The fact that Hattie McDaniel would be unable to attend the premiere in racially segregated Atlanta annoyed Clark Gable so much that he threatened to boycott the premiere unless she could attend. He later relented when she convinced him to go.
When Gary Cooper turned down the role for Rhett Butler, he was passionately against it. He is quoted saying both, "Gone with the Wind (1939) is going to be the biggest flop in Hollywood history," and, "I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Gary Cooper."
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.
If box office receipts for the movie were adjusted for inflation, it would be the top grossing movie of all time; Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) would only be the second most successful movie of all time. According to the Guinness World Records homepage the total gross in 2012 figures would be $4401358554.94 in 2012
The first scene to be shot was the burning of the Atlanta Depot, filmed on 10 December 1938. If there was a major mistake during the filming, the entire film might have been scrapped. They actually burned many old sets that needed to be cleared from the studio backlot, including sets from The Garden of Allah (1936) and the "Great Wall" set from King Kong (1933). The fire cost over $25,000, and yielded 113 minutes of footage. It was so intense that Culver City residents jammed the telephones lines, thinking MGM was burning down. Scarlett was stunt doubled by Aline Goodwin and Lila Finn, while Rhett was doubled by veteran stuntmen Yakima Canutt and Jay Wilsey.
Margaret Mitchell was dismayed at the scale of the Tara and Twelve Oaks sets, writing to her friend, technical advisor Susan Myrick, "I grieve to hear that Tara has columns. Of course, it didn't and looked nice and ugly like Alex Stephens' Liberty Hall [in Crawfordville, Georgia]." And, "I had feared, of course that [Twelve Oaks] would end up looking like the Grand Central Station, and your description confirms my worst apprehensions. I did not know whether to laugh or to throw up at the TWO staircases.... God help me when the reporters get me after I've seen the picture. I will have to tell the truth, and if Tara has columns and Twelve Oaks is such an elegant affair I will have to say that nothing like that was ever seen in Clayton County, or, for that matter, on land or sea.... When I think of the healthy, hardy, country and somewhat crude civilization I depicted and then of the elegance that is to be presented, I cannot help yelping with laughter... "
When Rhett pours Mammy a drink after the birth of Bonnie, for a joke during a take, Clark Gable actually poured alcohol instead of the usual tea into the decanter without Hattie McDaniel knowing it until she took a swig.
David O. Selznick begged Margaret Mitchell, author of the novel, to critique every aspect of the production. An intensely private person, Mrs. Mitchell gave one criticism of the facade of the design for Tara, which was ignored. Afterward, she refused to comment on any aspect of the film during production.
In a March 1939 newspaper article, David O. Selznick was reported to be considering producing Gone with the Wind (1939) as two films, as it was felt that the novel was far too long and complex to be successfully made into a single motion picture for the time.
Vivien Leigh wasn't happy with Victor Fleming's brusque style after the careful nurturing she had enjoyed with George Cukor. When she asked him for direction in one scene, he told her "Ham it up". On another occasion when she asked for his constructive advice, he told her to "take the script and stick it up her royal British ass". After Cukor's departure, Leigh had to fight hard to keep the movie's Scarlett true to her view. Fleming's interpretation of her was that she was an out-and-out bitch as in the novel and that he had no desire to create any sympathy or insight for her.
Reportedly, one of the reasons stated by David O. Selznick to fire George Cukor as director was that Cukor, as a homosexual, would be unable to properly direct the love scenes between Rhett and Scarlett; hence he was replaced by macho director Victor Fleming. Although he was dismissed from the production, Cukor continued to privately coach both Vivien Leigh and Olivia de Havilland at their request on weekends, unbeknownst to both Selznick and Fleming.
Olivia de Havilland who has been the lone survivor of the four principal leads since the death of Vivien Leigh in 1967, was the only major cast member to live to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the picture's premiere on December 15 2009.
Super macho director Victor Fleming wanted Scarlett, for at least once in the film, to look like his hunting buddy Clark Gable's type of woman. So, when wearing the stunning low-cut burgundy velvet dress with rhinestones that Scarlett wears to Ashley Wilkes' birthday party in the second half of the film, to achieve the desired cleavage for Fleming, Walter Plunkett had to tape Vivien Leigh's breasts together.
