletive was ever shown on film.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Clark’s Tears


In one particularly emotional scene between Gable and co-star Olivia de Havilland, the actor was required to cry. The ‘King of Hollywood’ defiantly refused to shed tears onscreen. Gable was concerned that the outright display of emotion would affect his his masculine image. Havilland, who played the golden-hearted Melanie Hamilton, convinced the actor to go through with the act and Gable reluctantly agreed.

 
ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

The Actor’s Rage


Gable actually threatened to boycott the film’s high-profile premiere. Hattie McDaniel and Gable had become close friends during the movie’s lengthy production. When Gable learned that Hattie, along with the rest of the African American cast members, were denied an invitation to the premiere, the actor was rightly enraged. McDaniel managed to convince Gable to attend.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Leslie’s Loathing


Actor Leslie Howard played the role of Ashley Wilkes. The Southern gentlemen was the unrequited love of Scarlett who went on to wed her cousin, Melanie Hamilton Though the role won the actor critical acclaim, Howard loathed playing the part. Howard was 40 years old when he was chosen to play 21 year old Wilkes. He said, he believed he was “not nearly beautiful or young enough to play Ashley”.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Dummy Soldiers


In another one of the epic’s visually-thrilling and elaborate scenes, Scarlett walks through a street strewn with the bodies of fallen Confederate soldiers. Producer David O. Selznick initially wanted 2,500 extras to take part in the dramatic scene. The studio would only allow him to make use of 800 extras. Selznick ordered another 800 life-like dummies to be included in the scene to ensure the sequence had the desired effect.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

The Wage Gap


Though equal pay is now a controversial concern in contemporary Hollywood, that wasn’t always the case. There was an enormous  discrepancy between Gable and Leigh’s paychecks for the film. Gable was paid $120,000 for his 70 days on set, while Leigh would receive just $25,000 for her 125 days of shooting.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

The Premiere Spectacle


In December 1939, the movie’s release was celebrated with a spectacular premiere in the city of Atlanta. The event reflected the worldwide popularity of the epic romance. 300, 000 People flocked to the surrounding streets in order to catch a glimpse of the film’s famous cast. The premiere included the stars’ arrival in a long procession of limousines and an extravagant themed costume ball.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Holiday for All


The event proved to be such a lavish and celebrated occasion that the day was actually declared a state-wide holiday by local government. The festivities lasted three days. Jimmy Carter, the future US President, famously said the affair was “the biggest event to happen in the South in my lifetime.”

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Famous Fan


Though the film charmed millions of moviegoers, there was one famous face who was particularly taken with Gone With the Wind. The late Michael Jackson was an avid fan of the film, so much so, he paid $1,542,500 for David O. Selznick’s Best Picture Oscar statuette. In a bizarre turn of events, the award would later be part of a mystery surrounding the pop star’s million dollar estate…

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

The Oscar Mystery


After Michael Jackson’s tragic death, the executors of his estate began to take inventory of his many assets. During the proceedings, lawyers would discover that the award was missing. “The estate does not know where the Gone With the Wind statuette is,” attorney Howard Weitzman announced. “We would like to have that Oscar because it belongs to Michael’s children. I’m hopeful it will turn up at some point.” The trophy has yet to be recovered.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Need a Mint?


While millions of people were enthralled by the passionate chemistry between Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, the actress reportedly hated shooting the couple’s intimate scenes. Vivien Leigh shared in an interview, “Kissing Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind was not that exciting. His dentures smelled something awful.” Some of the film’s crew even alleged that the actor would eat garlic before shooting the couple’s kissing scenes.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Screening In Secret


The film’s producer was determined to ensure that the initial screening of the classic was a top secret affair. The test audience had no idea what film they would be viewing. The theater doors were actually locked during the screening to ensure that the movie’s plot remained secret. Despite the mystery, the audience were thrilled by the initial screening.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Alfred’s Rejection


The film’s elaborate screenplay took months to complete. Selznick actually recruited the help of the iconic director, Alfred Hitchcock, to offer his input regarding the arduous adaptation. Hitchcock delivered a detailed screenplay including suggestions as to what camera angles to use. Selznick surprisingly snubbed the director, opting to overlook every one of his suggestions. Ultimately, it took 16 writers months of collaboration to complete the final screenplay.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

