De Havilland, Olivia. “Making a Classic by Committee.” Newsweek. 19 July 1999. EBSCO MegaFILE, 1 Dec. 2008. < http://proxy.library.upenn.edu:2054/login.aspx?direct=true&db=keh&AN=2058091&site=ehost-live>
In this article, actress Olivia de Havilland (Melanie Wilkes) provides a first hand account of the rotation of directors that worked on the film production of Gone With the Wind. Production of the epic film began under the leadership of director George Cukor, who was held in high regard by the lead actresses Vivien Leigh (Scarlett O’Hara) and de Havilland. According to de Havilland, lead actor Clark Gable (Rhett Butler) prompted the sudden replacement of Cukor with Victor Fleming. Fleming, a “master of action and spectacular scenes,” worked with Gable on a number of projects before the production of Gone With the Wind. Gable sought out Fleming in an effort to help him develop the character of Rhett Butler. The American public had a clear idea of Rhett Butler from Margaret Mitchell’s novel, therefore Gable’s Hollywood career hinged on his success in his role. Realizing the importance of his leading role in Gone With the Wind, Gable demanded that Fleming replace Cukor at the helm of production. However, Cukor continued to hold meeting with de Havilland and Leigh in secret to coach the actresses.
One month after joining the crew of Gone With the Wind, Fleming suffered a nervous breakdown that prompted him to take a leave of absence from the set. Sam Wood, his replacement, filled in for Fleming until he was well enough to return. Upon regaining his health, Fleming was reinstated by Selznick to co-direct the remainder of the epic alongside Wood.
As one of the most ambitious and extensive cinematic projects of the 20th Century, it is only fitting that Gone With the Wind is the product of the talents of three of Hollywood’s leading directors. It is inevitable that each director provided the film with a unique understanding of Mitchell’s novel, and their own perception of how the “old south” should be depicted. The historical accuracy of the film, therefore, cannot be assessed based on the beliefs of Seznick, Cukor, Fleming, and Wood individually, as the project was a collaborative effort.
Today, almost every film receives a big premiere and a grand opening. There is a red carpet and photographers. It is an essential part of the requisite publicity package. The excitement generated by these events attracts people to the theaters and helps boost film revenues. However, at the time Gone with the Wind was produced, it was rare that a film received such fanfare.
Daily Variety provided coverage of the Gone with the Wind premiere and declared it to be one of the biggest premieres of the time. On the front page of the paper, the morning after the premiere, it was reported that the Atlanta "staged the greatest celebration in its history." The theater, the Loew's Grand, was transformed into the Wilkes plantation house. When people passed by the theater they were curious about what was happening and why the facade of the theater had changed. The response which they received generated publicity for the film. Searchlights, which were visible for several miles, let everyone know that it was premiere night. All of the major stars of the film (and others) - Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, Olivia de Havilland, Evelyn Keyes, Carol Lombard and Claudette Colbert attended. The theater held 2,019 people on opening night, each of whom paid $10 per seat, with the money going to charity. Producers were also in attendance. The next week, there was another premiere in New York. Even with all of this hoopla, there were disappointments. Everything was neither perfect nor did it run smoothly. The late nights took a toll on executives. All of the fanfare and glamour got in the way of business. Additionally, there were reports of disappointing initial grosses. This was blamed on pre-Christmas shopping and "psychological overselling" - because of all of the publicity, people assumed that there would be long lines and therefore did not even bother to come to the theater. Despite some "brief hiccups" the movie went on to gross $390 million worldwide.
This article is very informative, revealing the inner workings of the industry and psyche of the public at the time. Although society has evolved and experienced many changes, much has stayed the same.
It is amazing that a film could be so successful 70 years ago when there were far fewer venues for promotion and fewer theaters to generate a large gross profit. This article also reveals that the formula for a successful film is very similar to today - the celebrities, the publicity, the promotion, the premiere and the fanfare. It is a formula as old as the movies themselves.
As an influential and important producer, David O. Selznick was involved in enough films to be considered one of the greatest producers of all time. It was his involvement in Gone with the Wind that secured him his place in cinema history.
Initially, Selznick worked for his father's company, Lewis J. Selznick Productions, until it went bankrupt in 1923. Then, in 1926, Selznick moved to MGM and worked as a script reader and assistant story editor. He climbed the ranks to become supervisor of production until he was fired because of constant disagreements with Irving Thalberg, the then head of production. In 1927, Selznick was named production chief at Paramount. After the Depression and salary cuts, he moved to RKO and worked as studio boss. When Irving Thalberg became ill, there were many changes made within MGM in the production area. Louis B. Mayer convinced Selznick to return to MGM (coincidentally, Selznick was married to Mayer's Daughter.) With his new job, Selznick was intent on bringing more prestigious films to the screen.