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, investor John Hay Whitney and editor Hal C. Kern. Kern 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, Kern 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.
When Scarlett searches for Dr. Meade, making her way among 1,600 suffering and dying Confederate soldiers, to cut costs and still comply with a union rule that dictated the use of a certain percentage of extras in the cast, 800 dummies were scattered among 800 extras.
The character of Ashley Wilkes was based on Margaret Mitchell's cousin by marriage John "Doc" Holliday. Melanie was based on Mitchell's third-cousin, and Doc's first cousin and close friend, Mattie "Sister Melanie" Holliday. Doc moved West and became the gambler and gunfighter of "OK Corral" fame. Mattie joined a convent and became a nun, but maintained a correspondence with Doc, who died of tuberculosis in 1887, 13 years before Margaret Mitchell was born.
David O. Selznick asked Alfred Hitchcock for help with the scene in which the women wait for the men from the raid on Shantytown and Melanie reads "David Copperfield". Hitchcock delivered a precise treatment, complete with descriptions of shots and camera angles. Hitchcock wanted to show Rhett, Ashley, etc. outside the house, dodging the Union soldiers. He also wanted an exchange of meaningful glances between Melanie and Rhett inside the house. Virtually nothing of this treatment was used.
One month after the book was published, David O. Selznick purchased the movie rights from Margaret Mitchell for an unprecedented $50,000. At the time it was the highest sum that had ever been paid for an author's first novel. Realizing he had underpaid Mitchell, Selznick gave her an additional $50,000 as a bonus when he dissolved Selznick-International Pictures in 1942.
While directing the scene where Prissy says "Oh Miss Scarlett! I don't know nuthin' 'bout birthin' babies," director George Cukor told Vivien Leigh to actually slap actress Butterfly McQueen and to make it as realistic as possible, and directed Butterfly McQueen to scream. After many takes, McQueen broke down in tears, complaining that Vivien Leigh was hitting her too hard. In a later interview, Butterfly McQueen said that she "bargained" with the others, stating that if Vivien Leigh hit her, she would NOT scream, but if Vivien Leigh's hand only passed close to her face with the illusion of hitting her, she would scream as loudly as she could. McQueen also giggled and said that she thought "Prissy should have been slapped often, because she was horrid!"
The scene where Scarlett makes a dress out of a curtain later was later spoofed on The Carol Burnett Show (1967) in what became one of the most memorable comedy bits in TV history. Carol Burnett as "Starlet" O'Hara wears the curtains with the rod still in them. Harvey Korman as "Rat" Butler says: "Starlet, that gown is lovely", to which she responds: "Thank you. I just saw it in the window and couldn't resist it!"
Prominent Atlanta preacher Martin Luther King, Sr. (father of Martin Luther King) was invited to the cotillion ball held in Atlanta at the film's premiere. King, Sr. had been urged to boycott the festivities by other community leaders because none of the black actors in the film were allowed to attend. A forward thinker, King, Sr. attended because he was invited - and brought along his famous son with him.
There is historical dispute and ambiguity over exactly when Vivien Leigh was contracted to play Scarlett O'Hara. One theory holds that David O. Selznick had already secretly signed her for the role as early as February 1938, and that the nationwide "Search For Scarlett O'Hara", during which thousands of dollars were spent "testing" aspiring actresses for the part, was actually a well orchestrated publicity stunt on the part of David O. Selznick to keep alive interest in a very expensive film for which he did not yet have the money to produce. Supposedly, Selznick realized that the American audience might have difficulty accepting a British actress in such an important American role. Therefore, he made it look as if Leigh was discovered spontaneously during the filming of the Atlanta fire, which she 'happened' to be visiting together with Laurence Olivier, with whom she had an affair at the time. Another interesting story is that Selznick's brother Myron Selznick, an agent, introduced Vivien Leigh to David O. Selznick during the filming of the Atlanta fire and said "David, meet your Scarlett O'Hara". The truth of the matter is unknown, and may never be resolved.