A Novel Idea


Margaret Mitchell was the author behind the novel which Gone With the Wind was based on. Astonishingly, the book remains the most popular piece of fiction amongst American readers, second only to the Bible. Mitchell would have never predicted the novel’s future success, she actually wrote the book as a light-hearted means to pass the time while bedridden following a violent car accident. The project would take a decade to complete.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Pain Behind the Lens


Olivia de Havilland played the role of Melanie Hamilton, Scarlett’s loving relative who weds Ashley Wilkes. In an emotional scene, Melanie gives birth to a child under Scarlett’s reluctant supervision. Director Victor Fleming was adamant the actress’s performance should be believable. The director sat just out of the camera’s view and painfully pinched Havilland’s toes to ensure her cries of agony appeared authentic.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

A Must-Have


Gone With the Wind, the novel, was published in 1936 to overwhelmingly positive critical and public reviews. The book has since sold 30 million copies worldwide. David O. Selznick was so impressed by the novel’s popularity that he decided to purchase the movie rights without ever having read the book. Selznick paid a staggering $50, 000 for the rights.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Public Protest


Despite the film’s widespread popularity, the epic received its fair share of public backlash. Many African Americans were enraged by the depiction of the film’s black characters. Producers were accused of romanticizing slavery and encouraging racial segregation. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People protested outside of movie theaters demanding that the scenes they deemed offensive be removed. Selznick eventually relented to the public pressure, removing numerous scenes from the final cut.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

A Smash Hit


The film proved to be an unprecedented commercial success. To this day, Gone With the Wind remains the highest-grossing film ever to be made. The historical epic earned $393.4 million. When adjusted for monetary inflation, the amount would stand at $3.44 billion, more than the box office earnings of more recent classics such as Titanic and Star Wars.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Award Records


The epic was not only a wild success amongst the public, it is also one of the most critically acclaimed films of all time. Gone With the Wind was nominated for a total of thirteen Academy Awards, winning eight of the coveted trophies. It was the longest American sound film made up until that point and with a running time of 234 minutes, the film remains the longest-running Best Picture winner.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Production By Numbers


The movie’s screenplay proved to a disaster to edit. If the dialogue from the novel was used, the film would have been 168 hours long. Half a million feet of film footage was shot for the near 4-hour movie. About 1,100 horses were used in the making of the street scenes. 90 Woman shot a screen test for the role of Scarlett, including celebrated actresses Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Lana Turner.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Leigh’s Controversy


Though Vivien Leigh would win a Best Actress Academy Award for her heart-wrenching portrayal of the film’s leading lady, people initially campaigned against her winning the role. The United Daughters of the Confederacy Organization were offended at the very thought of an unknown British actress playing the quintessentially Southern Bell. Despite the controversy, Leigh was the producer’s unwavering choice.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Gable’s Personal Life


Clark Gable’s personal life sparked widespread scandal during production. The actor’s salary procured from Gone With the Wind allowed him the finances to finalize his divorce from his second wife, Rhea Langham. On a two day break from filming, Gable would elope and marry his third wife, actress Carole Lombard.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Dress to Impress


One of the many spectacular features of Gone With the Wind is Scarlett’s now-iconic costuming. The beautiful actress awed audiences in a host of ensembles that would become legendary. Collector James Tumblin would purchase one of the actress’s featured dresses in the 60s for just $20. In a 2015 auction, the dress would fetch $137, 000. A straw hat worn by Leigh also sold for an outrageous $52,500

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

By Another Name


It’s difficult to imagine the film would be known by any other name but that was almost the case. Mitchell had a long list of potential titles for the novel including, “Tomorrow is Another Day,” “Bugles Sang True,” “Not in Our Stars,” “Ba! Ba! Black Sheep,” and “Tote the Weary Load.” Scarlett’s character was initially called Pansy in the book’s first draft.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Another Rhett


Gable was the early favorite for the devilishly charming leading man, but he was not the only famous face to be considered for the part. He was cast over Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn and Ronald Colman. Gary Cooper was quoted saying, “Gone with the Wind is going to be the biggest flop in Hollywood history,” and, “I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his face…”


Searching for Scarlett


Tempestuous, spoiled and undeniably ravishing, Scarlett O’Hara is one of film’s most captivating heroines. The search to find the women who would ultimately play the role would span two years. 1400 Actresses would hope to win the part but would be turned away. Ultimately, British actress Vivien Leigh would land the part.

ADVERTISEMENT