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Gone with the Wind (film)

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Gone with the Wind

Theatrical pre-release poster. David O. Selznick demanded that Vivien Leigh be given higher billing, so in later posters, her name was billed right below Clark Gable's.
Directed by Victor Fleming
George Cukor
Sam Wood
Produced by David O. Selznick
Screenplay by Sidney Howard
Ben Hecht
Jo Swerling
John Van Druten
Oliver H.P. Garrett
Based on Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Starring Clark Gable
Vivien Leigh
Leslie Howard
Olivia de Havilland
Hattie McDaniel
Butterfly McQueen
Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography Ernest Haller
Lee Garmes (Uncredited)
Editing by Hal C. Kern
James E. Newcom
Studio Selznick International Pictures
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s)
  • December 15, 1939 (1939-12-15) (Atlanta premiere)
  • January 17, 1940 (1940-01-17) (United States)
Running time 224 minutes
238 minutes with overture, entr'acte, and exit music
Language English
Budget $3.9 million
Box office $400,176,459 (Unadjusted)
$6,083,614,437.41 (Adjusted)

Gone with the Wind is a 1939 American film, a historical epic and romance-drama adapted from Margaret Mitchell's Pulitzer-winning 1936 novel of the same name. It was produced by David O. Selznick and directed by Victor Fleming from a screenplay by Sidney Howard. Set in the 19th century American South, the film stars Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, and Hattie McDaniel, among others, and tells a story of the American Civil War and Reconstruction era from a Southern point of view.

The film received 10 Academy Awards (8 competitive, 2 honorary), a record that stood for 20 years. In the American Film Institute's inaugural Top 100 Best American Films of All Time list of 1998, it was ranked fourth. "Gone With the Wind" has sold more tickets in the U.S. than any other film in history, and is considered one of the greatest and most popular films of all time and an enduring symbol of the golden age of Hollywood. The film was the longest American sound film made up to that time – 3 hours 44 minutes, plus a 15 minute intermission.


Part 1

The film opens on a large cotton plantation called Tara in rural Georgia in 1861, on the eve of the American Civil War. Leigh's Scarlett O'Hara is flirting with the two Tarleton brothers, Brent ( Fred Crane) and Stuart ( George Reeves). Scarlett, Suellen ( Evelyn Keyes), and Careen ( Ann Rutherford) are the three daughters of Irish immigrant Gerald O’Hara ( Thomas Mitchell) and his wife, Ellen O'Hara ( Barbara O'Neil), who is of aristocratic French ancestry. The brothers share a secret with Scarlett: Howard's Ashley Wilkes, whom Scarlett secretly loves, is to be married to his cousin, Melanie Hamilton (de Havilland). The engagement is to be announced the next day at a barbecue at Ashley's home, the nearby plantation Twelve Oaks.

At Twelve Oaks, Scarlett notices that she is being admired by a handsome but roguish visitor, Gable's Rhett Butler, who had been disowned by his Charleston family. Rhett finds himself in further disfavor among the male guests when, during a discussion of the probability of war, he states that the South has no chance against the superior numbers and industrial might of the North. Scarlett sneaks out of her afternoon nap to be alone with Ashley in the library, and confesses her love for him. He admits he finds Scarlett attractive, and that he has always secretly loved her back, but says that he and the sweet Melanie are more compatible. She accuses Ashley of misleading her to think that he did love her and slaps him in anger. Ashley silently exits and her anger continues when she realizes that Rhett was taking an afternoon nap on the couch in the library, and has overheard the whole conversation. "Sir, you are no gentleman!" she protests, to which he replies, "And you, miss, are no lady!" Nevertheless, Rhett promises to keep her guilty secret. Scarlett leaves the library in haste, and the barbecue is disrupted by the announcement that war has broken out. The men rush to enlist, and all the ladies are awakened from their naps. As Scarlett watches Ashley kiss Melanie goodbye from the upstairs window, Melanie’s shy young brother Charles Hamilton (Rand Brooks), with whom Scarlett had been innocently flirting, asks for her hand in marriage before he goes. Despite not truly loving Charles, Scarlett consents in order to get close to the family and make Ashley jealous. Charles and Scarlett are married before he leaves to fight.

Scarlett is quickly widowed when Charles dies from a bout of pneumonia and measles while serving in the Confederate Army. Scarlett's mother sends her to the Hamilton home in Atlanta, to cheer her up, although the O’Haras' outspoken housemaid Mammy ( Hattie McDaniel) tells Scarlett she knows she is going there only to wait for Ashley’s return. Scarlett and Melanie attend a charity bazaar in Atlanta; Scarlett, who should be in deep mourning, is turned against and whispered about. Rhett, now a heroic blockade runner for the Confederacy, makes a surprise appearance. Scarlett shocks Atlanta society even more by accepting Rhett's large bid for a dance. While they dance, Rhett tells her of his intention to win her, which she says will never happen as long as she lives.