For the scene in which Scarlett escapes the burning of the Atlanta Depot, a horse was needed to play woebegone, an old nag on the verge of collapse. A suitable candidate was finally found, but weeks later, when the horse was brought to the set, it had gained weight and its ribs were no longer visible. There was no time to find a replacement, so the makeup department painted dark shadows on its ribs to give the appearance of malnourishment.
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.
After Scarlett returns to a vandalized Tara, digs up a radish in the garden, then retches and gives her famous "As God is my witness... " line, the vomiting sounds were actually looped by Olivia de Havilland. One version of the story is that Vivien Leigh "could not" produce a convincing enough retching sound. Another version of the story is that Leigh "would not" make the retching sound because "it simply was not lady-like".
To portray Melanie, Olivia de Havilland spent most of the film in drab, dowdy costumes. She wore 2 elaborate dresses in the film: one when Melanie and Ashley announce their engagement, and a striking blue taffeta dress that Melanie wears to Scarlett's first wedding. Unfortunately, due to film aspect ratio at the time (long before the advent of widescreen), the screen could not accommodate two dresses built up with hoop skirts, so they had to be removed. Thus, de Havilland's rare appearance in a beautiful dress was shot from the waist up, with the skirt hanging limp.
Ann Rutherford got the call at 3:00am to be on location to pick cotton for a scene. She was licking the blood off her fingers when picking the cotton. David O. Selznick came by to check on her. She showed him the blood. He said, "Good! Good!".
A few of Margaret Mitchell's working titles for the novel included "Tomorrow is Another Day," "Not in Our Stars", "Bugles Sang True" and "Tote the Weary Load". The most famous working title was, "Ba! Ba! Black Sheep".
Mickey Kuhn, who played Vivien Leigh's nephew Beau Wilkes, also played the young sailor who helps her onto the streetcar in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). When Kuhn mentioned to someone else on the set that he had acted with Leigh as a child, word got back to her and she called him into her dressing room for a half-hour chat. In an interview in his seventies, Kuhn stated that Leigh was extremely kind to him and "one of the loveliest ladies he had ever met."
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.
In 2004, the movie was completely restored from the original three Technicolor negatives. This time, digital technology was employed to create results impossible to achieve with traditional methods. The negatives were scanned in at 2K resolution and digitally combined to remove all previous alignment problems and achieve perfect registration despite different amounts of shrinkage in the masters. The resulting digital master is of higher quality than any prints available so far - including the original prints from 1939. The color was timed to be identical to that of the surviving answer print of David O. Selznick, which is the color reference for the film. Reportedly, Selznick's original answer print was lost but it turned up five weeks into the 2004 digital restoration process. The color timing of the new digital master was subsequently stopped and started all over again from scratch. This 2004 digitally restored version looks truly astonishing, particularly when projected with a digital projector. An improved version, this time working at 4K resolution is already approved and should be finished in 2005. The 2009 Blu Ray Release comes from a new improved version 8K resolution scan and that is maximum possible limit for 70mm format.
The reminiscent wounded soldier in the makeshift Atlanta hospital talking to nurses Scarlett and Melanie about his "brother Jeff" was played by Cliff Edwards. Edwards later provided the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Walt Disney's classic Pinocchio (1940) and introduced the Academy Award winning song "When You Wish Upon A Star". Edwards is only heard, not seen, as the reminiscent solder in Gone with the Wind (1939).
When Melanie says that Bonnie's eyes are "as blue as the 'Bonnie Blue' flag", she is referring to the popular name of the single-star secession flag that was flown over Georgia after it seceded from the union (as well as over all other states that did so). Is consisted of a single white star over a field of blue. Tradition holds that it flew over Georgia for the first few months of 1861 before being replaced by the better-known "Stars And Bars" (mimicry of the USA flag) and "Battle Flag" (the X-shaped cross flag of racial controversy) which became the Confederate flags of later years.
Among lines cut out by the censor are Rhett Butler's: "I've never held fidelity to be a virtue" and "He can't be faithful to his wife with his mind, or unfaithful with his body." Another line that did not make it past the censor from Dilcey, the Negress: "An' what it takes to feed a hungry chil' ah got."
Scarlett's son, Wade Hampton Hamilton, was in an early draft of the script, but was cut from the story before filming began. He does appear in a book of paper dolls of the film's characters that was printed before his part was eliminated from the film.
