Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Can you believe I've never seen Gone With the Wind? I know, I'm probably the only person in America! I always want to watch it, but somehow seem overwhelmed by the length. I found some great trivia to get me interested so here goes:
--When Gary Cooper turned down the role for Rhett Butler, he was passionately against it. He is quoted saying both, "Gone with the Wind (1939) 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 and not Gary Cooper."
--The movie's line "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." was voted as the #1 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100).
--First color film to win the Best Picture Oscar.
--Of all the many actresses who tested for the part of Scarlett, only Paulette Goddard and Vivien Leigh were filmed in color.
--Although he was dismissed from the production, George Cukor continued to privately coach both Vivien Leigh and Olivia de Havilland at their request on weekends.
--The estimated production costs were $3.9 million. At the time, only Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925) and Hell's Angels (1930) had cost more.
--The film had its first preview on 9 September 1939 at the Fox Theatre in Riverside, California. In attendance were David O. Selznick, his wife Irene Mayer Selznick, investor John Hay Whitney and editor Hal C. Kern. Kern called for the manager and explained that his theater had been chosen for the first public screening of Gone with the Wind (1939) though the identity of the film was to remain undisclosed to the audience until the very moment it began. People were permitted to leave only if they didn't want to hang around for a film that they didn't know the name of, but after they'd gone, the theater was to be sealed with no re-admissions and no phone calls. The manager was reluctant but eventually agreed. His one request was to call his wife to come to the theater immediately, although he was forbidden to tell her what film she was about to see. Indeed, Kern stood by him while he made his phone call to ensure he maintained the secret. When the film began, the audience started yelling with excitement. They had been reading about this film for nearly 2 years, so were naturally thrilled to see it for themselves.
--The Ku Klux Klan was written out of the screenplay as the organization to which Frank Kennedy turns after Scarlett is attacked in Shantytown. Producer David O. Selznick said that he had no desire to remake The Birth of a Nation (1915), telling screenwriter Sidney Howard in 1937, "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. . . ."
--Olivia de Havilland was a contract player at Warner Brothers when MGM made the call to her for the part of Melanie. De Havilland was very keen to take the part and managed to convince her boss Jack L. Warner to let her out of her contract, mainly by getting his wife to exert her influence.
--Leslie Howard privately felt that he was much too old to play Ashley Wilkes (the character was supposed to be about 21 at the start of the film). He wore extra make-up and a hairpiece to make him appear younger. Selznick was only able to persuade him to take the part by offering him a producer credit on Intermezzo: A Love Story (1939).
--The only four actors David O. Selznick ever seriously considered for the role Rhett Butler were Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn and Ronald Colman. The chief impediment to Gable's casting was his MGM contract. Gable was not drawn to the material; he didn't see himself in a period production, and didn't believe that he could live up to the public's anticipation of the character. Eventually, he was persuaded by a $50,000 bonus which would enable him to divorce his second wife Maria ("Ria") and marry Carole Lombard.
--All four principal characters appear together in the same scene only once, after the raid on Shantytown, when Rhett tells the anxious group of the fate of Scarlett's second husband, Frank Kennedy.
--To portray Melanie, Olivia de Havilland spent most of the film in drab, dowdy costumes. She wore 2 elaborate dresses in the film: one when Melanie and Ashley announce their engagement, and a striking blue taffeta dress that Melanie wears to Scarlett's first wedding. Unfortunately, due to film aspect ratio at the time (long before the advent of widescreen), the screen could not accommodate two dresses built up with hoop skirts, so they had to be removed. Thus, de Havilland's rare appearance in a beautiful dress was shot from the waist up, with the skirt hanging limp.
--1,400 actresses were interviewed for the part of Scarlett O'Hara. 400 were asked to do readings.
--Among the many famous actress considered for the part of Scarlett were Jean Arthur, Lucille Ball, Tallulah Bankhead, Bette Davis, Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Paulette Goddard, Katharine Hepburn, Olivia de Havilland, Carole Lombard, Norma Shearer, Barbara Stanwyck, and Margaret Sullavan. Bankhead (an authentic "Southern Belle" from Alabama) was the clear front-runner, but her unsavory personal life made producers reluctant to hire her.
--There is historical dispute and ambiguity over exactly when Vivien Leigh was contracted to play Scarlett O'Hara. One theory holds that David O. Selznick had already secretly signed her for the role as early as February 1938, and that the nationwide "Search For Scarlett O'Hara", during which thousands of dollars were spent "testing" aspiring actresses for the part, was actually a well orchestrated publicity stunt on the part of David O. Selznick to keep alive interest in a very expensive film for which he did not yet have the money to produce. The other, more dramatic and interesting story is that Selznick's brother Myron Selznick, an agent, introduced Vivien Leigh to David O. Selznick during the filming of the Atlanta fire and said "David, meet your Scarlett O'Hara". The truth of the matter is unknown, and may never be resolved.
--In the scene where Scarlett searches for Dr. Meade, making her way among 1,600 suffering and dying Confederate soldiers, to cut costs and still comply with a union rule that dictated the use of a certain percentage of extras in the cast, 800 dummies were scattered among 800 extras.
--Vivien Leigh worked for 125 days and received about $25,000. Clark Gable worked for 71 days and received over $120,000.
--The horse that Thomas Mitchell rode was later Silver of "The Lone Ranger" (1949) fame.
--Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to be nominated for, and win, an Academy Award.
--The Tara plantation façade was located at the NW corner of the Forty Acres backlot in Culver City, CA and was dismantled in 1959. The location was later used for the Stalag 13 outdoor set of "Hogan's Heroes" (1965).
--Olivia de Havilland who has been the lone survivor of the four principal leads since the death of Vivien Leigh in 1967, was the only major cast member to live to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the picture's premiere on December 15 2009.
What do you think? Should I watch it?