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.