Leigh Was Cast Much Later
Gone With the Wind without Vivien Leigh? Can you even imagine such a thing? Her performance was truly inspirational. However, producers and directors had already begun shooting this film before an actress to play Scarlett O’Hara’s role was even cast.
The book by Margaret Mitchell was well-known and the search for the perfect Scarlett created a lot of buzzes. Leigh was cast one month after the shooting had started.
Boys Don’t Cry
It was the 1930s. Back then, men were not expected to cry or even express their emotions openly. It was considered un-manly. Hollywood had always portrayed its men as being strong, dashing, and sturdy — but never emotional. This put Gable in a dilemma.
Gable, who played Rhett, was supposed to be heartbroken after he learns that Scarlett had lost her child, following the stairs accident. Gable thought that crying would ruin his image as a manly actor, but he was eventually convinced otherwise.
A Connection With History
Hattie McDaniel was an actress, but she also played an important part in American history. Playing Mammy in the film Gone With the Wind was a very personal experience. This was because the Civil War had a direct impact on her family.
Her parents were freed slaves from Virginia. Her father was a soldier in the United States Colored Infantry, fighting on the Union’s side. He was also hurt in combat.
From Blue to Green
A great deal of work went into filming Gone With the Wind. They used the best technology that was available at the time to ensure that the movie would turn out great. This also included following every detail of the novel this movie was based on.
In the book, Scarlett O’Hara has green eyes, but Leigh had blue eyes. The solution to this dilemma was dealt with in post-production. Her eyes were doctored in every single frame, changing them from blue to green.
Prim and Proper
Vivien Leigh was English and an elite actress. She was a talented star, but there was one thing she was just unable to do – make coughing and choking sounds. This was needed for the scene in which her character chokes on rotten vegetables she finds in the pillaged fields.
This was a very important scene. However, Olivia de Havilland came to the rescue by lending her voice and dubbing the choking sounds.
Fighting the Censors
Surely, you have heard of the film’s most famous line ever. This line was spoken by Rhett Butler to Scarlett, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a da**.” Getting the censors to approve a line like this, back in the day, was not an easy task.
In fact, David O. Selznick, who was the producer of the film, fought for months in order to get this one line approved by the censors.
Working for Peanuts…and Bananas
Writing the script for Gone With the Wind wasn’t an easy task. It was so arduous that a play was written on the entire experience and was titled Moonlight and Magnolias. The screenplay changed many hands, including F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, the author of The Great Gatsby.
Even Ben Hecht was called in to rewrite this script in about a week. The writers were not allowed to leave to have their lunch for fear that they would lose time. They were fed salted peanuts and bananas.
Light ‘Em Up
There are some epic scenes in the movie. One of them happens when Scarlett and a few others are running from Atlanta, as the city is burning. It may make you wonder how they managed to even film such a complex scene back in 1939.
This scene cost $25,000 and it was filmed at a massive risk. It was one of the first films to feature a scene involving a fire of this size. The smallest mistake would have put the entire production in jeopardy.
All in the Name of Fame
Vivien Leigh won her very first Oscar for her acting as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. It was believed that she and the character she played shared the same genealogical background. This may not have been entirely true.
The studio magazines published a story about the similarities between Scarlett and Leigh for the sake of publicity. The character Scarlett had an Irish and French background. On the other hand, Leigh had an Irish and Scottish background.
A Century Old
Olivia de Havilland, the starlet who played Melanie in the film, outlived all of her fellow actors, except one. It is a wonder! Her parents were British and she was born during the First World War in Tokyo.
She seems to have great genes and this may make you wonder what her lifestyle must have been like. Not everyone can live to the ripe age of 104.
Filming Gone With the Wind was done on a grand scale, due to the complexity of many of the scenes. David O. Selznick, the producer, realized that he needed a vast number of people to play wounded Confederate soldiers.
Selznick wanted at least 2,500 soldiers to be present at the scene. There was only one problem: Screen Actors Guild did not have that kind of manpower. The solution was to have 1,000 extra dummies that were scattered among the real actors!
The Tale of Multiple Directors
For four months before the film aired, there was another color film that took the film industry by storm. So, if you are wondering what other similarities it shares with The Wizard of Oz? Well, both movies were directed by Victor Fleming.
He was the second person to direct the film but had to opt-out since he was directing two of the biggest movies at the time. With no director, Gone With the Wind was in trouble. Eventually, Sam Wood rescued the film by being the third director.
Not a Bookish Person
You would think that a man who was a former stage actor in Shakespearean plays would read books to research his character, but Leslie Howard thought differently. He didn’t read Margaret Mitchell’s book.
He was not a fan of reading and had a different approach for playing his role as Ashley Wilkes. He let his co-stars do all the research. The book was intimidating. It was 1,037 pages long!
Following the Rule Book
Vivien Leigh did her homework and it showed through her legendary performance. She would carry her own copy of the book and read it diligently just so that the interpretation of her character would be accurate.
Leigh read the book in between the shots to deliver a more nuanced performance. It was her own method of showing Fleming that literature had all the answers, even where filming was concerned. What dedication!
Gable, the Prankster
Clark Gable was quite the prankster and played practical jokes on set with the co-stars. He already knew Hattie McDaniel from working with her in other films. So, just before their scene together, Gable decided to play a practical joke.
When Rhett gives Mammy some whiskey, it really is a cup of tea. But in the first shot, Gable gave the poor woman real whiskey! McDaniel had no idea so she simply gulped it down and then started spluttering. So, in the next take, she sniffs the drink before actually taking it.
