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Selznick himself would have given his highest rating of approval to
this fascinating documentary which traces the birth of the Margaret
Mitchell novel through its publication and on to Hollywood, where it
became a major chore for David O. Selznick to wittle the 1,000 page
novel into a workable screenplay. Selznick's work habits are examined
at length and the kind of stress his perfectionist behavior gave
everyone around him is understandable. But his persistence paid off
and, of course, the end result was all anyone could hope for.
Having read many books on this subject, I can assure you this is a project that is well worth viewing for anyone who has more than a passing interest in the making of the film. There are some interesting and revealing comments by George Cukor, the original director on the film who was fired after a few weeks of filming but still remained on good terms with Selznick after Victor Fleming took over.
Most interesting aspect are a series of tests made by various actors and actresses under consideration for roles--most of whom were highly unsuitable if the tests are to be taken seriously.
Missing among the cast members who speak about the film is Olivia de Havilland, who was probably too heavily involved in personal matters at the time this was being put together and could not find time to make her contribution--which would have been a significant one. Fortunately, she turned up for last year's DVD release of the film in a segment called "Melanie Remembers". But Evelyn Keyes and Ann Rutherford do a nice job of describing some behind-the-scenes events as well as the initial premiere of the film in Keyes' home town of Atlanta. Butterfly McQueen recalls what it was like to play Prissy.
Excellent commentary by Christopher Plummer is a definite plus, and the well written script gives the viewer a complete feeling of what it was like for everyone involved in the making of this great classic. By the time it reaches the film's world premiere reaction, you will be thoroughly involved and entertained by the interesting presentation of facts. As an added bonus, much of the documentary is accompanied by selections from Max Steiner's massive score.
Summing up: A documentary you can't afford to miss.
Gone With The Wind is a story you'll never forget. The documentry about Gone With The Wind was excellent because it explains in detail about the movie, how it was all set out and how long it took to take to decide who would take the main parts in it. It must have been very difficult for the people who made this movie to make up their minds of who shall be the best person to play and to take part in Gone With the Wind. I think it all started in 1937 when the people asks some Actors and Actresses to take an audition and show what they have got. The documentry is fantastic to watch. I give it 10 out of 10.
David O. Selznik, one of the most successful producers in the Hollywood
of the 1930s, probably never considered what he was getting into, when
he decided to bring Margaret Mitchell's massive novel, "Gone with the
Wind", to the movies. The monumental task to recreate the book, which
was a favorite among the American public of the era, was not an easy,
or a happy undertaking by Mr. Selznik, or the people that were involved
in the project.
David Hinton's documentary, which was shown by TCM recently, is a gem of a film because it gives a fantastic account of all that went on to make the film. "Gone with the Wind" stories have been told forever, or so it seems, yet, in the documentary they are examined thoroughly again by a lot of Mr. Selznik's collaborators who were still around in 1989 to tell the story.
The best thing in "Making of a Legend: Gone with the Wind" is the footage where many stars were tested for the leading roles. The characters of the book were coveted by most of the actors of the time because they realized the importance about appearing in it would mean to their careers. We see actors of the stature of Jean Arthur, Joan Bennett, Tallulah Bankhead, among the ones that wanted to contribute to the movie, yet, they were not chosen.
David O. Selznik comes across as a disorganized genius who had no idea about what he was doing. His memos to the cast and crew were something not to be believed. Some people resented this way of communication. His battle with George Cukor is also told and how Victor Fleming, who by all accounts was not the perfect candidate, came to be the one that was able to complete the picture.
There are some excellent comments, especially from Ann Rutherford and Evelyn Keyes, who explain what they saw while the film was in production. Some others also come on to tell us their view about what the film changed their lives and the experience of having worked with a mad man who was so intent in getting the movie done. It's a good thing this film was done during the 1930s because it would probably had cost more than 200 million in today's dollars! Thanks to director David Hinton this epic movie is examined and put in its proper context to help the viewer understand the way Hollywood worked during the time it decided to convert the book into a movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Making Of A Legend: Gone With The Wind (1989): Starring the
narrator Christopher Plummer, the voices of L. Jeffrey Selznick, Arthur
E. Arling, Katherine Brown, Arthur Fellows, Ann Rutherford, Evelyn
Keyes, Butterfly McQueen, Raymond A. Klune, James E. Newcom, Marcella
Rabwin, Harry L. Wolf and the Archive Footage of Margaret Mitchell,
David O. Selznick, Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Olivia De Havilland,
Leslie Howard, Hattie McDaniel, Oscar Polk, Carole Lombard, Paulette
Goddard, Susan Hayward, Jean Arthur, Tallulah Bankhead, Joan Bennett,
George Cukor, Victor Fleming......Director David Hinton.
