Making of Gone With the Wind Was an Absolute Mess

But it's still the top-grossing film domestically
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 28, 2014 7:38 AM CST
Making of Gone With the Wind Was an Absolute Mess
Clark Gable, left, appears in character as Rhett Butler and Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara, in the film "Gone with the Wind."   (AP Photo/Turner Classic Movies)

It's been 75 years since Gone With the Wind was released—and given the many hurdles to its production, it's kind of amazing that it ever was. In Entertainment Weekly, Chris Nashawaty tells the story of the film's making, which centered on producer David Selznick. He was at first reluctant to make the film, despite a glowing review of the book by one of his employees. "I am absolutely off my nut about this book," Katharine Brown wrote, finally convincing him to take action. But plenty got in the way. Among the challenges:

  • The first writer dropped out after spending months on the script. After a number of other writers tried their hand, including Selznick himself, writer Ben Hecht took it on, but there was no time for him to read Margaret Mitchell's book. So Selznick and director Victor Fleming "stayed up all night acting out the story for him."
  • Clark Gable was under contract to Selznick's father-in-law, who finally "loaned" him to Selznick, with plenty of strings attached—and Gable wasn't thrilled about it.
  • Original director George Cukor didn't get along with Gable and was eventually replaced by Fleming, who didn't get along with Vivien Leigh. "Leigh hated Fleming. With a passion. Fleming hated her. Clark Gable hated David … Everybody hated David," an assistant said. Fleming quit before returning.

Ultimately, the film required "125 days of photography, 37 months of preparation, half a million feet of film and a budget of $4.25 million (at a time when the average feature cost less than $1 million)," Nashawaty writes. And the trouble was far from over: Racism plagued the various premieres, with black cast members in many cases banned from attending, the Los Angeles Times reports. That prompted anger from Selznick, the AP reports; Gable, meanwhile, had already stood against segregated toilets on set, threatening to bail on the film, according to a Life magazine book cited by the Times. Ultimately, however, "Selznick kept that film together," says a film scholar, and it still holds the record for domestic box-office gross, adjusted for inflation, the Times notes (and you can bet it's a lot better than the current crop of big-grossing films).

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