Gone With The Wind may be one of the best movies of all-time. The movie features a memorable score, great costumes, and some iconic scenes. However, there may also have been some of the most brutal and absurd drama going on behind the scenes that it’s almost a surprise the film made it to premiere in 1939.
Some people might adore this four-hour Oscar-winning film, but after learning these facts, you may never see the movie the same way again.
Based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell, the Civil War classic had to deal with a number of race issues. Plus, the movie went through three different directors.
Margaret Mitchell Wrote The Book Out Of Boredom
The then-25-year old author wrote the book because she simply had nothing better to do. Mitchell’s boredom would open up the door to an exciting 63 chapter book. Before coming up with Gone With The Wind, the author worked for the Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine.
But, she took a leave of absence to recover from a “series of injuries.” Little did anyone know, she was writing her first and only novel.
No One Knew She Was Writing A Book
Despite Mitchell spending the next decade working on characters and a plot, no one really knew what she was doing. It’s not a surprise that she didn’t tell anyone about her book, and Mitchell went to great lengths to hide it from her friends and family.
One time, she hurriedly threw a rug over pages which were scattered on her living room floor when company unexpectedly showed up to her place.
Mitchell Had No Intention Of Publishing The Book
When a friend of Mitchell’s heard that she was considering writing a book, she seemed annoyed. Mitchell would take her enormous manuscript to a Macmillan editor the very next day. However, she would regret the act and sent the editor a telegram saying, “Have changed my mind. Send manuscript back.”
Of course, the editor wasn’t going to let that happen, simply because Mitchell’s book was going to be something special.
Read ahead to see what happened to Mitchell 10 years later.
The Book Set The Record For Its Movie Rights
Movie producer David O. Selznick purchased the movie rights for $50,000 in 1936. At the time, this was the most ever paid for rights to a book. Mitchell declined to be involved with the production, but she was said to have loved it. Mitchell would enjoy ensuing fame for a little longer after the historic purchase.
Ultimately, she would enjoy her success until tragedy struck in the summer of 1949.
Read on to learn Margaret Mitchell’s fate
The Author’s Own Choice For Rhett Was Groucho Marx
Mitchell described the character to be more dark and nefarious than the one portrayed by actor Clark Gable. The author had been “deviled by the press and the public” since she’d sold the film rights.
Nevertheless, the one person who Mitchell thought was right for the role was Groucho Marx, one of America’s greatest comedians. Just imagining a comedian playing a serious role in a movie like this would have created a totally different movie.
When Shooting The Movie, David O. Selznick Was On Drugs
Perhaps it might have been age that caught up with the producer. Selznick was taking Benzedrine, then mixed the drug with barbiturates and methedrine and onetime. Director George Cukor noted he would see the producer “crushing up Benzedrine and licking the pieces from the palm of his hand, a grain at a time.”
He would make the cast wake up at 2 AM to shoot, and demand random changes to the costumes.
One of the most blazing scenes from the movie may or may not have been real. Read ahead to see what happened.
The First Director Was Fired
George Cukor was one of three directors who worked on the movie. Cukor and producer David O. Selznick clashed over the direction of the film. He involved himself in every part of the production and asked Cukor to check in with him daily. Eventually, the director was fired for working too slowly.
Some people believe that the director was let go because he was a homosexual and actor Clark Gable had an issue with that.
The Atlanta Fire Set Was So Big People Thought It Was A Real Inferno
Back in 1939, CGI was still decades away from being in movies. The studio wanted to burn the set in order to create the fire that consumes the city of Atlanta. The set was built on a large studio lot, and they had several other set pieces from earlier films given false fronts to fill the background.
According to some stories, neighbors of the studio in Culver City were scared by the blaze.
Surprisingly, the movie had multiple directors film different scenes.
Vivian Leigh Was Bipolar And Struggled Through A Difficult Scene
The actress had an alternation between depression and mania that gave her a reputation for behavior problems. During filming, she would suffer from mood swings while physically attacking others. Leigh famously didn’t get along with director Victor Fleming, either.
The lighting had to be constantly adjusted so her blue eyes would appear green on film. Also, she had to wear painful corsets that cut off her ability to breathe, only to show more cleavage.
The Daughters Of The Confederacy Campaigned Against Vivien Leigh
The Ocala, Florida chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy were offended. Essentially, it was because a British actress had been chosen to play an iconic southern character.