Max Steiner was given only three months to compose the music, considering that 1939 was the busiest year of his career; in that year he wrote the music for twelve films. In order to meet the deadline, Steiner sometimes worked for 20-hours straight and took Benzedrine pills to stay awake. With almost three hours of music, Gone With the Wind had the longest film score ever composed up to that time.
David O. Selznick bought the rights to the best selling novel for $50,000. Louis B. Mayer, Selznick's father-in-law and head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, was determined to make Gone with the Wind as an MGM film. Mayer initially offered to buy Selznick out at a handsome profit. Warner Bros. offered Bette Davis, Errol Flynn and advantageous financing. Selznick'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 Selznick's part, a deal was struck with MGM on January 19, 1938 that gave acquired 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 Gable's $4,500 per week salary and one-third of Gable's $50,000 loan-out bonus. "GWTW" was, of course, a box office triumph, grossing over $20 million during its initial release alone. 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. Whitney later sold the rights back to MGM for $2.4 million.
Vivien Leigh's daughter was attending private school in Vancouver, British Columbia when the movie premiered there on February 16, 1940. She was at the Vancouver premiere, though unannounced, at her mother's insistence.
Olivia de Havilland was a contract player at Warner Bros. when MGM made the call to her for the part of Melanie. De Havilland 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.
None of the interior sets had ceilings. These, and the upper parts of many exteriors, were optically added or modified with matte paintings. This is most noticeable to the modern discerning eye in the last shot of the scene showing the many dead and wounded Confederate soldiers. The tattered Confederate flag, previously seen in the astonishing pullback crane shot blowing in the breeze, is now represented by a matte painting, hanging limp.
Nothing in the internal memos of David O. Selznick indicates or suggests that Clark Gable played any role in the dismissal of director George Cukor. Rather, they show Selznick's mounting dissatisfaction with Cukor's slow pace and quality of work. Almost half of Cukor's scenes were scrapped or later re-shot by others. From a private letter from journalist Susan Myrick to Margaret Mitchell in February 1939: "George finally told me all about it. He hated [leaving the production] very much he said but he could not do otherwise. In effect he said he is an honest craftsman and he cannot do a job unless he knows it is a good job and he feels the present job is not right. For days, he told me he has looked at the rushes and felt he was failing... the things did not click as it should. Gradually he became convinced that the script was the trouble... So George just told David he would not work any longer if the script was not better and he wanted the Sidney Howard script back... he would not let his name go out over a lousy picture... And bull-headed David said 'OK get out!'" Selznick had already been unhappy with Cukor ("a very expensive luxury") for not being more receptive to directing other Selznick assignments, even though Cukor had remained on salary since early 1937; and in a confidential memo written in September 1938, four months before principal photography began, Selznick flirted with the idea of replacing him with Victor Fleming. "I think the biggest black mark against our management to date is the Cukor situation and we can no longer be sentimental about it.... We are a business concern and not patrons of the arts... ."
The film sequence that is commonly referred to as "the Burning of Atlanta" was not the actual burning of the city by General Sherman in November 1864. Instead, the scene represents the night, two months earlier, when the retreating Confederate army torched its ammunition dumps to keep the Union army from capturing them.
The initial director, George Cukor, was fired over his problems with the screenplay and the constant alterations to it, which he received almost daily from producer David O. Selznick. When Victor Fleming came on board in February 1939, he also rejected the script. Production was shut down for 17 days while it was rewritten by Ben Hecht. Supposedly, Hecht was not allowed time to read Margaret Mitchell's original novel; instead, Selznick and Fleming would often play out parts from the book, to which Hecht had to write dialogue. Hecht was reportedly commanded by Selznick to write almost continuously for days without breaks, with Selznick bringing him food. Hecht used Sidney Howard's original script (which he felt was superb) as the basis for his rewrite, but only got to re-write the first half, which may be one of the reasons why many consider the first half of the movie to be superior to the second half. Ironically, Hecht did not receive official credit for his writing, with Howard listed as the movie's only screenwriter.
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 Gable's casting was his MGM contract. Gable 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.