This is director David Hinton's magnificent 1989 documentary about the making of the 1939 Oscar winning epic "Gone With The Wind", still considered by many to be the greatest film of the 20th century. Hinton's documentary first aired on PBS/KCET around 1990 and is now a bonus feature in the new Gone With The Wind 4-disc DVD Collector's Edition. This is a long, wonderfully detailed documentary that takes the viewers back to late 30's Hollywood for a step-by-step look at the making of this beloved American movie classic. For the most devote "Wind" fan, this is a huge treat. Veteran actor Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music) provides the narration and Max Steiner's enchanting score for the film plays in the background. The film was the product of ambitious director David O. Selznick, who bought the rights from Atlanta author Margaret Mitchell, whose Pulitzer prize winning novel had sold millions. We see into the lives of the prominent forces behind the film- Selznick, Mitchell, the principal actors, namely Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, as well as the buzz around the film. Selznick pulled one of the greatest publicity stunts of the time. He had cast Hollywood newcomer Vivien Leigh as Scarlett but still continued to deceive the public into thinking the perfect Scarlett had not yet been found. Because Scarlett O'Hara was the most coveted movie role for an actress in the late 30's, several brand name and no-name actresses were considered for the role and auditioned, including top choices Bette Davis (who received her second Oscar for the '38 film "Jezebel" in a similar role to Scarlett), Paulette Goddard who was chummy with the director, Katherine Hepburn, Southern-born Tallulah Bankhead, Miriam Hopkins (who had performed the Broadway play Jezebel) Joan Bennett, Susan Hayward, Lana Turner, Jean Arthur, even Lucille Ball. We watch as Vivien Leigh and her soon-to-be husband Laurence Olivier journey from England to Hollywood, hoping to land the role she was born to play. We watch as production is besieged with several problems including the chaotic use of three different-minded directors (Cukor, Wood and Fleming), difficulties with actors and directors including Gable's clash with Cukor, censorship and Hay's Code problems with Gable's infamous use of the word "damn" in the final scene and faulty, early Technicolor process. Finally, after two long years of filming, "The Wind" sweeps Atlanta for its December premiere in the grandest spectacle the town had ever seen, never mind the onset of World War II just around the corner. It swept the Oscars in 1940, earning Selznick, Leigh and Hattie McDaniel their Oscars. Selznick would never make a greater film. His tomb reads "Director of Gone With The Wind". We see interviews with actresses Evelyn Keyes and Ann Rutherford (Suellen and Careen, Scarlett's sisters) and Butterfly McQueen (Prissy) who was still alive to comment on the film but who would die tragically in 1995. We watch as the film remains popular years afterward and when the remaining cast attends the 1961 Civil War Centennial and we learn about the tragic deaths of Leslie Howard, Clark Gable and Margaret Mitchell. America would see re-releases of the movie throughout the years, even well into the late 90's. This documentary strips the romantic glamor of the film to reveal it was just as difficult to make as any expensive film then and now. But the documentary honors the great film as a work of art, a film that will be loved for years to come. Gone With The Wind fans will cherish this priceless documentary. It is a film that represented the zenith of old Hollywood movie-making, a film based on a great American novel which still captures the imagination of modern-day audiences. Return to Tara with Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, watch as we learn how Atlanta fell in a studio back lot which was once the set of "King Kong", watch as an obscure English girl reaches film immortality, watch the first black actress win her Oscar, learn the cold facts about the movie, look behind the scenes to discover beauty born out of madness and mayhem and watch as a legendary movie comes to glorious life. Enjoy!!
Outstanding documentary dealing with the trials and tribulations of
making this 1939 monumental pictures.
There were plenty of problems in production, casting,etc. Who knew that Paulette Goddard came so close to playing Scarlett O'Hara or that Jeffrey Lynn was so inadequate in the role of Ashley Wilkes?
Made at the time that Hitler and Mussolini were menacing Europe, there is plenty of backstage gossip.
David O. Selznick was a brilliant producer. His on screen disagreements with famed director George Cukor led to the latter leaving the film.
The writing of Margaret Mitchell's classic book for motion picture viewing was memorably discussed.
It was wonderful seeing many of the cast members participate in this wonderful documentary.
