The novel Gone With the Wind was published in 1936. Just three years later, it was adapted into a movie that went on to win ten of its thirteen Academy Award nominations. Even though the film first aired many decades ago, it has continued to influence popular culture today.
Gone With the Wind was written by Margaret Mitchell, who was born in Georgia in 1900. She began writing the epic novel when she was just 25 years old, but the writing process continued for over a decade before the book was finally published. Thankfully, Margaret Michell wasn’t one to give up, and the incredibly influential novel made its way to the big screen just three years after it was published.
Surprisingly enough, despite dedicating over ten years of her life to the novel, nobody in Mitchell’s life even knew she was writing a book until she announced she was sending it in for publishing. After she had sent in the manuscript, however, a close friend reportedly seemed miffed by her announcement, and Mitchell began to have second thoughts. She sent a telegram to the publishing company, requesting that they send the manuscript back. However, one editor had already glanced at the manuscript, and they knew the book was simply too good to send back.
From there, the book sold millions of copies, and it also won a Pulitzer Prize in 1937. Of course, perhaps the most memorable thing to come from the book is the film. Considering the technology that was available at the time, the movie was a masterpiece. The acting was phenomenal, and the sets and costumes were breathtaking. However, there were many dark secrets hidden behind the scenes of this iconic movie.
In today’s video, we’re going to take a look at the dark history behind the film Gone With the Wind. Make sure you stick around until the very end, where we’ll reveal the horrible wage disparity between the actors. Before we get started, don’t forget to like this video, and make sure you subscribe and click that notification bell so you can stay up to date with all of our videos.
Facts Verse Presents: The Dark Secrets Behind Gone With the Wind
It Set a Record for Publication Rights
David O. Selznick was a movie producer looking for his next big project. However, his last attempt at a movie was centered around the Civil War, and it hadn’t done so well. He was apprehensive to produce another film centered around the same subject. Unfortunately, Selznick found himself in a bind; even though he had never read the book himself, the chairman of his company coerced him into agreeing. Ultimately, Selznick ended up purchasing the film rights for an amazing sum of $50,000 in 1936, the same year the book was initially published.
At the time, that was the most any person had paid for the rights to a book. Selznick was likely worried it was a high-risk affair, but the movie ultimately turned out to be a huge success.
Margaret Mitchell, the author of Gone With the Wind, didn’t want to be particularly involved with the production process of the movie. However, she was flattered by all the work that went into it, and she reportedly loved every second of it.
The Producer Was On Drugs During the Production of the Film
David O. Selznick was a force to be reckoned with during the production of Gone With the Wind. This can likely be attributed to his frequent use of drugs throughout the process. One actor, Evelyn Keyes, remarked that Selznick was taking pills “like popcorn.”
Selznick was under a lot of pressure, as Gone With the Wind had the highest budget of any movie at the time. If it was a flop, Selznick would be out millions of dollars. As a result, he began abusing prescription drugs, as well as speed. The drugs made Selznick feel more confident in his abilities as a producer, but they also made him meddle with every aspect of the film. This made the process extremely difficult for the actors and crew members, who were subjected to irregular shooting times and hours of Selznick’s nitpicking.
The Author Wanted Groucho Marx to play Rhett Butler
Rhett Butler is described as being tall, dark, and handsome, as well as unfailingly charming and witty. Despite claiming that she wanted no part of the production process, author Margaret Mitchell still admitted that she would have liked comedian Groucho Marx to play the coveted role of Rhett Butler.
However, actor Clark Gable was the first choice for producer David O. Selznick. Gable was struggling through a divorce, and he was left with little money as a result. So, he begrudgingly accepted the role, even though he later said that he never wanted it in the first place. In one scene, he even caused trouble for the rest of the crew by refusing to cry, as he viewed it as “unmanly.”
However, most fans of the movie adore Clark Gable’s performance. If you think Clark Gable was a better choice than Groucho Marx, click the like button to let us know!