The tide of war turns against the Confederacy after the Battle of Gettysburg in which many of the men of Scarlett's town are killed. Scarlett makes another unsuccessful appeal to Ashley’s heart while he is visiting on Christmas furlough, although they do share a private and passionate kiss while in the parlor on Christmas Day, just before he leaves for the war. In the hospital, Scarlett and Melanie care for a convalescent soldier ( Cliff Edwards).

Eight months later, as the city is besieged by the Union Army in the Atlanta Campaign, Melanie goes into a premature and difficult labor. Staying true to a promise Scarlett made to Ashley to "take care of Melanie", she and her young house servant Prissy ( Butterfly McQueen) must deliver the child without medical attendance. Scarlett calls upon Rhett to bring her home to Tara immediately with Melanie, Prissy, and the baby. He appears with a horse and wagon to take them out of the city on a perilous journey through the burning depot and warehouse district. He leaves her with a nearly dead horse, helplessly sick Melanie, her baby, and tearful Prissy, and with a passionate kiss on the road leading to Tara. She repays him rudely with a slap, to his bemusement, as he goes off to fight with the Confederate Army. On her journey home, Scarlett finds Twelve Oaks burned out, ruined and deserted. She is relieved to find Tara still standing but deserted by all except her parents, her sisters, and two servants, Mammy and Pork ( Oscar Polk). Scarlett learns that her mother has just died of typhoid fever and her father's mind has begun to crumble under the strain. With Tara pillaged by Union troops, and the fields untended, Scarlett vows she will do anything for the survival of her family and herself, exclaiming, "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again!"

Part 2

Scarlett sets her family and servants to picking the cotton fields. She also kills a Union deserter who threatens her during a burglary, and finds gold coins in his haversack, enough to sustain her family and servants for a time. With the defeat of the Confederacy and war's end, Ashley returns from being a prisoner of war. Mammy restrains Scarlett from running to him when he reunites with Melanie. The dispirited Ashley finds he is of little help to Tara, and when Scarlett begs him to run away with her, he confesses his desire for her and kisses her passionately, but says he cannot leave Melanie. Gerald O'Hara dies after he is thrown from his horse in an attempt to chase from his property a Yankee carpetbagger, his former plantation overseer ( Victor Jory) who now wants to buy Tara. Scarlett is left to support the family, and realizes she cannot pay the rising taxes on Tara. Knowing that Rhett is in Atlanta and believing he is still rich, she has Mammy make an elaborate gown for her from her mother’s drapes still hanging in the parlor. However, upon her visit, Rhett, now in jail, tells her his foreign bank accounts have been blocked, and that her attempt to get his money has been in vain.

As Scarlett departs Rhett in jail, she encounters her sister’s fiancé, the middle-aged Frank Kennedy ( Carroll Nye), who now owns a successful general store and lumber mill. Scarlett lies to Kennedy by saying Suellen got tired of waiting and married another beau. After becoming Mrs. Frank Kennedy, Scarlett takes over his business, and with the profits buys a sawmill which becomes very profitable during the rebuilding of Atlanta—in part because she is willing to trade with the despised Yankee carpetbaggers and use convict laborers in her mill. When Ashley is about to take a job with a bank in the north, Scarlett preys on his weakness by weeping that she needs him to help run the mill; pressured by the sympathetic Melanie, he relents. One day, after Scarlett is attacked while driving alone through a nearby shantytown, Frank, Ashley, and others make a night raid on the shantytown. Ashley is wounded in a melee with Union troops, and Frank is killed.

With Frank’s funeral barely over, Rhett visits Scarlett and proposes marriage. Scarlett accepts, partially for his money. He kisses her passionately and tells her that he will win her love one day because they are both the same. After a honeymoon in New Orleans, Rhett promises to restore Tara to its former grandeur, while Scarlett builds the biggest mansion in Atlanta. The two have a daughter. Scarlett wants to name her Eugenie Victoria, but Rhett names her Bonnie Blue Butler ( Cammie King). Rhett adores her as a symbol of the spirited but less grasping girl that Scarlett was before the war. He does everything to win the good opinion of Atlanta society for his daughter’s sake. Scarlett, still pining for Ashley and chagrined at the perceived ruin of her figure (her waist has gone from eighteen-and-a-half inches to twenty), lets Rhett know that she wants no more children and that they will no longer share a bed. In anger, he kicks open the door that separates their bedrooms to show her that she could not keep him away if he wanted to be with her.