Nevertheless, when the daughters were told the role would to go Katharine Hepburn, they immediately stopped their protest altogether. It’s safe to say that it’s better with an Englishman than it was with a Yankee. At least nothing worse came out of it.
The Movie Had A Total Of Three Directors
After Cukor left, he was replaced with Victor Fleming. Fleming was coming off directing the iconic Wizard of Oz movie. But, during the production of Gone With The Wind, Fleming reportedly had a nervous breakdown. He left for a few weeks to cope with his breakdown.
Eventually, Sam Wood would take over the reins as the director. The finished product was the result of Cukor’s 19 days, Fleming’s 93, and Wood’s 24.
It’s truly hard to believe how many actresses auditioned for the role of Scarlett O’Hara.
Leslie Howard Despised Playing The Role Of Ashley
Howard was a slim man in his early 40’s. He had a lengthy career of playing weak men. He only agreed to play Ashley Wilkes after Selznick offered him a producer credit in an upcoming film.
Years later, he described his feelings in a letter to his daughter. “I hate the damn part. I’m not nearly beautiful or young enough for Ashley. It makes me sick being fixed up to look attractive.”
Vivien Leigh And Olivia De Havilland Were Secretly Coached By George Cukor After He Was Fired
Both actresses were upset over Cukor’s firing. But, it was De Havilland who remembered what went down after he left the set.
“We had set our characters through working with David Cukor and wanted to be able to maintain those characters and develop them. It was a terrible loss for both of us. Vivien did not get along as well with Victor as I did, but nonetheless, she was a pro so everything proceeded.”
10 Years After The Film’s Release, The Author Died
August 11, 1949, was a tragic day for Mitchell and her husband. They were on their way to see a movie. Unfortunately, as the pair prepared to cross the street, a car appeared and suddenly hit the author.
Her husband took a step back, but Mitchell never regained consciousness and died five days later. The most unfortunate thing is that Gone With The Wind was the only book she would ever publish.
More Than 1,400 Actresses Were Considered For The Role Of Scarlett O’Hara
Selznick was at it again. This time, the producer was determined to make the best possible movie out of Gone With The Wind. Selznick called for a nationwide casting call, and actresses such as Lana Turner and Jean Arthur auditioned for the role.
Selznick finally met his Scarlett when Vivien Leigh visited the set. The actress was interested in the role and was hired after captivating Selznick and then-director George Cukor.
One of the producers pleaded for months to get one particular word into the movie.
Leigh Brought A Copy Of The Book Every Day To Make The Director Angry
Leigh was displeased when the first director, George Cukor, was replaced. Once Fleming took over as the head man, he would ignore much of the previous director’s creative output. In silent protest, she carried Mitchell’s book to the set each day. Little did she know, she found the source far superior to his interpretation.
Eventually, Leigh would recall on the situation that the producer shouted at her to throw the demand thing away.
There Wasn’t Enough Extras To Shoot The Confederate Wounded Scene
Selznick insisted upon one thing during this scene. He wanted no less than 2,500 extras to lie in the dirt and nothing else. This was the scene where the extras portrayed the dead and wounded Confederate soldiers toward the end of the war.
However, back in the day, the Screen Actors Guild only had 1,500 extras to offer for the iconic scene. Eventually, the producer needed to save money and ordered 1,000 dummies to round it out.
Selznick Pleaded For Months To Get One Particular Word Past The Hays Code
The producer pleaded for months to get the word “damn” past the Hays Code. During the movie, Rhett’s iconic line “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn,” was integral to the film. The lined summarized the character’s defeat, and the years of suffering he’d endured both from Scarlett and himself.
The censor would agree to allow the line after much convincing. Selznick insisted that the film would be mocked if the line was changed.
Read ahead to see who wasn’t allowed at the premiere of Gone With The Wind.
The NAACP Wanted To Assign An Advisor To The Film, But That Never Happened
The members of the committee wanted to send a representative on set. The rep would make sure black actors were treated fairly. Selznick replied that he would be happy to supply his advisor. The NAACP was concerned Selznick’s man was an “insider.”
The producer never hired an advisor for the movie, but the NAACP claimed a small win thanks to the white supremacy group being taken out of the film.
Atlanta Went Crazy For The Film’s Premiere
Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel was a best-seller. Over a million people came to Atlanta to be in the atmosphere of the premiere. Even the Governor of Georgia declared the day of the premiere as a state holiday.