David O. Selznick Fired the First Director
The first director of the film Gone With the Wind was George Cukor. However, he and producer David O. Selznick had much difficulty getting along. Many of the arguments can likely be attributed to Selznick’s penchant for meddling in every aspect of the film. Finally, Selznick fired him, claiming that George Cukor was working too slowly.
However, another, darker theory suggests that George Cukor may have been fired due to his sexuality. He was openly gay, something actor Clark Gable was reportedly bigoted against. The true reason why Cukor was fired, however, might remain a mystery forever.
Vivien Leigh Was Lucky to Get the Lead Role
Actress Vivien Leigh was one of 1,400 women considered for the lead role of Scarlett O’Hara. However, she struggled nearly every step of the way to attain the role. While Scarlett O’Hara is American and speaks with a deep Southern accent, Vivien Leigh was from Britain. During her audition, she had a bit of difficulty finding the right dialect to speak in, and she almost blew it entirely when she started speaking more like a “Yankee” than a southerner. However, she found her footing, and she was ultimately cast in the coveted role.
When word got out that a British actress was cast to play a Southern belle like Scarlett O’Hara, there was also a lot of backlash. One group in particular, who called themselves The Daughters of the Confederacy, was extremely offended. They campaigned to have the casting changed, but they were unsuccessful.
For Vivien Leigh, the process of playing Scarlett O’Hara was no picnic. She was forced to wear an exceptionally uncomfortable corset during much of the film, and producer David O. Selznick made her wear even more uncomfortable tape that would make her cleavage more visible. Furthermore, Vivien Leigh struggled with bipolar disorder, and she dealt with heavy mood swings when she was under stress.
Still, her final performance in the film was amazing, and her iconic monologue halfway through the film is still quoted by fans today.
The Most Iconic Line of the Film Was Almost Changed
Nowadays, it’s quite easy to insert swear words into movies and even television shows. Back in the 1930s, however, rules were far more strict. In the most iconic moment of the book, Rhett Butler says to Scarlett O’Hara, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
The Hays Code, which was established in 1934, applied a rigid set of moral guidelines to many American films until it was eventually disbanded in 1968. According to the Hays Code, even the mild swear “damn” was inappropriate. David O. Selznick, however, knew that the line was incredibly integral to the book, and it was just as important to the movie. He lobbied for months, and after much struggle, he was finally allowed to use the line.
Hattie McDaniel Was the First Black Actor to Win an Oscar, But She Still Faced Lots of Discrimination
Hattie McDaniel’s performance as Mammy was so impressive, she became the first black person to ever win an Oscar. However, African Americans in the 1930s still suffered under the Jim Crow Laws, with segregation affecting nearly every aspect of their lives. Even though McDaniel had earned an Oscar, the awards ceremony was so segregated that she wasn’t even allowed to in the venue! Selznick knew that Hattie McDaniel deserved recognition for her hard work, however, and he was able to convince the crew behind the ceremony to allow her to sit in the back of the room during the awards.
Furthermore, the many other black actors who were present in the film weren’t allowed in at all. Hattie McDaniel was the only African American allowed into the Oscars that year. Fortunately, the Jim Crow Laws were finally abolished in 1964, though we can all agree that they should never have existed in the first place.
There Was a Huge Wage Disparity Among the Actors
It’s no secret that even today, women make less money than men do across nearly all career fields. This wage disparity was even more prevalent during the making of Gone With the Wind, however. Clark Gable, who played Rhett Butler, worked a total of 71 days and was paid $125,000. However, Vivien Leigh, who played the lead role of Scarlett O’Hara, worked over 50 more days than Clark Gable, for a total of 125 days. Shockingly, though, she was only paid $25,000 for all of her hard work!
The wage disparity was even worse for African American actors in the film, such as Hattie McDaniel.
As you can see, despite being an ultimate success, Gone With the Wind had many trials and tribulations behind the scenes. Were you more surprised to learn that the producer used drugs during the making of the film, or that Clark Gable didn’t want to play the role of Rhett Butler? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to Facts Verse for more videos!