10 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Gone with the Wind’


In 1926, journalist Margaret Mitchell — born 115 years ago, today — left her job at the Atlanta Journal and was home recovering from an ankle injury. She started to write an American Civil War-era novel on her Remington Portable No. 3 typewriter that would soon become one of the most beloved American movies ever made. Mitchell’s 1936 epic Gone with the Wind would win the author the National Book Award for Most Distinguished Novel and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Producer David O. Selznick adapted the story of the willful daughter of a George plantation owner and her romantic pursuits, set against the backdrop of the Reconstruction era, for the big screen. The film’s troubled production is the stuff of Hollywood legend. Here are ten things you might not know about Gone with the Wind.

The 1939 world premiere of Gone with the Wind, which took place at the Loew’s Grand Theater on Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia, was captured on film.

But the premiere was not without its controversy. Racial tensions in the city abounded, and black actors were banned from appearing at the gala, as well as all promotional material, due to segregation laws. This upset producer David O. Selznick who tried to include star Hattie McDaniel in the celebrations, but MGM advised against it. Clark Gable came to the defense of McDaniel and threatened to boycott the premiere, but the actress convinced him it would be better to attend.

Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American star to be nominated for, and win, an Academy Award.

English actor Leslie Howard detested his role as Ashley Wilkes. “I hate the damn part. I’m not nearly beautiful or young enough for Ashley, and it makes me look sick being fixed up to look attractive,” he said. On making the movie itself, Howard said: “Terrible lot of nonsense — heaven help me if I ever read the book.”

Gary Cooper turned down the role of Rhett Butler. Errol Flynn and Ronald Colman were also considered. Of the film Cooper said, “Gone with the Wind is going to be the biggest flop in Hollywood history. I’m glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his nose, not Gary Cooper.” Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell wanted Basil Rathbone to play the character.

Miriam Hopkins

Miriam Hopkins, Tallulah Bankhead, Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer were all considered for the part of Scarlett O’Hara. Katharine Hepburn lobbied for the role, but producers felt she wasn’t a good fit. Out of 1,400 women auditioned, only 31 made the cut for the screen test, including Lana Turner, Diana Barrymore, and Bankhead. Author Margaret Mitchell liked Hopkins for the part, but producers thought she was too old (she was 31). Only Paulette Goddard and Vivien Leigh were filmed in color. Selznick knew American audiences might not take to an English star playing a Southerner, so he compared Leigh’s French and Irish ancestry to Scarlett O’Hara’s French and Irish background when speaking about her to the press.

Vivien Leigh worked 125 days and was paid around $25,000 for her part. Clark Gable worked 71 days and received over $120,000 for his role.

Vivien Leigh’s performance in Gone with the Wind is the longest to ever win an Oscar (2 hours, 23 minutes, and 32 seconds). The film itself is the longest to ever win Best Picture (238 minutes).

Clark Gable and George Cukor in Scarlett’s bedroom at Tara

Gone with the Wind’s original director was George Cukor (A Star is Born), who was replaced by Victor Fleming (The Wizard of Oz). But Fleming took some time off and was briefly replaced by Sam Wood (A Day at the Races), until Fleming returned to the director’s chair. One of the stories about Cukor’s firing suggests he was let go because he was gay. From the LA Times:

In what is sure to be its most discussed revelation, Patrick McGilligan reports in his penetrating new biography, “George Cukor: A Double Life,” that Cukor was fired from “Gone with the Wind,” the most famous movie ever made, because its star, Clark Gable, exploded on the set, “I won’t be directed by a fairy! I have to work with a real man!” The story had long circulated within Cukor’s social circle that as a young man Gable had once had a drunken sexual encounter with silent screen actor-turned-decorator William Haines, one of Cukor’s pals. When another of Cukor’s intimates began indiscreetly joking that “George is directing one of Billy’s old tricks,” Gable, who already feared that Cukor might tilt the movie in favor of Vivien Leigh, flew into a rage.

Before Alfred Hitchcock made a splash in Hollywood with his first American movie, Selznick asked the filmmaker to deliver a treatment in order to improve the scene in which the women wait for men from the raid on Shantytown and Melanie reads David Copperfield. According to IMDb, “Hitchcock wanted to show Rhett, Ashley, etc. outside the house, dodging the Union soldiers. He also wanted an exchange of meaningful glances between Melanie and Rhett inside the house.” None of Hitchcock’s suggestions were used.