When visiting the mill one day, Scarlett listens to a nostalgic Ashley, and when she consoles him with an embrace, they are spied by two gossips including Ashley's sister India ( Alicia Rhett), who hates Scarlett. They eagerly spread the rumor and Scarlett’s reputation is again sullied. Later that night, Rhett, having heard the rumors, forces Scarlett out of bed and to attend a birthday party for Ashley. Incapable of believing anything bad of her beloved sister-in-law, Melanie stands by Scarlett's side so that all know that she believes the gossip to be false.

At home later that night, while trying to sneak a drink for herself, Scarlett finds Rhett downstairs drunk. Blind with jealousy, he tells Scarlett that he could kill her if he thought it would make her forget Ashley. Picking her up, he carries her up the stairs in his arms, telling her, "This is one night you're not turning me out." She awakens the next morning with a look of guilty pleasure, but Rhett returns to apologize for his behaviour and offers a divorce, which Scarlett rejects saying it would be a disgrace. Rhett decides to take Bonnie on an extended trip to London. However, Rhett realizes later that as a little child, Bonnie still needs her mother by her side. This happened one night, when Bonnie cried in her nightmare and asked to be reconciled with her mother. Rhett returns with Bonnie, and Scarlett is delighted to see him, but he rebuffs her attempts at reconciliation. He remarks at how she looks different and she tells him that she is pregnant again. Rhett asks who the father is and Scarlett tells him he knows the baby is his and that she doesn't even want it. Hurt, Rhett tells her "Cheer up. Maybe you'll have an accident." Enraged, Scarlett lunges at him, falls down the stairs and suffers a miscarriage. Rhett, frantic with guilt, cries to Melanie about his jealousy, yet refrains from telling Melanie about Scarlett's true feelings for Ashley.

As Scarlett is recovering, little Bonnie, as impulsive as her grandfather, dies in a fall while attempting to jump a fence with her pony. Scarlett blames Rhett, and Rhett blames himself. Melanie visits the home to comfort them, and convinces Rhett to allow Bonnie to be laid to rest, but then collapses during a second pregnancy she was warned could kill her. On her deathbed, she asks Scarlett to look after Ashley for her, as Scarlett had looked after her for Ashley. With her dying breath, Melanie also tells Scarlett to be kind to Rhett, that he loves her. Outside, Ashley collapses in tears, helpless without his wife. Only then does Scarlett realize that she never could have meant anything to him, and that she had loved something that never really existed. She runs home to find Rhett packing to leave her, she begs him not to leave, telling him she realizes now that she had loved him all along, that she never really loved Ashley. However, he refuses, saying that with Bonnie's death went any chance of reconciliation. And when she repeats that she loves him, he states "That's your misfortune."

As Rhett walks out the door, planning to return to his hometown of Charleston, she pleads, "Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?" He famously answers, " Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" and walks away into the fog. She sits on her stairs and weeps in despair, "What is there that matters?" She then recalls the voices of Gerald, Ashley and Rhett, all of whom remind her that her strength comes from Tara itself. Hope lights Scarlett's face: "Tara! Home. I'll go home, and I'll think of some way to get him back! After all, tomorrow is another day!" In the finale, Scarlett stands once more, resolute, before Tara.


  • Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara
  • Clark Gable as Rhett Butler
  • Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes
  • Olivia de Havilland as Melanie Hamilton Wilkes
  • Thomas Mitchell as Gerald O'Hara
  • Barbara O'Neil as Ellen O'Hara
  • Evelyn Keyes as Suellen O'Hara
  • Ann Rutherford as Carreen O'Hara
  • George Reeves as Stuart Tarleton*
  • Fred Crane as Brent Tarleton*
  • Hattie McDaniel as Mammy
  • Oscar Polk as Pork
  • Butterfly McQueen as Prissy
  • Victor Jory as Jonas Wilkerson
  • Everett Brown as Big Sam
  • Howard Hickman as John Wilkes
  • Alicia Rhett as India Wilkes
  • Rand Brooks as Charles Hamilton
  • Carroll Nye as Frank Kennedy
  • Laura Hope Crews as Aunt Pittypat
  • Eddie Anderson as Uncle Peter
  • Harry Davenport as Dr. Meade
  • Leona Roberts as Mrs. Meade
  • Jane Darwell as Mrs. Merriwether
  • Ona Munson as Belle Watling
  • Ward Bond as Tom, Yankee Captain
  • Cliff Edwards as voice of unseen Reminiscent Soldier
  • Cammie King as "Bonnie Blue" Butler
  • Emily Eby as Grandma Moses
  • Paul Hurst as Yankee deserter
  • Isabel Jewell as Emmie Slattery
  • Yakima Canutt as Shantytown renegade

(*The credits as shown in the film contain an error: George Reeves and Fred Crane appear as the Tarleton brothers. Reeves plays Stuart, but is listed as Brent, while Crane, playing Brent, is listed as Stuart.)



