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GWTW At 75: Frankly,

We Do Give A Damn

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Film poster for Gone With The Wind.
After Three-Quarters Of A Century, The David O. Selznick Classic Remains One Of The Most Iconic And Timeless Film Classics, Not Just For Its Stunning Imagery But For The Epic Drama That Occurred Behind The Scenes

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By David Fantle and Tom Johnson
Special for Modern Times Magazine

Sept. 15, 2014 — This year, the blockbuster novel-turned-epic film, Gone with the Wind, or GWTW, celebrates its 75th anniversary.

For three-quarters of a century, the movie based on Margaret Mitchell’s best-selling soap-operatic novel of “The Old South,” has achieved iconic status as one of the greatest examples of romantic storytelling on film.

Starring Clark Gable as the dashing Rhett Butler and Vivian Leigh as fiery Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara, the production travails of making the film burnished its legend.

From the moment independent producer David O. Selznick bought the rights to Mitchell’s book in July 1936, he whetted the public’s appetite with a massive campaign that centered on a two-year-long talent search to find the actress who would play Scarlett, the role that would eventually went to British actress Vivian Leigh. Although the film’s production hit numerous trouble spots along the way and passed through the hands of three different directors, GWTW, turned out to be an artistic and commercial triumph.

On Sept. 9, 1939, a rough-cut of the movie was screened in Riverside, Calif. by Selznick, his wife Irene (who was MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer’s daughter), investor Jock Whitney and the film’s editor. After trimming GWTW, down to under four hours, the movie premiered, appropriately enough, in Atlanta in December to rave reviews and cinematic history.

The winner of eight Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director (Victor Fleming), Best Actress (Vivian Leigh) and Best Supporting Actress (Hattie McDaniel), the movie also earned accompanying heady laurels: it is the first all-color movie to win a Best Picture Oscar; at almost four hours long, it’s the longest movie ever to win a Best Picture award; and Hattie McDaniel in her memorable role as Scarlett O’Hara’s caustic-yet-devoted “Mammy” was the first African-American to ever win an Oscar.

Even Rhett’s parting line to Scarlett in the scene that ends the movie: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” has permeated the pop-culture zeitgeist; it was voted the number one movie line of all time by the American Film Institute in 2005.

One last milestone; for 26 years GWTW, held its position as the top-grossing movie of all time. It was finally knocked off its perch in 1966 by another blockbuster with a long running time – The Sound of Music.

Sadly, just about everyone connected with GWTW, is now gone. One of the last surviving cast or crew who worked on the film, Olivia de Havilland, who played Melanie Hamilton, and who was beaten by Hattie McDaniel in the race for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, is 98 years old and living in Paris.

Now, in an unprecedented event, Turner Classic Movies is bringing GWTW, back to the big screen with presentations in more than 650 theaters nationwide on Sept. 28 and Oct. 1. The screenings will feature an introduction by TCM host Robert Osborne, who will offer fascinating inside information about the movie, its stars and its place in cinema history. Additionally, GWTW will be presented in its original 1:37 aspect ratio, as it was originally filmed/screened 75 years ago.

Go to the event website for U.S. theater locations by clicking here.

It’s an opportunity not to be squandered to revisit a classic movie from Hollywood’s Golden Age and see it in all its widescreen glory – as it was meant to be seen.

As Scarlett might say, that isn’t just a load of “fiddle dee-dee!”

David Fantle & Tom Johnson have interviewed more than 250 celebrities, mostly from “Hollywood’s Golden Age. They are co-authors of the 2004 book, Reel to Real: 25 years of celebrity profiles from vaudeville to movies to TV. Reach them at www.reeltoreal.com
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