Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Making of Gone with the Wind at the Harry Ransom Center

I'll be honest, I've never seen Gone with the Wind all the way through in one sitting. It's one of my mom's favorite movies, and it's just such a big deal I felt I couldn't pass up the exhibit at the Ransom Center on my day off.

Here are some highlights, so that I don't forget what I saw, and so that my family can get it on the excitement. Wish you'd have been able to go, too!

The planning and making of the movie spanned about three years. There was a lot in the exhibit about the casting of Scarlet (not surprising). It turns out that Vivien Leigh wasn't a candidate until a few weeks before they made the decision. Other choices included Susan Hayward, Katherine Hepburn, Tulluah Bankhead, Joan Bennett, and Paulette Goddard. Choices for Rhett (although Clark Cable was the public's favorite all along) also included Gary Cooper and Errol Flynn.

Apparently Margaret Mitchell didn't want to help write the screenplay. She happily advised and helped with the film, however.

What I found interesting was how David O. Selznick, who typically stuck extremely close to the plot of a book he was adapting, chose to balance his desire to show the South as a beautiful place with depicting historical accuracy. Apparently Atlanta's mansions are not what people would describe as beautiful when compared to others seen in the movies, based largely on large Louisiana plantations.

I snapped a picture of a funny quote discussing the same difficulties in regards to the costumes in a particular scene:

"The first people to complain about the lack of beauty will be the Southerners that we are trying to satisfy with authenticity." Ah, the South!

There was also a lot about the editing of the book to remove any mention of the KKK and "negro violence." There were letters from citizens who were already objecting the movie long before it began filming. One man wrote in that he was concerned that the movie would portray blacks in an unfavorable light, and signed his name, along with the addition, "(white)." I overheard part of a tour that was going on, and the movie explicitly took out some of the "negro dialect." After the film came out, some blacks were happy with it and others were upset that the servants seemed so happy with their places.

There was also a section describing necessary editing of the screenplay with regards to the amount of pain involved in childbirth, multiple cautionary statements about the dressing scenes, and not to portray any women as prostitutes (but to merely suggest looseness). From what I read in that little spot, the book is a lot more graphic than I'd imagined.

There weren't any of the male costumes, but several of Scarlett's. There were several sketches of scenes and costumes that I really enjoyed.

Another funny thing I saw was that for the premiere, there was a local Junior League member leading a parade. She had been chosen because her measurements most closely matched Vivien Leigh's. There was a little bit of paper with her measurements included in one of the glass cases. Oh man.

It was also sad to learn that Atlanta was segregated at the time, and none of the black actors were allowed to attend the premiere. Selznick tried to get them some credit, but got too much pushback. Ah, the South!

A great little exhibit with more information than I could have retained. I added more pictures to my Shutterfly album here: https://christysphotoshare.shutterfly.com/2254

Now I need to watch this movie from start to end!

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