Of original screenplay writer Sidney Howard, film historian Joanne Yeck writes, "reducing the intricacies of Gone with the Wind's epic dimensions was a herculean task...and Howard's first submission was far too long, and would have required at least six hours of film; ... [producer] Selznick wanted Howard to remain on the set to make revisions...but Howard refused to leave New England [and] as a result, revisions were handled by a host of local writers, including Ben Hecht..."

Producer David O. Selznick replaced the film's director three weeks into filming and then had the script rewritten. He sought out director Victor Fleming, who, at the time, was directing The Wizard of Oz. Fleming was dissatisfied with the script, so Selznick brought in famed writer Ben Hecht to rewrite the entire screenplay within five days." The popular play Moonlight and Magnolias by playwright Ron Hutchinson, is about this dramatic episode when "Selznick literally locked himself, Fleming and screenwriter Ben Hecht in a room for five days to completely redo the script."

By the time of the film's release in 1939, there was some question as to who should receive screen credit," writes Yeck. "But despite the number of writers and changes, the final script was remarkably close to Howard's version. The fact that Howard's name alone appears on the credits may have been as much a gesture to his memory as to his writing, for in 1939 Sidney Howard died tragically at age forty-eight in a farm-tractor accident, and before the movie's premiere."

Selznick, in a memo written in October 1939, discussed the film's writing credits:

"[Y]ou can say frankly that of the comparatively small amount of material in the picture which is not from the book, most is my own personally, and the only original lines of dialog which are not my own are a few from Sidney Howard and a few from Ben Hecht and a couple more from John Van Druten. Offhand I doubt that there are ten original words of [Oliver] Garrett's in the whole script. As to construction, this is about eighty per cent my own, and the rest divided between Jo Swerling and Sidney Howard, with Hecht having contributed materially to the construction of one sequence."

According to Hecht biographer, William MacAdams, "At dawn on Sunday, February 20, 1939, David Selznick ... and director Victor Fleming shook Hecht awake to inform him he was on loan from MGM and must come with them immediately and go to work on Gone with the Wind, which Selznick had begun shooting five weeks before. It was costing Selznick $50,000 each day the film was on hold waiting for a final screenplay rewrite and time was of the essence.

Hecht was in the middle of working on the film At the Circus for the Marx brothers." Recalling the episode in a letter to screenwriter friend Gene Fowler, he said he hadn't read the novel but Selznick and director Fleming could not wait for him to read it. They would act out scenes based on Sidney Howard's original script which needed to be rewritten in a hurry. Hecht wrote, "After each scene had been performed and discussed, I sat down at the typewriter and wrote it out. Selznick and Fleming, eager to continue with their acting, kept hurrying me. We worked in this fashion for seven days, putting in eighteen to twenty hours a day. Selznick refused to let us eat lunch, arguing that food would slow us up. He provided bananas and salted peanuts....thus on the seventh day I had completed, unscathed, the first nine reels of the Civil War epic."

MacAdams writes, "It is impossible to determine exactly how much Hecht scripted...In the official credits filed with the Screen Writers' Guild, Sidney Howard was of course awarded the sole screen credit, but four other writers were appended ... Jo Swerling for contributing to the treatment, Oliver H. P. Garrett and Barbara Keon to screenplay construction, and Hecht, to dialogue, so it would appear Hecht's influence was not insubstantial."


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, 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. Major financing for the film was provided by Selznick's business partner John Hay Whitney, a financier who later went on to become a U.S. ambassador.

The casting of the two lead roles became a complex, two-year endeavor. Many famous or soon-to-be-famous actresses were either screen-tested, auditioned, or considered for the role of Scarlett, including Jean Arthur, Lucille Ball, Tallulah Bankhead, Joan Bennett, Clara Bow, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Frances Dee, Olivia de Havilland, Irene Dunne, Joan Fontaine, Greer Garson, Paulette Goddard, Susan Hayward, Miriam Hopkins, Katharine Hepburn, Carole Lombard, Ida Lupino, Merle Oberon, Norma Shearer, Barbara Stanwyck, Margaret Sullavan, Lana Turner and Loretta Young.

