Gone with the Wind (film notes)

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
·  Uncredited:
·  George Cukor
·  Sam Wood
Produced by / David O. Selznick
Screenplay by / Sidney Howard
Based on / Gone with the Windby
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 (original)
·  Warner Bros. (current)
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)
Country / United States
Language / English
Budget / $3.85 million
Box office / $400 million

Gone with the Wind is a 1939 American historical epic film 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 white Southern point of view.

The film received ten Academy Awards (eight competitive, two honorary), a record that stood for 20 years[1] until Ben-Hur surpassed it in 1960.[2] In the American Film Institute's inaugural Top 100 Best American Films of All Time list of 1998, it was ranked fourth, and in 1989 was selected to be preserved by the National Film Registry.[3] The film was the longest American sound film made up to that time – 3 hours 44 minutes, plus a 15-minute intermission – and was among the first of the major films shot in color (Technicolor), winning the first Academy Award for Best Cinematography in the category for color films. It became the highest-grossing film of all-time shortly after its release, holding the position until 1966. After adjusting for inflation, it has still earned more than any other film in box office history.



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. Scarlett O'Hara is flirting with the two Tarleton brothers, Brent and Stuart, who have been expelled from the University of Georgia. Scarlett, Suellen, and Careen are the daughters of Irish immigrant Gerald O’Hara and his wife, Ellen O'Hara, who is of aristocratic French ancestry. The brothers share a secret with Scarlett: Ashley Wilkes, whom Scarlett secretly loves, is to be married to his cousin, Melanie Hamilton. The engagement is to be announced the next day at a barbecue at Ashley's home, the nearby plantation Twelve Oaks.

At the Twelve Oaks party, Scarlett notices that she is being admired by Rhett Butler, who has been turned out of West Point and 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. The ladies retire to take an afternoon nap, but Scarlett sneaks out to be alone with Ashley in the library, and confesses her love for him. He admits he has always secretly loved Scarlett but that he and the sweet Melanie are more compatible. She accuses Ashley of misleading her and slaps him in anger. Ashley exits as Rhett, who has been sleeping unseen on a couch, reveals he has overheard the conversation between Ashley and Scarlett. Rhett promises to keep her secret and Scarlett leaves the library in haste. The barbecue is disrupted by the announcement that war has broken out. As the men rush to enlist, the ladies are awakened from their naps. As Scarlett watches Ashley kiss Melanie goodbye from the upstairs window, Melanie's shy younger brother Charles Hamilton, with whom Scarlett had been innocently flirting, asks for her hand in marriage before he goes. Though she does not love Charles, Scarlett consents. They 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 tells Scarlett she knows she is going there only to wait for Ashley's return. Scarlett, who should not attend a party while in deep mourning, attends a charity bazaar in Atlanta with Melanie. There, Scarlett is the object of shocked comments on the part of the elderly women who represent proper Atlanta society. Rhett, now a heroic blockade runner for the Confederacy, makes a surprise appearance. To raise money for the Confederate war effort, gentlemen are invited to offer bids for ladies to dance with them. Rhett makes an inordinately large bid for Scarlett and, as the elderly ladies murmur objections, Scarlett agrees to dance with him. As they dance, Rhett tells her he intends to win her, which she says will never happen.

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 while he is visiting on Christmas furlough, although they do share a private and passionate kiss in the parlor on Christmas Day, just before he leaves for the war. In the hospital, Scarlett and Melanie care for a convalescent soldier.

Eight months later, as the city is besieged by the Union Army in the Atlanta Campaign, Melanie goes into premature and difficult labor. Keeping her promise to Ashley to "take care of Melanie," Scarlett and her young house servant Prissy must deliver the child without medical assistance. Scarlett calls upon Rhett to bring her home to Tara immediately with Melanie, Prissy, and the baby. He appears with a horse and wagon and takes them out of the city through the burning depot and warehouse district. Instead of accompanying her all the way to Tara, he sends her on her way with a nearly dead horse, helplessly frail Melanie, her baby, and tearful Prissy, and with a passionate kiss as he goes off to fight. On her journey home, Scarlett finds Twelve Oaks burned, 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. Scarlett learns that her mother has just died of typhoid fever and her father's mind has begun to fail 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 Union currency in his wallet, enough to sustain her family and servants for a time. With the defeat of the Confederacy and war's end, Ashley returns. 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 dies after he is thrown from his horse in an attempt to chase from his property a Scalawag, his former plantation overseer who now wants to buy Tara.

Scarlett realizes she cannot pay the rising taxes on Tara implemented by Reconstructionists. Knowing Rhett is in Atlanta, she has Mammy make an elaborate gown for her from her mother’s drapes. 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, she encounters her sister’s fiancé, the middle-aged Frank Kennedy, 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, and after becoming Mrs. Frank Kennedy, Scarlett takes over his business and becomes wealthy. 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. 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. Rhett adores her. 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 cannot keep him away.

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, 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, 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. 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 behavior and offers a divorce, which Scarlett rejects saying it would be a disgrace. Rhett decides to take Bonnie on an extended trip to London only to realize, after Bonnie suffers a terrible nightmare, that she still needs her mother by her side. Rhett returns and Scarlett is delighted to see him, but he rebuffs her attempts at reconciliation. She tells him that she is pregnant again. An argument ensues, and Scarlett, enraged, lunges at Rhett, 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 feelings for Ashley. As Scarlett is recovering, little Bonnie dies while attempting to jump a fence with her pony. Scarlett blames Rhett; 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, Melanie asks Scarlett to look after Ashley for her, as Scarlett had looked after her for Ashley. With her dying breath, Melanie tells Scarlett to be kind to Rhett because he loves her. Outside, Ashley collapses in tears, forcing Scarlett to realize that Ashley only ever truly loved Melanie. Scarlett runs home to find Rhett preparing to leave. She pleads with him, 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.

As Rhett walks out the door, she pleads, "Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?" He 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!" It ends with a silhouette of Scarlett standing under a large tree, looking forward. In the distance lies Tara.


·  Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara

·  Clark Gable as Rhett Butler

·  Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes

·  Olivia de Havilland as Melanie Hamilton

·  Hattie McDaniel as Mammy

·  Butterfly McQueen as Prissy

·  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

·  Oscar Polk as Pork

·  Victor Jory as Jonas Wilkerson

·  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