Not a Dancer
Leigh was a more than a capable actor. If you think about it, she was an Englishwoman who played a Southern siren. However, there was one thing that she could just not do – she could not dance even if her life depended on it.
There weren’t many dance scenes in Gone With the Wind, but the scene of the Confederate ball was also an ordeal for Leigh. So, Sally De Marco had to be her dancing double.
Being loyal to your studio was a huge issue back in the 1930s. It was almost impossible to get a release for production for a competing studio. Olivia de Havilland understood this but still wanted to be Melanie in Gone With the Wind, which was not produced by Warner Brothers. So, she did something smart.
Jack Warner was the head of the studio. She invited his wife to LA’s famous Drown Derby for tea. Havilland explained her predicament and succeeded in getting what she wanted. Mrs. Warner talked to her husband and made it possible.
Lucy Eventually Won
For those who don’t know, Lucille Ball had auditioned for the role of Scarlett. She was a rising star and a gorgeous woman. She even went through a six-month training process to develop that distinct Southern accent.
Sadly, while she was on the way to give an audition, Lucille got stuck in the rain and entered Selznick’s office soaked. He dismissed her immediately. However, years later, she bought the production company and set shop in the very same office.
The Perfect Music
Max Steiner was an immigrant from Austria who came to America with just $32 in his pocket. His godfather was the famous German composer Richard Strauss. The producer of Gone With the Wind wanted to hire Steiner as a composer. And why wouldn’t he?
The man was already well-known for the music he wrote for King Kong. He was very diligent and worked hours on end to meet deadlines without compromising the quality of the melody.
Away From the Spotlight
Margaret Mitchell, the book‘s author, was known to hide away from the public’s eye. After she won the Pulitzer Prize for the book, she hid in the concert room from the curious journalists. She even declared that she wished to play no part in the book’s adaption into a movie.
However, the press did not leave her alone and asked her for her opinion about the film. But, Mitchell was always ready with witty remarks. They did not always get her sarcasm.
Men of Steel
What if we told you that Superman appeared in Gone With the Wind? If you did not notice it, let us show you. One of the Tarleton twins was George Reeves, the original Superman.
The actor dyed his locks red for this part. His fellow-twin, Fred Crane, did the same. Warner Brothers had changed George’s name to a surname that the actor ended up using throughout his acting career.
The Fire Scare
As per the lore, MGM Studios lit the old sets on fire to film the burning of Atlanta. Leigh had not yet been cast, but she was with Laurence Olivier on the set. However, people were more terrified than impressed.
Seeing the 500-foot flames, the residents thought that the MGM was actually burning down. While the filming lasted two hours, the Los Angeles Fire Department received several calls from worried residents.
The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind were the biggest blockbusters in 1939. They share more than a director. The two movies competed for star power. In both instances, the former fared better than the latter.
The actor who was to essay the role of Aunt Pittypat gave up the role and chose to be Glinda, the Good Witch. Also, Judy Garland was to play Careen, Scarlett’s sister. But, it made sense to just play Dorothy instead.
Reel and Real Heroes
During the premiere, Leslie Howard returned to his hometown in Britain, following World War II. So, he was not present at the Atlanta premiere. After a few years, he acted in patriotic films to raise the morale of his countrymen.
Clark Gable also eventually crossed the Atlantic during the war. He then became an Air Force officer. In the following years, he narrated and produced a film that documented pilots during the war.
Pulling All the Stops
When the movie was being shot, Olivia de Havilland had not yet had children of her own. So, she did quite a bit of research before shooting the birthing part on camera. She would dress up as a nurse and visit the Los Angeles County Hospital, watching babies being delivered.
In addition, in order to simulate labor pains, the director would crouch near her bed and pinch or twist her feet. This made her cry in real pain making the birthing scene seem more genuine.
The Animal Actors
It’s said that apart from the actors, the animals that participated in the movie were also subjected to scrutiny — even horses weren’t exempt from critique. In fact, one such horse had to have an inspection too.
The horse Scarlett escapes Atlanta on was meant to appear malnourished owing to the wartime conditions. However, the one in the movie was healthy. The production department added dark shadows to its body so that it looked like its ribs were visible.
The role of Scarlett in the film was a highly coveted one and Rhett Butler’s character also took a while to cast. Initially, producer Selznick wanted Gary Cooper to play Butler, since, just like the character, he too was a gentleman and a cowboy.
Cooper refused the role thinking that this film would be a flop. Thankfully, Clark Gable stepped in and went on to give his best performance.
A Premiere for the Veterans
It’s amazing to imagine that it has been nearly 80 years since the release of the war epic. However, here’s something that is sure to surprise you — veterans from the Civil War were invited for the premiere at Atlanta as guests of honor.
It may be difficult to imagine how this was even possible. Well, some of these amazing former soldiers were still in their ‘90s and alive. They showed up for the event, supported by their assistants.
The only other living cast member from the film is Mickey Kuhn. During the filming of Gone With the Wind, he played Melanie and Ashley’s son. He was only seven at the time.
Not many people know that he has worked with Leigh in another film. He’s the sailor who gives Blanche DuBois (Leigh’s character) directions in A Streetcar Named Desire. That sailor was played by Mickey Kuhn as well.
Hattie McDaniel beat Eleanor Roosevelt’s maid to the role of Mammy. Back then, Los Angeles was not free from segregation. McDaniel may have been the first African American to ever be invited to the Academy Awards, but she was asked to sit in the back.
That was not all, upon winning an award for Best Supporting Actress in the film, she became the first African American to not only be an Oscar nominee, but also the first black individual to ever win an Academy Award.