Miriam Hopkins was actually the choice of the novel's author Margaret Mitchell. Mitchell felt that Hopkins was just the right type of actress to play Scarlett as written in the book. However, Hopkins was in her mid thirties at the time and was considered too old for the part. Nevertheless, Hopkins had one advantage over the other actresses—she was a native of Georgia.

Four actresses, including Jean Arthur and Joan Bennett, were still under consideration by December 1938. But only two finalists, Paulette Goddard and Vivien Leigh, were tested in Technicolor, both on December 20. Selznick had been quietly considering Vivien Leigh, a young English actress little known in America, for the role of Scarlett since February 1938, when Selznick saw her in Fire Over England and A Yank at Oxford. Leigh's American agent was the London representative of the Myron Selznick talent agency (headed by David Selznick's brother, one of the owners of Selznick International), and she had requested in February that her name be submitted for consideration as Scarlett. By summer of 1938, the Selznicks were negotiating with Alexander Korda, to whom Leigh was under contract, for her services later that year. But for publicity reasons David arranged to meet her for the first time on the night of December 10, 1938, when the burning of the Atlanta Depot was filmed. The story was invented for the press that Leigh and Laurence Olivier were just visiting the studio as guests of Myron Selznick, who was also Olivier's agent, and that Leigh was in Hollywood hoping for a part in Olivier's current movie, Wuthering Heights. In a letter to his wife two days later, Selznick admitted that Leigh was "the Scarlett dark horse", and after a series of screen tests, her casting was announced on January 13, 1939. Just before the shooting of the film, Selznick informed Ed Sullivan: "Scarlett O'Hara's parents were French and Irish. Identically, Miss Leigh's parents are French and Irish."

For the role of Rhett Butler, Clark Gable was an almost immediate favorite for both the public and Selznick. Nevertheless, as Selznick had no male stars under long-term contract, he needed to go through the process of negotiating to borrow an actor from another studio. Gary Cooper was Selznick's first choice, because Cooper's 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. But by then Selznick was determined to get Clark Gable, and eventually found a way to borrow him from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Selznick's father-in-law, MGM chief Louis B. Mayer, offered in May 1938 to fund half of 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 in August, and Gable was cast. Nevertheless, the arrangement to release through MGM meant delaying the start of production until Selznick International completed its eight-picture contract with United Artists.

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. Director George Cukor, with whom Selznick had a long working relationship, and who had spent almost two years in preproduction on Gone with the Wind, was replaced after less than three weeks of shooting. Olivia de Havilland said that she learned of George Cukor's firing from Vivien Leigh on the day the Atlanta bazaar scene was filmed. The pair went to Selznick's office in full costume and begged him to change his mind. Selznick apologized, but refused. Victor Fleming, who was directing The Wizard of Oz, was called in from MGM to complete the picture, although Cukor continued privately to coach Leigh and De Havilland. Another MGM director, Sam Wood, worked for two weeks in May when Fleming temporarily left the production due to exhaustion.

Cinematographer Lee Garmes began the production, but after a month of shooting what Selznick and his associates thought was "too dark" footage, was replaced with Ernest Haller, working with Technicolor cinematographer Ray Rennahan. Most of the filming was done on "the back forty" of Selznick International with all the location scenes being photographed in California, mostly in Los Angeles County or neighboring Ventura County. Tara, which for many Americans is the iconic Southern plantation house, existed only as a plywood and papier-mâché facade built on the "back forty" California studio lot. Estimated production costs were $3.9 million; only Ben-Hur (1925) and Hell's Angels (1930) had cost more.

Although legend persists that the Hays Office fined Selznick $5,000 for using the word "damn" in Butler's exit line, in fact the Motion Picture Association board passed an amendment to the Production Code on November 1, 1939, that forbade use of the words "hell" or "damn" except when their use "shall be essential and required for portrayal, in proper historical context, of any scene or dialogue based upon historical fact or folklore ... or a quotation from a literary work, provided that no such use shall be permitted which is intrinsically objectionable or offends good taste." With that amendment, the Production Code Administration had no further objection to Rhett's closing line. This is also discussed in the documentary film, The Making of a Legend: Gone With The Wind.


First public preview

from the film's trailer

When Selznick was asked by the press in early September how he felt about the film, he said: "At noon I think it's divine, at midnight I think it's lousy. Sometimes I think it's the greatest picture ever made. But if it's only a great picture, I'll still be satisfied."