People took to the streets, celebrating what the faded glory of their homeland was. Attendees of the premiere included the Rockefellers, J.P. Morgan, and all the Governors of what used to be the Confederacy.
The Black Actors Weren’t Allowed To Attend The Premiere
When the movie premiered in Atlanta in 1939, Jim Crow’s laws were still in effect in the state of Georgia. According to the rules displayed by Lowe’s Grand Theater, this is what went down.
Black actors who were in the film would be allowed to appear on stage, but couldn’t attend the premiere party. In the end, David O. Selznick decided to just not allow his black actors to attend the event at all.
Despite racial tensions back in the day, one of the actors from the movie broke a barrier at the Academy Awards.
Vivien Leigh Hated Kissing Clark Gable Due To His Bad Breath
The actor had some gum issues when he was younger. Dentists had to remove his teeth, and he wore a false set throughout the majority of his career. However, his dentures gave Gable persistent halitosis.
Many of his female co-stars got to experience this, including Leigh, who did not enjoy getting up close and personal to Gable. The thought of his dentures smelling bad sounds bad enough to make anyone a little put off.
Clark Gable Didn’t Want To Be In The Movie
The actor was cast after an agreement with Selznick and MGM. Gable was in the middle of a divorce and needed money, which is why he accepted the role of Rhett. Gable even caused trouble for one scene, refusing to cry for it.
Olivia de Havilland managed to talk him into it. “He thought it was unmanly, you see. That was the training of men in those days. It was such a pity.”
Hattie McDaniel Became The First African-American To Win An Oscar
The actresses portrayal of Mammy earned her the Oscar. Although McDaniel broke the color barrier, she wasn’t allowed to sit in the audience due to segregation. The venue forbade black people entirely.
However, Selznick was able to pull some strings. The producer would be the one who orchestrated the actress into the ceremony once and for all. While she was at the ceremony, McDaniel had to sit in the very back of the room.
Read ahead to see what happened to the writers when it came to writing out a script for the movie.
The Actors’ Bathrooms Were Initially Segregated
There were plenty of problems behind the scenes. Segregated bathrooms were set up for black actors, and they were afraid to lose their jobs to speak up. One extra, Lennie Bluett, wanted things to change and brought the matter to Clark Gable’s attention.
Gable called Victor Fleming and threatened to quit if the signs separating the bathrooms weren’t taken down. Once the actor spoke up, the segregation on the set came to an end.
There Are Behind The Scenes Footage Of Filming The Movie
Howard Hall was a business magnate and film enthusiast out of Iowa. At some point during the filming, specifically the barbeque scene, Hall was allowed access onto the set. From there on, the Iowa native filmed the famous cast and crowds of extras lolling around Busch Gardens, where the scene was shot.
The film lay inside Hall’s Brucemore Mansion until the 2000s. It was discovered other home movies were turned over to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Writers Were Locked In A Room And Denied Food
It was Sidney Howard who was given the task to turn Mitchell’s epic novel into a screenplay. His version would have made the film too long, and he was ultimately fired for it. Selznick was determined to fix the script immediately, then gave the team five days to come up with something.
The producer would lock the three of them in a room with only peanuts and bananas to eat.
Being trapped in the room inspired the writers to come up with a play based on their experience.
Advanced Math Accounts For One Of The Most Beautiful Shots In The Film
There’s a glorious shot of Scarlett and her father standing before the fading sun. Nobody could figure out how it even worked, considering the movie was made in the late thirties. Interestingly enough, the sunset effect was done by simple art. The effect was done with two different matte paintings.
That sent the crew to consult the Math Department at UCLA, who came up with a way to fit everything together.
It Took 16 Different Writers To Make The Screenplay A Viable Length
Remember Sidney Howard? Well, he was the first screenwriter to try and translate Mitchell’s novel. Howard wanted to come up with a script that wouldn’t sacrifice the original spirit of the book.
But, his version was too long, which started a two-year process. A ton of writers took their turn hacking away at the potential script. Of course, with Selznick locking up the writers, that led to a groundbreaking new script.
Writing The Final Script For The Movie Was A Tough, Hilarious Event That Was Developed Into A Play
After being locked in a room for hours, the writers came up with another story. The stage comedy of Moonlight and Magnolias tells the true story of Selznick, director Fleming, and Ben Hecht.
