Gone with the Wind
Behind the scenes
Producer David O. Selznick, head of Selznick International Pictures, decided that he wanted to create a film based on the novel after his story editor Kay Brown read a pre-publication copy in May 1936 and urged him to buy the film rights. A month after the book's publication in June 1936, Selznick bought the rights for $50,000, a record amount at the time. A well-publicized casting search for an actress to play Scarlett resulted in the hiring of a young English actress, Vivien Leigh, although many other famous or soon-to-be-famous actresses had been auditioned, considered for the role, or tested, including Katharine Hepburn, Norma Shearer, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, Lana Turner, Susan Hayward, Carole Lombard, Paulette Goddard, Irene Dunne, Merle Oberon, Ida Lupino, Joan Fontaine, Loretta Young, Miriam Hopkins, Jean Arthur, Tallulah Bankhead, Joan Bennett, Frances Dee, and Lucille Ball.
Several actresses were given screen tests for the part, but only two finalists — Paulette Goddard and Vivien Leigh — were tested in Technicolor, both on December 20, 1938. Selznick had been quietly considering Vivien Leigh for the role of Scarlett since February 1938, but for publicity reasons he arranged to meet her for the first time on the night of December 10, 1938, when the burning of the Atlanta Depot was filmed. Her casting was announced on January 13, 1939.
For the role of Rhett Butler, Clark Gable was an almost immediate favorite for both the public and Selznick. But as Selznick had no male stars under long-term contract he needed to go through the complex process of negotiating to borrow an actor from another studio. Gary Cooper was thus Selznick's first choice, because his contract with Samuel Goldwyn involved a common distribution company, United Artists, with which Selznick had an eight-picture deal. However, Goldwyn remained noncommittal in negotiations. Warner Bros. offered a package of Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, and Olivia de Havilland for the lead roles in return for the distribution rights. However, Selznick eventually found a way to loan Gable from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer: Selznick's father-in-law Louis B. Mayer offered to fund half the movie's budget in return for a powerful package (50% of the profits would go to MGM, the movie's distribution would be credited to MGM's parent company, Loew's, Inc., and Loew's would receive 15 percent of the movie's gross income). Selznick accepted this offer and Gable was cast.
Principal photography began January 26, 1939, and ended on June 27, 1939, with post-production work (including a fifth version of the opening scene) going to November 11, 1939. Most of the filming was done on the Selznick International lot, with the few location scenes photographed in Los Angeles County or neighboring Ventura County. Estimated production costs were $3.9 million; only Ben-Hur (1925) had cost more.
The film premiered in Atlanta, Georgia, on December 15, 1939, and has become the highest-grossing movie of all time (adjusted for inflation). It garnered thirteen Academy Award nominations and eight Awards.
Some have criticized the film for romanticizing, sanitizing or even promoting the values of the antebellum South, in particular its reliance on slavery, but the majority of filmgoers in 1939 expressed no concerns about this. The character of Mammy, played by Hattie McDaniel, has been linked with the stock character of the 'happy slave', an archetype that implicitly condones slavery. However, some have argued that Mammy's character is more complex than this, pointing out that despite her position as slave, she is not shy about upbraiding her white mistress, Scarlett.
The character of Prissy, played by Butterfly McQueen, is viewed as offensive in her portrayal as a dim-witted black slave girl, especially in the famous scene where she bursts into tears and cries "Miss Scarlett, I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' no babies." In response, Scarlett slaps her. In the Autobiography of Malcolm X, the former civil rights leader recounted his experience watching the movie as a small boy in Michigan: "I was the only Negro in the theater, and when Butterfly McQueen went into her act, I felt like crawling under the rug."
Racial politics spilled into the film's premiere in Atlanta, Georgia. As Georgia was a segregated state, Hattie McDaniel could not have attended the cinema without causing controversy; to avoid troubling Selznick, she thus sent a letter saying she would not be able to attend.
In 1998, the American Film Institute ranked it #4 on its "100 Greatest Movies" list. The film has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry and has undergone a complete digital restoration.
Rhett Butler's infamous farewell line to Scarlett O'Hara, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," was voted in a poll by the American Film Institute in 2005 as the most memorable line in cinema history .