Of all the many actresses who tested for the part of Scarlett, only Paulette Goddard and Vivien Leigh were filmed in color.
Although he was dismissed from the production, George Cukor continued to privately coach both Vivien Leigh and Olivia de Havilland at their request on weekends.
The film had its first preview on 9 September 1939 at the Fox Theatre in Riverside, California. In attendance were David O. Selznick, his wife Irene Mayer Selznick, vestor John Hay Whitney and editor Hal C. Kern. Hal called for the manager and explained that his theater had been chosen for the first public screening of ‘Gone With The Wind’ though the identity of the film was to remain undisclosed to the audience until the very moment it began. People were permitted to leave only if they didn’t want to hang around for a film that they didn’t know the name of, but after they’d gone, the theater was to be sealed with no re-admissions and no phone calls. The manager was reluctant but eventually agreed. His one request was to call his wife to come to the theater immediately, although he was forbidden to tell her what film she was about to see. Indeed, Hal stood by him while he made his phone call to ensure he maintained the secret. When the film began, the audience started yelling with excitement. They had been reading about this film for nearly 2 years, so were naturally thrilled to see it for themselves.
Sidney Howard agreed to write the screenplay, but from his home in Massachusetts, 3000 miles away from studio interference. His first draft would have made a 5 1/2 hour movie. Sidney reluctantly agreed to leave his Massachusetts farm and come to Hollywood to work on another draft with David O. Selznick and then-attached director George Cukor. As David O. Selznick was preoccupied with problems on the set of The Prisoner of Zenda, Sidney had to wait 5 weeks before he was able to start working on another draft (in the meantime contributing some rewrites for “Zenda”). The second draft turned out to be 15 pages longer than the first.
Olivia de Havilland was a contract player at Warner Brothers when MGM made the call to her for the part of Melanie. Olivia was very keen to take the part and managed to convince her boss Jack L. Warner to let her out of her contract, mainly by getting his wife to exert her influence.
One of the few remaining scenes directed by George Cukor to survive into the final cut of the film is the birth of Melanie’s baby.
The only four actors David O. Selznick ever seriously considered for the role Rhett Butler were Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn and Ronald Colman. The chief impediment to Clark’s casting was his MGM contract. Clark was not drawn to the material; he didn’t see himself in a period production, and didn’t believe that he could live up to the public’s anticipation of the character. Eventually, he was persuaded by a $50,000 bonus which would enable him to divorce his second wife Maria “Ria” and marry Carole Lombard.
David O. Selznick bought the rights to the best selling novel for $50,000. Louis B. Mayer, David’s father-in-law and head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, was determined to make ‘Gone with the Wind’ an MGM film. Louis B. Mayer initially offered to buy David out at a handsome profit. Warner Bros. offered Bette Davis, Errol Flynn and advantageous financing. David’s own distributor United Artists showed interest in providing a production financing package. However, none of them had an actor capable of portraying Rhett Butler except MGM, which offered a deal that included Clark Gable. After much vacillating on David’s part, a deal was struck with MGM on January 19, 1938 that gave David, Clark Gable and $1.25 million toward production costs, in return for giving MGM distribution rights and 50% of the profits, which were further reduced by Loew’s Inc.’s 15% interest and a requirement to pay Clark’s $4,500 per week salary and one-third of Clark’s $50,000 loan-out bonus. “GWTW” was, of course, a box office triumph, grossing over $20 million during its initial release alone. David O. Selznick eventually earned $4 million on the picture. Unfortunately, a few years later he sold his rights to John Hay Whitney for a paltry $400,000 to keep his independent production company afloat. John Hay Whitney later sold the rights to ‘Gone with the Wind’ back to MGM for a $2.4 million.
The film has never been cut. Recent releases are longer because of the added Overture, intermission, and exit music, not because any deleted scenes have been restored.
Very few of the principal cast members liked the characters they were portraying. Clark Gable was induced into accepting his role through arrangements to divorce his current wife and marry Carole Lombard. Rand Brooks, who played Scarlett’s first husband, Charles Hamilton, was actually a rough outdoors-man who objected to playing a wimpy character. Butterfly McQueen disliked the negative stereotype of her character. Leslie Howard felt he was too old for the role of Ashley Wilkes and complained that his costumes made him look like “a fairy doorman” at a hotel.
All seven of Hollywood’s then-existing Technicolor cameras were used to film the Burning of the Atlanta Depot. Flames 500 feet high leaped from a set that covered 40 acres. Ten pieces of fire equipment from the Los Angeles Fire Department, 50 studio firemen and 200 studio helpers stood by throughout the filming of this sequence in case the fire should get out of hand. Three 5,000-gallon water tanks were used to quench the flames after shooting.
Vivien Leigh worked for 125 days and received about $25,000. Clark Gable worked for 71 days and received over $120,000.
During filming Vivien reportedly smoked four packets of cigarettes a day. Clark smoked three packs a day throughout his career.
Olivia de Havilland always meticulously researched her roles. As she had not yet had a baby in real life, she visited a maternity hospital to study how various women coped with the stresses of childbirth for the scene where Melanie has her baby. Off-camera, the scene’s director, George Cukor, would occasionally pinch her toes to make her feel pain.
In 1994, Judy Lewis went public with the information that she is indeed the love child of Clark and Loretta Young, which had been the subject of speculation in Hollywood for years. (Loretta always claimed she went away for a while, found the girl, and adopted her.) Thus, in an interesting coincidence, Clark’s real life daughter Judy Lewisis a close friend of Clark’s on-screen daughter in this film, Cammie King Conlon(Bonnie Blue Butler).
Clark disliked this, his most famous film, which he regarded as “a woman’s picture.”