An evening with “Gone with the Wind” on Turner Classic Movies

Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh in "Gone with the Wind"Fans of “Gone with the Wind”(1939) will need to block out about six hours of  time Tuesday night September 14th, as Turner Classic Movies will air the  four-hour film at 5 pm, followed by a two hour documentary, “The Making of a  Legend: Gone with the Wind”(1988) at 9 pm. As one of Hollywood’s most beloved  motion pictures, “Gone with the Wind” was also one of the most celebrated even  before its release. Based on the 1936 blockbuster best selling book by Margaret  Mitchell, the film rights to “Gone with the Wind” were purchased for a then  record $50,000 by producer David O. Selznick only a month after the novel’s  publication. Once the film was announced, speculation over who would be cast as  the book’s two main characters, Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, became an  obsession, not only among the general public, but within the motion picture  industry itself. Although Clark Gable faced minimal competition before being  selected as Rhett, Vivian Leigh was a definite long shot winner in gaining the  part of Scarlett, as practically every major female star in Hollywood was under  consideration.

Co-staring Olivia de Havilland, Leslie Howard, Thomas Mitchell and Hattie  McDaniel, “Gone with the Wind” starts out on a Southern plantation on the eve of  the Civil War. Scarlett O’Hara, a daughter of a plantation owner, is less  concerned over the war than she is over the prospect of the man of her dreams,  Ashley Wilkes (Howard), marrying her sister Melanie (de Havilland) rather than  her. While pining for Ashley, another man enters Scarlet’s life in the person of  Rhett Butler, a roguish, dangerous man who finds himself attracted to Scarlet.  Although Scarlet is a manipulative woman who usually gets her way, the Civil War  becomes more than a match for her in thwarting most of her plans. However, in  the process, Scarlet , by necessity, grows as a person, and becomes both  courageous and resourceful.

“Gone with the Wind” was enormously successful in its initial release,  receiving ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Leigh) and  Best Director (Victor Fleming, who took over as director three weeks into  shooting, replacing George Cukor). Time has only allowed the film to grow in  stature, and in 1998 the American Film Institute listed “Gone with the Wind” at  #4 in its “100 Years…100 Films.”. Rhett Butler’s memorable line, “Frankly my  dear, I don’t give a damn” is ranked #1 in AFI’s “100 Years…100 Movie Quotes.”  “Gone with the Wind” has sold more movie tickets in the United States than any  other film in history.

“The Making of a Legend: Gone with the Wind” recounts the remarkable saga  that saw a best selling book become a film classic. Besides focusing on the many  challenges producer David O. Selznick faced in bringing “Gone with the Wind” to  the screen, the documentary also provides viewers with several “what if” scenarios in regards to some of actors and actresses who were possible  candidates for the lead roles. Clark Gable was the popular choice for the role  of Rhett Butler from the very beginning, with Errol Flynn and Gary Cooper only  briefly in the running. The selection for the role of Scarlet O’Hara however,  was a two-year process that saw dozens of Hollywood’s most well known actresses  competing for the part. Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Carole Lombard, Lana Turner  and Loretta Young are just a few of the names that were linked to “Gone with the  Wind” at one time or another. Although a story was later invented that Vivian  Leigh just happened to be visiting the set with her husband Laurence Olivier  when producer Selznick spotted her by chance, Leigh was actually already under  consideration prior to her ever meeting Selznick, as he had seen her on the big  screen in “Fire Over England” and “A Yank at Oxford.” By the time Vivian Leigh  was announced as the surprise choice for the female lead, she had already been  in negotiations with Selznick for several  months.