Selznick reportedly refused his captives any food except bananas and peanuts, believing other food would slow the creative process. By the end of the imprisonment, the producer had collapsed from exhaustion, and Fleming had burst out a blood vessel in his eye.
Judy Garland Was Almost A Character
Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With The Wind had two younger sisters. One was Suellen O’Hara and the other Carreen O’Hara. Evelyn Keyes and Ann Rutherford played them respectively, but there could have been a different cast member for the sister.
That’s right, Judy Garland was the first choice to play one of Scarlett’s kid sisters. Unfortunately, the young budding star was already committed to doing her most famous role to date, The Wizard of Oz.
There Was Too Much Smoking On Set
Smoking was considered no big deal back in the ’30s and the actors of Gone with the Wind partook in many smoke breaks. Clark Gable reportedly smoked three packs a day throughout his career, but that’s one less than Vivien Leigh’s daily four-pack routine!
It’s a wonder that she hated kissing him for his bad breath, which was probably due in part to smoking. He might have felt the same way about her breath as well since she smoked just as much!
Didn’t Even Read It
We mentioned earlier how Movie producer David O. Selznick purchased the movie rights for $50,000 in 1936. However, did we say how confident he was about the book? Selznick bought the film rights without having read it.
After Kay Brown sent the book to Selznick, he had declined to make the movie because he had recently bombed with a film about the Civil War. Then the chair of his company said they would put up some money for it and he had no other choice but to do it.
Vivien Leigh’s Speech Almost Cost Her The Role
Vivien Leigh was an established stage actress in Europe before she signed on to play Scarlett O’Hara. You already know that many actresses were screened for the role and Leigh was lucky she was cast.
In fact, she almost lost the part and it is all because of her English accent. According to many reports, she nearly bombed her reading after she started reading with a clipped, regal accent as opposed to someone from the deep South.
The Outrageous Wage Disparity On Set
It’s too bad they didn’t have the #TimesUp movement back in the ’30s because you’ll be outraged when you know how much Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh were paid to star in Gone with the Wind.
Leigh was reportedly paid just $25,000 for 125 days of work, which is chunk change compared to Gable’s $125,000 paycheck – and he only worked for 71 days! That’s a whole $100,000 extra dollars for a guy who initially didn’t even want to be in the film.
The Filming Was Ahead Of Production
Something like this doesn’t happen all the time when filming a movie. When you’re trying to turn a novel into a normal movie, the process can be tricky without disappointing fans. There were many drafts to this film.
There were so many that according to TIME, “when the filming was practically complete the last day’s call sheet read: Script to come.” The filming ended before the script had been completed. The actors had to wait for the script to finish as they recorded along the way.
McDaniel Made More History After Her Death
Despite the actresses’ success, many people criticized her for “perpetuating negative stereotypes” in her roles. By the end of her career, McDaniel acted in nearly 100 movies while playing the role of a maid 74 times.
In 1952, the Oscar winner passed away from breast cancer. Although she wished to be buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, she was denied due to a segregation policy. But, in 2006, she became the first black Oscar winner honored with a US postage stamp.
Gable Was A Busy Man While Filming
While filming Gone with the Wind, Clark Gable was involved with his lover, fellow actress Carole Lombard. However, both were still married to other people. His incredible salary from Gone with the Wind allowed him to reach a divorce settlement with his second wife, Rhea Langham.
On a production break from the film, Gable and Lombard eloped in Kingman, Arizona. Their wedding reception was reportedly held in the back of Gable’s agent’s car and included sandwiches and coffee.
Vivien Leigh Was Also Having An Affair
Vivien Leigh was also in the throes of an affair during the filming of Gone with the Wind. In 1937, she met actor Laurence Olivier. Despite the fact that they were both involved married to other people, they began an affair and started living together.
A year after Gone with the Wind premiered, their respective spouses agreed to divorces. On August 31, 1940, Leigh and Olivier married in Santa Barbara, California. Katharine Hepburn and Garson Kanin served as their witnesses.
Reeves Became Superman
If you remember, George Reeves had a small role as Stuart Tarleton. He played one of the twins in love with Scarlett. That may not seem like much, but rest assured he went on to accomplish big things.
That role was nothing compared to him becoming Clark Kent. He played the iconic superhero from 1951 to 1958. For eight years, he starred in the series The Adventures of Superman. You have to start somewhere in this business.