The Dark Truth About Gone With The Wind

Margaret Mitchell was 25 years old when she wrote Gone With The Wind. Before coming up with the novel, Mitchell worked for the Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine, but took a leave of absence to recover from a “series of injuries.” Little did anyone know, she was writing her first and only novel, which would later become a classic film as well. Read on to learn the dark secrets of Gone With The Wind.

Mitchell Kept The Book A Secret At First

Despite Mitchell spending the next decade working on characters and a plot, no one really knew what she was doing. It’s not a surprise that she didn’t tell anyone about her book, and Mitchell went to great lengths to hide it from her friends and family.

Margaret Mitchell Writing at Her Desk
Getty Images
Getty Images

One time, she hurriedly threw a rug over pages which were scattered on her living room floor when company unexpectedly showed up to her place.

She Wasn’t Going To Publish It

When a friend of Mitchell’s heard that she was considering writing a book, she seemed annoyed. Mitchell would take her enormous manuscript to a Macmillan editor the very next day. However, she would regret the act and sent the editor a telegram saying, “Have changed my mind. Send manuscript back.”

A copy of the book
GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images
GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images

Of course, the editor wasn’t going to let that happen, simply because Mitchell’s book was going to be something special.

The Movie Rights Were A Record-Breaking Purchase

Movie producer David O. Selznick purchased the movie rights for $50,000 in 1936. At the time, this was the most ever paid for rights to a book. Mitchell declined to be involved with the production, but she was said to have loved it. Mitchell would enjoy ensuing fame for a little longer after the historic purchase.

Vivien Leigh auction
Nick Ansell/PA Images via Getty Images
Nick Ansell/PA Images via Getty Images

Ultimately, she would enjoy her success until tragedy struck in the summer of 1949.

Groucho Marx Was Mitchell’s Ideal Choice For Rhett

Mitchell described the character to be more dark and nefarious than the one portrayed by actor Clark Gable. The author had been “deviled by the press and the public” since she’d sold the film rights.

Groucho Marx
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Nevertheless, the one person who Mitchell thought was right for the role was Groucho Marx, one of America’s greatest comedians. Just imagining a comedian playing a serious role in a movie like this would have created a totally different movie.

Initial Director George Cukor Was Fired

George Cukor was one of three directors who worked on the movie. Cukor and producer David O. Selznick clashed over the direction of the film. He involved himself in every part of the production and asked Cukor to check in with him daily. Eventually, the director was fired for working too slowly.

Audrey Hepburn and George Cukor with Oscar
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Getty Images

Some people believe that the director was let go because he was a homosexual and actor Clark Gable had an issue with that.

The Daughters Of The Confederacy Were Not Happy About The Casting

The Ocala, Florida chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy were offended. Essentially, it was because a British actress had been chosen to play an iconic southern character.

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara
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Getty Images

Nevertheless, when the daughters were told the role would to go Katharine Hepburn, they immediately stopped their protest altogether. It’s safe to say that it’s better with an Englishman than it was with a Yankee. At least nothing worse came out of it.

The Movie Had A Total Of Three Directors

After Cukor left, he was replaced with Victor Fleming. Fleming was coming off directing the iconic Wizard of Oz movie. But, during the production of Gone With The Wind, Fleming reportedly had a breakdown. He left for a few weeks to cope with his breakdown.

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Loew’s Inc./MovieStillsDb
Loew’s Inc./MovieStillsDb

Eventually, Sam Wood would take over the reins as the director. The finished product was the result of Cukor’s 19 days, Fleming’s 93, and Wood’s 24.

Vivien Leigh And Olivia De Havilland Were Secretly Coached By George Cukor After He Was Fired

Both actresses were upset over Cukor’s firing. But, it was De Havilland who remembered what went down after he left the set.

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Loew’s Inc./MovieStillsDb
Loew’s Inc./MovieStillsDb

“We had set our characters through working with David Cukor and wanted to be able to maintain those characters and develop them. It was a terrible loss for both of us. Vivien did not get along as well with Victor as I did, but nonetheless, she was a pro so everything proceeded.”

10 Years After The Film’s Release, The Author Died

August 11, 1949, was a tragic day for Mitchell and her husband. They were on their way to see a movie. Unfortunately, as the pair prepared to cross the street, a car appeared and suddenly hit the author.

