|September 9, 2014–January 4, 2015.|
Hadn't I already seen the movie? Yes.
Alert with a wide-eyed thrill of let's go to the movie, my mother had taken me to see Gone With the Wind when I was 4-years-old. Afterward, a vague recollection of holding her hand amidst a pressing crowd, I stumbled through the lobby following a lengthy nap.
Back when great films only reappeared in limited release in select theaters, I saw the movie GWTW for a second time during my high school senior year, inside a lavish BIG-screen theater at Northpark, in Dallas, TX. Bowled over was I.
Christmas in SeptemberReading about the restoration of some of the costumes and the planned GWTW exhibit a year ago, as soon as tickets became available, I looked forward to this trip to Austin as if waiting to unwrap a Christmas present. At the Harry Ransom Center on the campus of the University of Texas, September 5, 2014, my husband and I joined a few hundred invited guests to a preview event that commemorates 75 years since the release of the movie, Gone With the Wind.
Items selected from David O. Selznick's private collection, including the green curtain dress, display in chronological order the saga of making this epic film.
Today, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) offers regular showings on television, and copies of restored versions on VHS and DVD's make the film readily available. Still, for me, the thrill of watching, and talking about, GWTW has not gone.
"My own true love"This past week, I gave a program on "The Making of Gone With the Wind" based on the Ransom Center exhibit. Information from several books about the movie and about Margaret Mitchell's novel and some notes from DVD extras that were included in the 70th Anniversary edition of the film supplement what I saw at the Austin exhibit.
Seizing this opportunity, I also paid tribute to the parody, "Went With the Wind," performed on the Carol Burnett Show in 1976 by wearing my own green curtain dress. Watch the YouTube video of the other Carol, not me. Still makes me laugh out loud.
|Standing next to me is Miss Scarlett, the dress form|
David O.David Selznick himself added the O to his name. A flourish, he liked the way the O made his name sound. O could represent the producer’s magnificent obsession to make a movie masterpiece. But along the way, DOS (how Selznick often signed telegrams and memos) endured setbacks, criticism and jealousy as his enterprise earned the name “Selznick’s Folly.”
In 1937, Margaret Mitchell won the Pulitzer for her novel, further compounding Selznick’s anxiety and a sense of urgency that his film version capitalize on the novel’s success. He had more than a few days yet to tote the weary load of this monumental task.
|A first edition of Margaret Mitchell's surprising best-seller|
|Production Designer William Cameron Menzies' designs for the burning of Atlanta|
David O. had lit the match.
Rather than alert news outlets, calls from residents to police and fire departments brought media attention as people reported seeing an enormous blaze light the night sky.
Another publicity stunt, concocted for the press, Vivien Leigh with her newly signed agent, Myron Selznick––David’s brother––and Lawrence Olivier, whom Leigh would later marry, arrived just in time to watch sets from King Kong and Garden of Allah collapse.
Vivien Leigh's face that evening––a warm glow cast from the flames that burned––may have given her the distinct advantage she needed to win the role of Scarlett. But contrary to the myth that this night was the first time Selznick had laid eyes on her, DOS had already met Miss Leigh, hidden her at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and planned her dramatic arrival to stage his so-called discovery of new-to-America talent.
Friday, January 13, 1939, Selznick announced his
|Signing contracts, January 13, 1939|
|Colored pages reflect script changes|
Selznick oversaw everything from production design, to costumes, to issues of censorship and racial controversy, to hovering over director George Cukor who was fired (or did he resign?) after 2 weeks, and then second-guessing replacement director Victor Fleming. Fleming, who received screen credit for direction, also directed The Wizard of Oz that same year.
How did one man, DOS, keep up with so many moving parts?
The movie had no titles or its own yet-to-be written by Max Steiner score for the soundtrack (The Prisoner of Zenda soundtrack played instead), yet this one and only preview audience saw the long-awaited movie Selznick managed to film in 125 days, and complete in time for the 1939 Academy Awards.
In part 2, read about Clark Gable and the line that could have caused the end of the movie to fizzle.
[Note: Photography at the exhibit was permitted and the photos posted here were taken with my Canon G15 camera.]