Behind the Scenes of Gone With the Wind Part 2

About the movie Gone With the Wind, the story behind the scenes of how the movie was made by David O. Selznik.



The Story behind the Story: The winner of nine Academy Awards, Gone with the Wind, if not the greatest American motion picture of all time, is certainly the most popular--and the most representative of Hollywood production in action. Based on the runaway best-seller by reclusive Atlanta novelist Margaret Mitchell, the film was a publicist's dream. Although the book was bought almost offhandedly by producer David O. Selznick (costume dramas weren't doing well at the box office at the time), plans to film it caught the public's imagination at once. Letters containing suggestions for the casting poured into the Selznick Studio. Far and away the public's first choice for the role of Rhett Butler was the debonair Clark Gable, but finding an actress to play the fiery and spoiled Scarlett was a tougher problem. Everyone, it seemed, had different ideas on who would get what was undoubtedly the year's plum role. The suggestions ranged from Tallulah Bankhead to Loretta Young. Selznick, who knew a good thing when he saw it, immediately announced that he was looking for a "new discovery" for the lead and quickly promoted a worldwide talent hunt. While the public waited with bated breath, over 2,000 hopefuls were interviewed.

The selection was finally narrowed down to Bette Davis and Paulette Goddard, but Davis was part of a package deal from Warner Brothers which also included Errol Flynn as Rhett. Balking at playing opposite Flynn, the volatile Davis loudly announced her displeasure to the press, but Warner Brothers refused to break up the package and the Warners-Selznick negotiations broke off.

Goddard's problems were equally insurmountable. She was living openly with Charlie Chaplin at the time, and letters poured in from women's clubs all over the country protesting her "living in sin" with the "un-American" Chaplin. Not a man for unpopular causes. Selznick dropped Goddard like a hot potato.

Meanwhile he had his hands full with his male leads. With every actress in Hollywood clamoring for the role of Scarlett, Gable decided that he didn't want to play Rhett--terrified that the role was a little too complex for him. A pep talk and a raise in salary (which he needed to finance his divorce, then in progress) convinced Gable to stay with the production; but Leslie Howard was balking at the same time, believing himself too old for the youthful Ashley. Howard also settled for more money, but unlike Gable, he remained unhappy throughout the filming.

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