On September 9, 1939, Selznick, his wife, Irene, investor Jock Whitney, and film editor Hal Kern drove out to Riverside, California with all of the film reels to preview it before an audience. The film was still unfinished at this stage, missing many optical effects and most of Max Steiner's music score. They arrived at the Fox Theatre in Riverside, which was playing a double feature of Hawaiian Nights and Beau Geste. Kern called for the manager and explained that they had selected his theatre for the first public screening of Gone with the Wind. He was told that after Hawaiian Nights had finished, he could make an announcement of the preview, but was forbidden to say what the film was. People were permitted to leave, but the theatre would thereafter be sealed with no re-admissions and no phone calls out. The manager was reluctant, but finally agreed. His only request was to call his wife to come to the theatre immediately. Kern stood by him as he made the call to make sure he did not reveal the name of the film to her.

When the film began, there was a buzz in the audience when Selznick's name appeared, for they had read about the making of the film for over two years. In an interview years later, Kern described the exact moment the audience realized what was happening:

"When Margaret Mitchell's name came on the screen, you never heard such a sound in your life. They just yelled, they stood up on the seats...I had the [manually-operated sound] box. And I had that music wide open and you couldn't hear a thing. Mrs. Selznick was crying like a baby and so was David and so was I. Oh, what a thrill! And when Gone with the Wind came on the screen, it was thunderous!"

In his seminal biography of Selznick, David Thomson wrote that the audience's response before the story had even started "was the greatest moment of his life, the greatest victory and redemption of all his failings." When the film ended there was a huge ovation. In the preview cards filled out after the screening, two-thirds of the audience rated it as excellent, an unusually high rating. Most of the audience begged that the film not be cut shorter, and many suggested that instead, they eliminate any newsreels, shorts and B-movie feature.


The film premiered in Atlanta, Georgia, on December 15, 1939. It was the climax of three days of festivities hosted by Mayor William B. Hartsfield, which included a parade of limousines featuring stars from the film, receptions, thousands of Confederate flags, false antebellum fronts on stores and homes, and a costume ball. Eurith D. Rivers, the governor of Georgia, declared December 15 a state holiday. The New York Times reported that thousands lined the streets as "the demonstration exceeded anything in Atlanta's history for noise, magnitude and excitement". President Jimmy Carter would later recall it as "the biggest event to happen in the South in my lifetime."

Hattie McDaniel and the other black actors from the film were prevented from attending the premiere due to Georgia's Jim Crow laws, which would have kept them from sitting with the white members of the cast. Upon learning that McDaniel had been barred from the premiere, Clark Gable threatened to boycott the event. McDaniel convinced him to attend.

In Los Angeles, the film had its premiere at the elegant Carthay Circle Theatre. From December 1939 to June 1940, the film played only advance-ticket road show engagements at a limited number of theaters, before it went into general release in 1941. It was a sensational hit during the Blitz in London, opening in April 1940, and played for four years.

Later releases

Gone with the Wind was given theatrical re-releases in 1947, 1954 and 1961. It was re-released in 1967 in a 70 mm stereophonic version, which is best known today for its iconic poster. It was further rereleased in 1971, 1989, and by New Line Cinema in 1998. The 1954 release was the first time the studio issued the film in widescreen, compromising the original Academy ratio and cropping the top and bottom to an aspect ratio of 1.75:1. In doing so, a number of shots were optically re-framed and cut into the three-strip camera negatives, forever altering five shots in the film. The 70 mm re-issue of the film cropped the film further, to a very narrow ratio of 2.20:1. The 1998 theatrical reissue and the VHS and DVD releases restored the film to its original aspect ratio. On November 14, 2009, on the occasion of the film's 70th anniversary, the film was re-issued in a new high definition transfer to the Blu-ray format. When adjusted for inflation, Gone with the Wind is estimated to be the highest grossing film domestically of all time.


The film made its television debut on the HBO cable network in June 1976, and its broadcast TV debut in November of that year in two parts on the NBC network, where it became at that time the highest-rated television program ever presented on a single network, watched by 47.5 percent of the households sampled in America, and 65 percent of television viewers. Ironically, it was surpassed the following year by the mini-series Roots, a saga about slavery in America.


In an attempt to draw upon his company's profits, but to pay capital gain tax rather than a much higher personal income tax, David O. Selznick and his business partners liquidated Selznick International Pictures over a three-year period in the early 1940s. As part of the liquidation, Selznick sold his rights in Gone with the Wind to Jock Whitney and his sister, who in turn sold it to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1944. Today it is owned by Turner Entertainment, whose parent company Turner Broadcasting acquired MGM's film library in 1986. Turner itself is currently a subsidiary of Time Warner, which is the current parent company of Warner Bros. Entertainment. The film is the favorite movie of TBS founder Ted Turner, himself a resident of Atlanta.