Hattie McDaniel's supporting Oscar's acceptance speech must serve as an inspiration to us all. Like so many in the memorable cast, she left us way too young.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Everything you ever wanted to know about *GWTW* -- from Margaret Mitchell recalling her mother driving her out to see the ruined plantations around Atlanta, and telling her that she'd better learn to survive, to its historic status as being one of the most beloved movies of all time even when it's not politically correct to love the movie. It is a documentary combining spoken word, letters, memos, newsclips, diaries and recreations in a comprehensive style that predates Ken Burns by quite a bit. It is a dizzying montage of information and images that tells the story of the film a monumental achievement that is one of the few films to not disappoint the lovers of the book. Selznick purchased the rights to the story for $50,000 a fortune at the time, for a story so sprawling that it was impossible to visualize on the screen. As a superb craftsman, even Selznick was intimidated not just by the scope of the story, but by the public's obsession with it. So it is with tender care that he began preproduction and scriptwriting on this sacred monster. The footage that we see in the finished version of *GWTW* shows only a small part of the passion, heartache and bloodletting that went on behind the scenes. Most impressive is the existing array of screen tests that were done for the movie evidence that the much-ballyhooed Search for Scarlett O'Hara was far more than hype from a hotheaded publicist. Showing dozens of would-be Scarletts, Melanies, Ashleys and Belles, the most stunning footage is the multiple and lengthy tests that Paulette Goddard did for the role of Scarlett. She exhibits a cunning and slyness that is perfect for Scarlett, and the newsreports go crazy announcing her unconfirmed appointment. It is the sheer numbers of tests that Goddard did the continually amazing, and she had every reason on earth to believe she had the part. It's easy to see that she would have been delightful as Scarlett, but could she have made Scarlett into the legend that Vivian Leigh did? Fraught with tension, shooting began without Scarlett having been cast. The story behind the filming of the burning of Atlanta is riveting in its detail, showing how old sets from *King Kong* and *Birth of a Nation*, among others, were burned and then multiplied on film to create the effect. It was during the filming of this sequence that Selznick's brother, Myron, legendarily arrived on the set with a gorgeous young woman in tow and said to the producer, "I'd like you to meet your Scarlett." And the film's fate was sealed with the casting of the tragic and incandescent Vivian Leigh. Though Selznick was reviled by Hedda Hopper, among others, for casting an English girl, instead of a red-blooded American, even Margaret Mitchell herself said, "Better and English girl than a Yankee." Goddard had been frontrunner up to the last second when Leigh waltzed in and stole the part from under her nose. It must have been an unbearably bitter disappointment, and Goddard never again realized the potential she showed in these tests. But, it is also only a small facet of what happened behind the scenes. After a time, miles of film were scrapped when original director George Cukor was fired and replaced by Victor Fleming. There's quite a tale behind *that* that neither the documentary, nor we, will go into. The personal dramas are many, with Selznick's drug use, health problems and subsequent breakdown being addressed. The volume of information collected is awesome. From Butterfly McQueen speaking about her role as Prissy ("I wouldn't let them slap me, but I thought Prissy needed to be slapped I thought she was horrid."), to the footage of Hattie MacDaniel's Academy Award speech that is so sincere and touching that it must be considered a gift that we can still see it. It was a scandal that the movie cost $3,000,000 to make: a jaw-droppingly small figure for a movie that paid for itself many, many times over and *that's* just in financial terms.
The great ingenuity and care taken in the preparation of this documentary (over 2 hours in length) reveals the love that the people involved had for this project. It is filled with detail from valuable primary sources: letters, memoes, telegrams, production records, story boards, photographs, voice recordings, film (including home-movies and screen tests, as well as the more usual news footage, outtakes, and movie clips), interviews with those still living, and even employs the actual typewriter Margaret Mitchel used to write her novel. It is unusually well written and edited, and offers many interesting parallels between sentiments expressed by characters in the film and the feelings and motivations of the people who worked on it, via the judicious juxtaposition of clips from the movie with the documentary material. The VHS videotape may not be readily available. I got it from the NY Public Library. Hopefully, this production will be reissued on DVD.
This is perhaps the best 'making of' documentary I have ever seen. This is incredibly impressive considering the gap of almost 50 years between the debut of "Gone With The Wind" and this documentary. Usually, the longer the interval between films, the less thorough the making of film is--but this is not the case here, as the film is approximately two hours long. Now most of the actors involved in making the original were either dead or declined to participate, yet this didn't hurt the film because there was so much tremendous background material that kept it all interesting from start to finish. The narration by Christopher Plummer was lovely, the few guest appearances were very nice and the gobs of wonderful hidden gems (such as showing the scenes with and without the matte paintings) make this come alive. If you love "Gone With The Wind", then you must see this film made for Turner Classic Movies---it will keep your interest from start to finish and have you marvel at how all the pieces actually came together. See this film!
Whatever your opinion of the 1939 classic, 'Gone With The Wind' (and I
happen to think it is the best film ever made), this documentary will
have something to interest you. Whether it be the headache of securing
expensive film rights to an 'impossible' bestseller and then wondering
how to recoup your investment; or the power struggles between producer,
director(s) and writers; or the studio shenanigans to ensure the best
possible cast; or the celebration of a job well done, it is all here.
Surviving cast members Evelyn Keyes, Ann Rutherford, and Butterfly McQueen (but curiously not Olivia de Havilland) contribute alongside Selznick colleagues and archive footage/reconstructed interviews with participants now dead. We see the story of GWTW from the first low-key appearance of Margaret Mitchell's soapy book, the fever as a nation sent it up the bestseller lists, and the struggle to condense its 1000 plus pages into a manageable film.
We see the screen tests of failed Scarletts, Melanies, and Ashleys (although there was only ever one man really in the frame for Rhett - the wonderful Clark Gable). We hear the romanticised story of how Vivien Leigh won the part of Scarlett. Finally, we hear about the film's preview and the rapturous reception it received before its glitzy premiere in - where else? - Atlanta, Georgia.
A worthy companion to a fabulous Follywood film. GWTW, all sprawling four hours of it, has no equal in the golden days of Tinseltown, and this documentary gives you just a few reasons why.
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