Fiddle-de-dee, you’d think there wasn’t another scrap of trivia left to uncover about “Gone with the Wind.”
Even if you’ve never read Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel or peeked at a single frame of film, you’ll likely know that Rhett didn’t give a damn about Scarlett in the end and Scarlett will think about her next move tomorrow, because tomorrow is another day.
But with the seven decades since its 1939 release in mind, here are seven entertaining facts you might not know about “Gone with the Wind.”
Superman and Silver among stars
Two actors from “Gone with the Wind” went on to become big stars during the Golden Age of Television. George Reeves played Stuart Tarleton (he was incorrectly credited as Brent in the cast list), one of the twin red-headed brothers courting Scarlett early in the film. Reeves went on to play the Man of Steel from 1951 to 1958 in the popular series “The Adventures of Superman.” The other actor was a horse, the dazzling white steed ridden by Scarlett’s reckless father Gerald O’Hara. The horse became famous as Silver, who carried “The Lone Ranger” to icon status. No one can forget that opening line — “A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty ‘Hi-yo, Silver!,’ The Lone Ranger!”
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Isn’t that Jiminy Cricket?
Cliff Edwards played the “reminiscent soldier” in a memorable hospital scene with Scarlett, but we only hear his voice. That’s appropriate, given the fact that his greatest success came not as an actor, but as the voice of such memorable characters as Jiminy Cricket in Walt Disney’s “Pinocchio.” His soulful “When You Wish Upon A Star” remains a classic. He also gave voice to the main crow — dubbed Jim Crow — in Disney’s “Dumbo,” and sang the jolly tune “When I See An Elephant Fly.”
Ashley's inspiration: Doc Holliday
Slideshow: Black women in film Ashley Wilkes, the object of Scarlett’s obsession, is said to be based on famous frontier outlaw John Henry “Doc” Holliday. Holliday was author Margaret Mitchell’s distant cousin. The gunslinger made famous by his participation in the gunfight at the OK Corral reportedly fell in love with his cousin Mattie when both were young and before the dentist left Georgia. The good-hearted Mattie, a close friend of Mitchell’s, became a Catholic nun known as Sister Melanie. The quiet but deadly Doc became a Western legend.
The men weren’t thrilled
Most of the men in the film, including Clark Gable, didn’t want to be in the chick flick. They knew the men would simply be the satellites revolving around the female star of the show. And Gable had already experienced a disastrous outing in the costume drama “Parnell” in 1937. But the public would accept no one but Gable in the role of Rhett, and he was finally persuaded to take the role when given a financial bonus that allowed him to divorce his wife Ria and marry Carole Lombard — and he even got a weekend off from shooting for the modest nuptials.
Leslie Howard, who at 46 was considered too old for the role of Ashley by himself and others, took it on only after Selznick aided his producing ambitions. Still, Howard complained the “GWTW” costumes would make him look “like the gay doorman at the Beverly Wilshire.”
And Rand Brooks, who played Scarlett’s first husband Charles Hamilton, told journalists in the 50th anniversary interviewers that his part “was such an asinine role” and he hated it so much that he voted for “Of Mice and Men” for best picture that year.
Black actors were banned from premiere
The gala opening of the long-awaited film appropriately was set in Atlanta, the main setting of the book. This posed a major problem. Due to Jim Crow laws in the South during the 1930s, black cast members could not attend. Hattie McDaniel, who later won an Oscar for her role as Mammy in the film, decided to save producer Selznick the embarrassment and said she could not attend the event. When Clark Gable learned that the black actors were banned, he threatened to boycott the Atlanta premiere. It was McDaniel who encouraged him to attend to support the film, which he did.
KKK and N-word mentions were cut from film
Margaret Mitchell’s novel includes references to the Ku Klux Klan, and all were removed by producer Selznick. He also nixed the derogatory term for blacks, liberally used in the novel, from his film. In a documentary included in the 70th anniversary DVD set, it is revealed that Selznick felt empathy towards blacks because of what was happening to Jews in Europe during this time, thus opting to keep those elements out of his film. Still a man of his times, he may have been uncomfortable when the film’s black actors were denied admittance to the Atlanta premiere, but he agreed to the ban rather than risk shutting down the event.
The myth of the search for Scarlett
Bringing “Gone with the Wind” to the screen almost proved impossible. Three directors were brought on board. Untold numbers of writers came in to work on the scripts, which were written, scrapped and re-written until there was not even a final shooting script — most was just in producer Selznick’s head.
Through the long pre-production years, Selznick kept interest in the movie alive through a brilliant marketing campaign in search of the woman who would play Scarlett. From unknowns to Hollywood elites, everyone wanted to play the fiery belle, and auditions were held throughout the country.
Legend has it that Vivien Leigh arrived on set with her agent to watch the elaborate burning of Atlanta scene, and thus Selznick finally discovered his true Scarlett as Leigh basked in the glow of that intense fire. Never mind that the agent was Selznick’s brother Myron and that memos dating back to 1937 mentioned Leigh as Scarlett. Or the absurdity that a major motion picture would start filming without securing the actress who would carry the movie.
Hollywood likes to tell a good story, and from behind the scenes to in front of the camera, “Gone with the Wind” is the source of some of Hollywood’s best tales.
Susan C. Young is a writer in Northern California
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