If the number of total admissions are calculated, this is the most popular movie of all time in the US with over 200 million tickets sold. While having the advantage of being released several times in theaters, there were half to a third as many Americans alive when it was released, compared with other films that set the domestic box office record: Avatar (2009), Titanic (1997), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and Jaws (1975). (Direct comparisons are difficult as subsequent films have seen escalating ticket prices, had to compete with television and later the internet for audiences, and the emergence of home video formats in the 1980s reduced the need to see all films theatrically.)
Contrary to popular belief, this is not the first film to use the word "damn". The expletive was used in numerous silent intertitles and in several talkies, including Cavalcade (1933) and Pygmalion (1938). The latter was a British film, not subject to American strictures.
One of the reasons that Clark Gable hesitated to do the film was his participation in a previous costume drama Parnell (1937) in 1937. The film was a terrible, embarrassing failure and Gable regretted accepting the role.
Writer Sidney Howard was paid $2,000 a week to do the screenplay. Many other writers contributed to the final script, with the final sum paid to every one of them being $126,000. Howard received sole screen credit. David O. Selznick also wrote much of the screenplay.
After the opening titles, there is a scene-setting crawl which was originally written by Ben Hecht. Nothing like this appears in the novel and, privately, Margaret Mitchell was none too enthused by it.
While still in production, David O. Selznick wanted to evaluate an audience's response to the film. Months before the official gala premiere, the movie was given an unannounced "sneak" preview screening in a small theater in Riverside outside Los Angeles. The theater was scheduled to show Beau Geste (1939). At this time, many elements of the film were still unfinished, including the opening titles and musical scoring by Max Steiner. For this sneak preview, the studio quickly filmed a "makeshift" opening title sequence. These opening credits, which still survive, show a woman's hand turning the pages of a large book with colorful drawings of Southern scenes accompanied by printed text of the opening credits, accompanied by the opening title music from Selznick's own production of The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) (music by Alfred Newman).
Before casting had actually started, Margaret Mitchell was asked (during an interview) who, she felt, should play Rhett Butler. She replied, "Groucho Marx." This was obviously a joke, and Margaret Mitchell's way of reiterating that she wanted nothing to do with the making of the film.
The Tara plantation façade was located at the NW corner of the Forty Acres backlot in Culver City, CA and was dismantled in 1959. The location was later used for the Stalag 13 outdoor set of Hogan's Heroes (1965).
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. Howard reluctantly agreed to leave his Massachusetts farm and come to Hollywood to work on another draft with Selznick and then-attached director George Cukor. As Selznick was preoccupied with problems on the set of The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), Howard 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.
Leslie Howard privately felt that he was much too old to play Ashley Wilkes (the character was supposed to be about 21 at the start of the film). He wore extra make-up and a hairpiece to make him appear younger. Selznick was only able to persuade him to take the part by offering him a producer credit on Intermezzo: A Love Story (1939).
One of the first promising candidates for the role of Scarlett was Adele Longmire, who was seventeen at the time. Her parents did not permit her to travel to New York for a screen test, so Longmire did not appear in a film until several years later.
The character of Rhett Butler was partially inspired by Margaret Mitchell's husband nicknamed "Red", to whom she had a short and passionate marriage. Rhett Butler's initials on the handkerchief given to Melanie by Belle are "R.B." or "R.K.B." in the novel, which were the same as Red's- only rearranged.
David O. Selznick always wanted Leslie Howard to play Ashley. He was so certain Howard was right for the part that he never auditioned him but only screen tested him solely to see if he would photograph well in color without recording any audio. The footage of this screen test can be seen on the 70th anniversary box set along with copies of memos sent by Selznick throughout the studio advocating Howard for the role.
Leslie Howard would be shot down & killed in a civilian airliner by German fighter pilots over the Med a scant four years after Gone with the Wind's release. According to "Churchill's Bodyguard," a documentary series about the wartime protection of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the Germans thought they were shooting down Churchill's plane. The ninth episode in the series, "Winston's Double," details the possible reason for the mysterious death of and mistaken identity with the famed & beloved British actor, as the unintended consequence of intentional counter-intelligence aimed at protecting the Prime Minister and preserving perhaps the most secret of secrets of WWII--the cracking of the German Enigma codes by Britain--from being discovered by the enemy. Thus, the mild-mannered Mr. Howard became an unintended hero of WWII; a status so secret, however, that it could not & would not be revealed to the world for 62 years. The secret of the cracking of the codes would not be told to the world until 1975, 30 years after the war, at which time it came as a huge shock most of all to the Germans. The role Mr. Howard's death played in preserving that secret would not be pieced together & that story told until 2005 when the documentary series was produced, 60 years after the end of the war & 62 years after the deadly incident took place. Dear, dear Ashley--RIP.