In 1989, Gone with the Wind was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 1998, the American Film Institute ranked it #4 on its " 100 Greatest Movies" list.

Rumors of Hollywood producing a sequel to this film persisted for decades until 1994, when a sequel was finally produced for television, based upon Alexandra Ripley's novel Scarlett, itself a sequel to Mitchell's book. Both the book and mini-series were met with mixed reviews. In the TV version, British actors played both key roles: Welsh-born actor Timothy Dalton played Rhett while Manchester-born Joanne Whalley played Scarlett. Original plans were used for the reconstruction of a replica of the original Tara set in Charleston, South Carolina for the filming.

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.

Leslie Howard's association to the screen character he most disliked, the winsome Ashley, later obscured his solid contribution to the British film industry and his fight to break the silence about the Holocaust.

In 2005, the AFI ranked Max Steiner's score for the film the second greatest of all time. The AFI also ranked the film #2 in their list of the greatest romances of all time (100 Years... 100 Passions).

After filming concluded, the set of Tara sat on the back lot of the former Selznick Studios as the Forty Acres back lot reverted to RKO Pictures and then was sold to Desilu Productions. In 1959, Southern Attractions, Inc. purchased the façade of Tara, which was dismantled and shipped to Georgia with plans to relocate it to the Atlanta area as a tourist attraction. David O. Selznick commented at the time,

Nothing in Hollywood is permanent. Once photographed, life here is ended. It is almost symbolic of Hollywood. Tara had no rooms inside. It was just a façade. So much of Hollywood is a façade.

However, the Margaret Mitchell estate refused to license the novel's commercial use in connection with the façade, citing Mitchell's dismay at how little it resembled her description. In 1979 the dismantled plywood and papier-mâché set, reportedly in "terrible" condition, was purchased for $5,000 by Betty Talmadge, the ex-wife of former Georgia governor and U.S. senator Herman Talmadge. She lent the front door of Tara's set to the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum in downtown Atlanta, Georgia where it is on permanent display, featured in the Gone with the Wind film museum. Other items from the movie, such as from the set of Scarlett and Rhett's Atlanta mansion, are still stored at The Culver Studios (formerly Selznick International) including the stained glass window from the top of the staircase which was actually a painting. The famous painting of Scarlett in her blue dress, which hung in Rhett's bedroom, hung for years at the Margaret Mitchell Elementary School in Atlanta, but is now on permanent loan to the Margaret Mitchell Museum, complete with stains from the glass of sherry that Rhett Butler threw at it in anger.

Racial criticism

Recent historical studies of the Civil Rights Movement have focused on the idyllic portrayal (epitomised in the opening credits) of the Civil War-era South in the film. Professor D.J. Reynolds wrote that "The white women are elegant, their menfolk noble or at least dashing. And, in the background, the black slaves are mostly dutiful and content, clearly incapable of an independent existence." Reynolds likened Gone with the Wind to Birth of a Nation (based on The Clansman) and other re-imaginings of the South during the era of segregation, in which white Southerners are portrayed as defending traditional values and the issue of slavery is largely ignored. Hattie McDaniel's performance (for which she became the first black American to win an Oscar) and Butterfly McQueen's have been described as stereotypes of a 'black Mammy' and a child-like black slave (in the novel, the character of Prissy was twelve years old, but played in the film by an adult). Malcolm X recalled that "when Butterfly McQueen went into her act, I felt like crawling under the rug."


