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Robert Z. Leonard
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Frankly, My Dear, I Don't Give a Damn for this Turkey
Based on part of a 1979 Hollywood novel by Garson Kanin, "The Scarlett O'Hara Wars" covers producer David O. Selznick's lengthy search for the right actress to play Margaret Mitchell's Scarlett in his 1939 production of "Gone with the Wind." This 1980 television film was one of three episodes adapted from the Kanin novel for a limited television series, the others being "The Silent Lovers" and "This Year's Blonde." However, if the other two segments are as bad as this one, better to avoid them and spend the time re-watching the classic Selznick film. Perhaps as an episode of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" this campy tale of Selznick, his brother Myron, George Cukor, and Louis B. Mayer could provide enough giggles from Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot's commentary to prove entertaining. The famous characters portrayed do not converse with each other, they impart nuggets of historical information or exchange legendary gossip for the benefit of viewers. Among the film's mish-mash of fiction and non-fiction, the most amusing part concerns two con men, who pass themselves off as talent scouts for Selznick and seduce young women with promises of playing Scarlett; a cocktail party with all of the actresses competing for the part is also bitchily funny at times. Whether or not any of these episodes is based on fact is dubious, given Kanin's reputation for inventing fictional Hollywood lore, such as his myth-making spin on Tracy and Hepburn.
During an endless 98 minutes, a legion of famous names parades past, "Hello, my name is Vivien Leigh" or "Miss Ball? Yes, Lucille." For the most part, the performances are caricatures; Edward Winter as Clark Gable resembles a refugee from Madame Tussaud's wax works, and Carrie Nye does a drag-queen impersonation of Tallulah Bankhead. To be fair, some actors come off better than others. Although miscast, handsome Tony Curtis makes a brave attempt at being the bland-looking David O. Selznick; George Furth is passable as George Cukor, but looks nothing like him; and Harold Gould is not bad as Louis B. Mayer, but again lacks any physical resemblance. On the other hand, Clive Revill's Charlie Chaplin is a flamboyant embarrassment, and the scenes that depict screen tests will set viewers' teeth on edge, especially fans of "Gone with the Wind;" Gwen Humble's take on the Paulette Goddard test is best left without comment.
The obviously cheap production is colorful and brightly lit like a period sit-com; at times the dialog sounds like comedy as well, intentional or not. William Hanley, who actually won two Emmy awards during his career, wrote the clunky teleplay, and the limited series, "Moviola," which included this episode, garnered Emmy awards for makeup and costumes. However, anyone remotely interested in the background story on the making of "Gone with the Wind" should avoid this farcical turkey. Instead, they should turn to the outstanding 1988 documentary, "The Making of a Legend: Gone with the Wind," a masterful telling of the film's production from the novel's publication through the movie's numerous re-releases.
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