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Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Her husband took a step back, but Mitchell never regained consciousness and died five days later. The most unfortunate thing is that Gone With The Wind was the only book she would ever publish.

More Than 1,400 Actresses Were Considered For The Role Of Scarlett O’Hara

Selznick was at it again. This time, the producer was determined to make the best possible movie out of Gone With The Wind. Selznick called for a nationwide casting call, and actresses such as Lana Turner and Jean Arthur auditioned for the role.

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Loew’s Inc./MovieStillsDb
Loew’s Inc./MovieStillsDb

Selznick finally met his Scarlett when Vivien Leigh visited the set. The actress was interested in the role and was hired after captivating Selznick and then-director George Cukor.

Leigh Brought A Copy Of The Book Every Day To Make The Director Angry

Leigh was displeased when the first director, George Cukor, was replaced. Once Fleming took over as the head man, he would ignore much of the previous director’s creative output. In silent protest, she carried Mitchell’s book to the set each day. Little did she know, she found the source far superior to his interpretation.

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Loew’s Inc./MovieStillsDb
Loew’s Inc./MovieStillsDb

Eventually, Leigh would recall on the situation that the producer shouted at her to throw the demand thing away.

Hattie McDaniel Became The First African-American To Win An Oscar

The actresses portrayal of Mammy earned her the Oscar. Although McDaniel broke the color barrier, she wasn’t allowed to sit in the audience due to segregation. The venue forbade black people entirely.

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Loew’s Inc./MovieStillsDb
Loew’s Inc./MovieStillsDb

However, Selznick was able to pull some strings. The producer would be the one who orchestrated the actress into the ceremony once and for all. While she was at the ceremony, McDaniel had to sit in the very back of the room.

Olivia De Havilland Lived To Be An Incredible 104 Years Old

Olivia de Havilland passed away on July 26, 2020. She was 104 years old and was one of the last surviving stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She appeared in 49 feature films over her long and successful career. Ms. de Havilland and her sister, Joan Fontaine, are to this day the only sisters to have won any Academy Awards and the only siblings to win major acting Academy Awards.

de Havilland
John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images

Olivia de Havilland remained active in the film community after her retirement in 1989. She was married twice and had two children.

Atlanta Went Crazy For The Film’s Premiere

Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel was a best-seller. Over a million people came to Atlanta to be in the atmosphere of the premiere. Even the Governor of Georgia declared the day of the premiere as a state holiday.

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Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

People took to the streets, celebrating what the faded glory of their homeland was. Attendees of the premiere included the Rockefellers, J.P. Morgan, and all the Governors of what used to be the Confederacy.

The Black Actors Weren’t Allowed To Attend The Premiere

When the movie premiered in Atlanta in 1939, Jim Crow’s laws were still in effect in the state of Georgia. According to the rules displayed by Lowe’s Grand Theater, this is what went down.

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Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images
Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

Black actors who were in the film would be allowed to appear on stage, but couldn’t attend the premiere party. In the end, David O. Selznick decided to just not allow his black actors to attend the event at all.

Clark Gable Didn’t Want To Be In The Movie

The actor was cast after an agreement with Selznick and MGM. Gable was in the middle of a divorce and needed money, which is why he accepted the role of Rhett. Gable even caused trouble for one scene, refusing to cry for it.

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Loew’s Inc./MovieStillsDb
Loew’s Inc./MovieStillsDb

Olivia de Havilland managed to talk him into it. “He thought it was unmanly, you see. That was the training of men in those days. It was such a pity.”

The Actors’ Bathrooms Were Initially Segregated

There were plenty of problems behind the scenes. Segregated bathrooms were set up for black actors, and they were afraid to lose their jobs to speak up. One extra, Lennie Bluett, wanted things to change and brought the matter to Clark Gable’s attention.

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Loew’s Inc./MovieStillsDb
Loew’s Inc./MovieStillsDb

Gable called Victor Fleming and threatened to quit if the signs separating the bathrooms weren’t taken down. Once the actor spoke up, the segregation on the set came to an end.

There Are Behind The Scenes Footage Of Filming The Movie

Howard Hall was a business magnate and film enthusiast out of Iowa. At some point during the filming, specifically the barbeque scene, Hall was allowed access onto the set. From there on, the Iowa native filmed the famous cast and crowds of extras lolling around Busch Gardens, where the scene was shot.