  • Overture - MGM Studio Orchestra
  • Main Title - "Tara's Theme"
  • "(I Wish I Was in) Dixie's Land" (1860) (uncredited)
Written by Daniel Decatur Emmett
  • "Katie Belle" (uncredited)
Written by Stephen Foster
  • "Under the Willow She's Sleeping" (1860) (uncredited)
Written by Stephen Foster
  • "Lou'siana Belle" (1847) (uncredited)
Written by Stephen Foster
  • "Dolly Day" (1850) (uncredited)
Written by Stephen Foster
  • "Ring de Banjo" (1851) (uncredited)
Written by Stephen Foster
  • "Sweet and Low" (1865) (uncredited)
Music by Joseph Barnby
  • "Ye Cavaliers of Dixie" (uncredited)
Composer unknown
  • " Taps" (1862) (uncredited)
Written by General Daniel Butterfield
  • "Massa's in de Cold Ground" (1852) (uncredited)
Written by Stephen Foster
  • " Maryland, My Maryland" (1861) (uncredited)
Based on traditional German Christmas carol " O Tannenbaum"
  • "Irish Washerwoman" (uncredited)
Traditional Irish Jig
  • " Garryowen" (uncredited)
  • " When Johnny Comes Marching Home" (1863) (uncredited)
Written by Louis Lambert ( Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore)
  • "Weeping, Sad and Lonely (When This Cruel War Is Over)" (1862)
Music by Henry Tucker (uncredited)
  • " The Bonnie Blue Flag" (1861) (uncredited)
Written and arranged by Harry McCarthy
  • " Hark! the Herald Angels Sing" (pub. 1856) (uncredited)
Music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1840)
  • " Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! (The Boys Are Marching)" (1864) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by George Frederick Root
  • "The Old Folks at Home (Swanee River)" (1851) (uncredited)
Written by Stephen Foster
  • "Go Down Moses (Let My People Go)" (uncredited)
Traditional Negro spiritual
  • " My Old Kentucky Home" (1853) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Foster
Sung a cappella by Butterfly McQueen
  • " Marching Through Georgia" (1865) (uncredited)
Written by Henry Clay Work
  • " Battle Hymn of the Republic" (circa 1856) (uncredited)
Music by William Steffe
  • " Beautiful Dreamer" (1862) (uncredited)
Music by Stephen Foster
Played during the intermission
  • " Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair" (1854) (uncredited)
Music by Stephen Foster
Played during the intermission
  • " Yankee Doodle" (ca. 1755) (uncredited)
Traditional music of English origin
  • "Stars of the Summer Night" (1856) (uncredited)
Music by Isaac Baker Woodbury
  • " Bridal Chorus (Here Comes the Bride)" (1850) (uncredited)
from "Lohengrin" Written by Richard Wagner
  • "Deep River" (uncredited)
  • " For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" (uncredited)
  • " London Bridge Is Falling Down" (uncredited)
Traditional children's song
  • "Ben Bolt (Oh Don't You Remember)" (1848) (uncredited)
Music by Nelson Kneass
Poem by Thomas Dunn English (1842)
Sung a cappella by Vivien Leigh

Awards and honours

Gone with the Wind was the first film to get more than five Academy Awards. Of the 17 competitive awards which were given at the time, Gone with the Wind had 13 nominations. The Academy did not award Gone with the Wind Best Supporting Actor which was won by Thomas Mitchell, who starred in supporting roles in both Gone with the Wind and Stagecoach (for which he won the Oscar) that year, and Best Music (Song)

It was the Winner of 10 Academy Awards. (8 regular, 1 honorary, 1 technical)

Award Result Winner
Best Picture Won Selznick International Pictures ( David O. Selznick, Producer)
Best Director Won Victor Fleming
Best Actor Nominated Clark Gable
Winner was Robert Donat - Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Best Actress Won Vivien Leigh
Best Adapted Screenplay Won Sidney Howard
Awarded posthumously
Best Supporting Actress Won Hattie McDaniel
Received a miniature "Oscar" statuette on a plaque
Best Supporting Actress Nominated Olivia de Havilland
Winner was Hattie McDaniel
Best Cinematography, Colour Won Ernest Haller and Ray Rennahan
This received the "Oscar" statuette
Best Film Editing Won Hal C. Kern and James E. Newcom
Received a miniature "Oscar" statuette on a plaque, replaced with a regular statuette in 1962
Best Art Direction Won Lyle Wheeler
Best Visual Effects Nominated Fred Albin (Sound), Jack Cosgrove (Photographic), and Arthur Johns (Sound)
Winners were Fred Sersen (Photographic) and E. H. Hansen (Sound) - The Rains Came
Best Music, Original Score Nominated Max Steiner
Winner was Herbert Stothart - The Wizard of Oz
Best Sound Recording Nominated Thomas T. Moulton (Samuel Goldwyn Studio Sound Department)
Winner was Bernard B. Brown (Universal Studio Sound Department) - When Tomorrow Comes
Award Recipient
Irving G. Thalberg Award David O. Selznick
For his career achievements as a producer.
Honorary Award William Cameron Menzies (Miniature "Oscar" statuette on a plaque)
For outstanding achievement in the use of colour for the enhancement of dramatic mood in the production of Gone with the Wind.
Technical Achievement Award Don Musgrave and Selznick International Pictures (Certificate)
For pioneering in the use of coordinated equipment in the production Gone with the Wind.

American Film Institute recognition

  • 1998 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies #4
  • 2002 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions #2
  • 2005 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes:
    • " Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" #1
    • "After all, tomorrow is another day" #31
    • "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again!" #59
  • 2005 AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores #2
  • 2006 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Cheers #43
  • 2007 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) #6
  • 2008 AFI's 10 Top 10 #4 Epic film
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