In 1994, Judy Lewis went public with the information that she is indeed the love child of Clark Gable and Loretta Young, which had been the subject of speculation in Hollywood for years. (Young always claimed she went away for a while, found the girl, and adopted her.) Gable's real life daughter is a close friend of Gable's on-screen daughter in this film, Cammie King Conlon (Bonnie Blue Butler).
The 222 minute running time excludes the Overture Music (played before the credits), the Entr'acte Music (played during the intermission) and the Exit Music (played after the film ends). All three were especially recorded for the film soundtrack, and were heard at the film's original 1939 world premiere. They were seldom played by exhibitors until the 1997 New Line Cinema edition of the film restored them. They are also included on the DVD.
The crane shot where Scarlett searches for Dr. Meade, making her way among suffering and dying Confederate soldiers, was Val Lewton's idea. He had previously been David O. Selznick's assistant editor and went on to produce a string of B-grade horror movies throughout the 1940s.
"Scarlett Fever: The Ultimate Pictorial Treasury of Gone with the Wind: Featuring the Collection of Herb Bridges," a pictorial filled with original memorabilia from the film by William Pratt, was published by MacMillan in 1977.
David O. Selznick, in a memo from October 1939, about the movie's writing credits: "You 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."
Vivien Leigh was having a love affair with Laurence Olivier at the time the film was made. However, the two were separated because Olivier was working in New York on his stage works. Vivien Leigh was so determined to reunite with Olivier that she was willing to work until late at night in order to finish shooting more quickly.
In 1939, the Hollywood Production Code dictated what could and could not be shown or said on screen, and Rhett Butler's memorable last line presented a serious problem. A few of the suggested alternatives were "Frankly my dear... I just don't care," "... it makes my gorge rise," "... my indifference is boundless," "... I don't give a hoot," and "... nothing could interest me less." Although legend persists that the Hays Office fined David O. Selznick $5,000 for using the word "damn", in fact the Motion Picture Association board passed an amendment to the Production Code on November 1, 1939, to insure that Selznick would be in compliance with the code. Henceforth, the words "hell" and "damn" would be banned 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, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."
Three of the four principal actors, Leslie Howard, Vivien Leigh, and Clark Gable, died at relatively young ages. Olivia de Havilland outlived them all by at least 40 years and is the only one who remains alive in 2014. Ironically, her character is the only one who dies in the film.
Perhaps because the movie had so many cooks, it accumulated an unusually large number of major scenes which occur on stairways. Scarlett first views Rhett Butler down a stairway; Butterfly McQueen is slapped on the landing of a stairway for complicating Melanie's pregnancy; Scarlett shoots a Yankee in the face on a stairway; Rhett charges up a stairway with Scarlett in his arms to force himself on her; and Scarlett falls down a stairway and miscarries.
The Ku Klux Klan was written out of the screenplay as the organization to which Frank Kennedy turns after Scarlett is attacked in Shantytown. Producer David O. Selznick said that he had no desire to remake The Birth of a Nation (1915), telling screenwriter Sidney Howard in 1937, "I do hope you will agree with me on this omission of what might come out as an unintentional advertisement for intolerant societies in these fascist-ridden times. . . ."
The film is neatly divided in half. Almost exactly 50% of the movie takes place during the Civil War, the other half takes place in the period following the war, known as the Reconstruction. The transition comes at exactly the half-movie mark in some editions of the film, depending on how the overtures and intermission are edited.
Charles Hamilton's death certificate is signed Wade Hampton, a real-life Confederate general. In the book, Charles and Scarlett have a son, Wade Hampton Hamilton, named after this general. Little Wade was in an early draft of the script, but was cut before filming began. He does appear in a book of paper dolls of the film's characters that was printed before his part was cut.