In 1936, Selznick left MGM to become an independent producer, founding Selznick International Pictures. Gone with the wind was his most memorable film produced at this time. There were many problems that occurred during production of the film. Among the myriad of issues was the involvement of six different directors and the relinquishment of distribution rights to MGM in order to get Clark Gable to star in the movie. In the end, Gone with the Wind won ten Academy Awards and is considered to be one of the most important films ever produced.
After a huge tax debt forced Selznick to auction off his company, he formed a new company, David Selznick Productions. Selznick now became more of a talent scout than a producer. He discovered many successful actors and actresses, including Jennifer Jones. In 1949, Selznick married Jones and gave up his independent producer status. He became "something of a joke for his obsession with his wife," producing mediocre films, certainly nowhere near the quality standards of his previous work. Although he continued to work in Hollywood his preoccupation with his wife's career forced him into the background of the industry. Despite this end to his career, David O. Selznick is a name that is "firmly planted in motion picture history." He was the biggest of independent producers at a time when there was rarely such a thing. This site reveals a detailed history of Selznick, why he is considered to be one of the greatest producers of all time, and his tremendous impact on Gone with the Wind.
It is extremely important to understand the background of a producer in considering the product he creates. Selznick's life experiences and opportunities had tremendous influence on the films he made. David O. Selznick's contributions to Gone with the Wind cannot be minimized in understanding the overall impact of the film and its success. Without him, who knows how the film might have traversed it complicated path? Gone with the Wind would certainly not have become the film as we know it today.
For three days in 1939, celebrities descended on Atlanta, Georgia highlighting the events of the Civil War and its aftermath while overshadowing the events of World War II at the time. This article, written exclusively for About North Georgia by Larry Worthy, details the events of those three days. As with movie premieres today, all of the stars of the movie arrived in town to promote the film. Not only did they come to give interviews and attend the premiere, but they also performed acts of goodwill, such as greeting Civil War veterans, in order to create positive press for the film and its actors. The thought process was that the public would want to see the film if they liked the stars in it.
There were also special events dedicated to the film in order to generate "buzz" and publicity. The "Gone with the Wind ball" attracted a "remarkable" guest list. By the time the day of the premiere arrived, the town was infused with excitement, not only for the film, but also the celebrities. The premiere was a huge event at the Loew's Grand Theater. There were celebrities galore, spotlights sweeping the sky, traffic closures, and a crowd of about 300,000. People waited to get a glimpse of their favorite celebrity as they emerged form their chauffer driven limousines to give radio interviews. Four and a half hours later the premiere was over. The film's stars went on to another premiere in New York the following week. A little known fact surrounding the New York premiere is that Laurence Olivier proposed to Vivien Leigh on the flight out and she accepted. The glitz and glamour of the Gone With The Wind premiere seventy years ago was unique in its time but has remained a standard for movie premieres even today.
Gone with the Wind is a film that continues to be relevant because of the time period portrayed, its social influences, and overall importance in the history of film. The release of Gone with the Wind on DVD is significant for a number of reasons. The enhancement of the actual film and the special features added make the DVD an important addition to any film library and just as significant as the film's initial release.
Included in the DVD's content is an in depth interview with Olivia de Hallivand, who plays Melanie. She was nominated for an Academy Award, however, she lost to Hattie McDaniel, who played Mammy. (There is speculation that the reason McDaniel won was as compensation for not being invited to the movie's Atlanta premiere.) In de Hallivand's interview, she reveals the chaos which occurred behind the scenes during the production of the film. For example, directors and writers came and went with alarming frequency.
The most impressive part of the DVD, which makes the DVD "vital and gorgeous", is the attempt to revert to the quality of the original Technicolor process in which the film was shot. The evolution of Technicolor is a significant facet of film history. Gone with the Wind was to be the test of the new Technicolor technology. The production of the film centered around brilliance and contrast of color as well as intricate scenery shots. Much of the original impact of the film lay in the quantity and quality of color schemes throughout the production. As the technology of film progressed, Technicolor was deemed old fashioned and new technology improved upon the once spectacular visions produced by the once unique color delivery system. The Gone with the Wind DVD has resurrected the original screen's Technicolor version of the film.
I feel that it is of great significance and interest for today's audience to see the film just as it was presented in its original form. The use of Technicolor had a significant impact on the audience of the time. Every aspect of a film contributes to the way in which an audience views, comprehends, and appreciates the film. With all the technology available today for production quality enhancement, it is important to have the ability to revert back to the original film version and screen it in its purest form. With every generation producing new audiences with interest in the film, the release of the DVD has made this important piece of film history readily accessible to an even wider audience. The attraction of the DVD lies in its special features. For film buffs and people who are knowledgeable about the history of film and production values, the remastering of Gone with the Wind in Technicolor is an important feature which, perhaps, trumps all of the other aspects of the DVD.