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Loew’s Inc./MovieStillsDb
Loew’s Inc./MovieStillsDb

The film lay inside Hall’s Brucemore Mansion until the 2000s. It was discovered other home movies were turned over to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Advanced Math Accounts For One Of The Most Beautiful Shots In The Film

There’s a glorious shot of Scarlett and her father standing before the fading sun. Nobody could figure out how it even worked, considering the movie was made in the late thirties. Interestingly enough, the sunset effect was done by simple art. The effect was done with two different matte paintings.

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Loew’s Inc./MovieStillsDb
Loew’s Inc./MovieStillsDb

That sent the crew to consult the Math Department at UCLA, who came up with a way to fit everything together.

It Took 16 Different Writers To Make The Screenplay A Viable Length

Remember Sidney Howard? Well, he was the first screenwriter to try and translate Mitchell’s novel. Howard wanted to come up with a script that wouldn’t sacrifice the original spirit of the book.

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Loew’s Inc./MovieStillsDb
Loew’s Inc./MovieStillsDb

But, his version was too long, which started a two-year process. A ton of writers took their turn hacking away at the potential script. Of course, with Selznick locking up the writers, that led to a groundbreaking new script.

Judy Garland Was Almost A Character

Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With The Wind had two younger sisters. One was Suellen O’Hara and the other Carreen O’Hara. Evelyn Keyes and Ann Rutherford played them respectively, but there could have been a different cast member for the sister.

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Contributor/Getty Images
Contributor/Getty Images

That’s right, Judy Garland was the first choice to play one of Scarlett’s kid sisters. Unfortunately, the young budding star was already committed to doing her most famous role to date, The Wizard of Oz.

Didn’t Even Read It

We mentioned earlier how Movie producer David O. Selznick purchased the movie rights for $50,000 in 1936. However, did we say how confident he was about the book? Selznick bought the film rights without having read it.

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

After Kay Brown sent the book to Selznick, he had declined to make the movie because he had recently bombed with a film about the Civil War. Then the chair of his company said they would put up some money for it and he had no other choice but to do it.

Vivien Leigh’s Speech Almost Cost Her The Role

Vivien Leigh was an established stage actress in Europe before she signed on to play Scarlett O’Hara. You already know that many actresses were screened for the role and Leigh was lucky she was cast.

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John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images

In fact, she almost lost the part and it is all because of her English accent. According to many reports, she nearly bombed her reading after she started reading with a clipped, regal accent as opposed to someone from the deep South.

The Outrageous Wage Disparity On Set

It’s too bad they didn’t have the #TimesUp movement back in the ’30s because you’ll be outraged when you know how much Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh were paid to star in Gone with the Wind.

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Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images
Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

Leigh was reportedly paid just $25,000 for 125 days of work, which is chump change compared to Gable’s $125,000 paycheck – and he only worked for 71 days! That’s a whole $100,000 extra dollars for a guy who initially didn’t even want to be in the film.

The Filming Was Ahead Of Production

Something like this doesn’t happen all the time when filming a movie. When you’re trying to turn a novel into a normal movie, the process can be tricky without disappointing fans. There were many drafts to this film.

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John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

There were so many that according to TIME, “when the filming was practically complete the last day’s call sheet read: Script to come.” The filming ended before the script had been completed. The actors had to wait for the script to finish as they recorded along the way.

McDaniel Made More History After Her Death

Despite the actresses’ success, many people criticized her for “perpetuating negative stereotypes” in her roles. By the end of her career, McDaniel acted in nearly 100 movies while playing the role of a maid 74 times.

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Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

In 1952, the Oscar winner passed away from breast cancer. Although she wished to be buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, she was denied due to a segregation policy. But, in 2006, she became the first black Oscar winner honored with a US postage stamp.

Reeves Became Superman

If you remember, George Reeves had a small role as Stuart Tarleton. He played one of the twins in love with Scarlett. That may not seem like much, but rest assured he went on to accomplish big things.

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Warner Brothers/Getty Images
Warner Brothers/Getty Images

That role was nothing compared to him becoming Clark Kent. He played the iconic superhero from 1951 to 1958. For eight years, he starred in the series The Adventures of Superman. You have to start somewhere in this business.