Critique: ‘Gone With the Wind’ (1939)

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Directory of World Cinema: American Hollywood 1, edited by Lincoln Geraghty, published by Intellect Books, 2011

Even before one considers the details presented by the labyrinthine plot, Gone with the Wind is an epic Hollywood film by almost every definition.

The rights to Margaret Mitchell’s thousand-page novel were bought for the then record amount of $50,000. Sidney Howard has the sole credit for writing the script but several other writers were involved, not least Ben Hecht, the acclaimed writer of the screenplays for Scarface (1932), Stagecoach (1939), Some Like it Hot (1939) and His Girl Friday (1940). Dozens of famous (or soon-to-be-famous) actresses were tested for the part of Scarlett O’Hara including Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Norma Shearer, Barbara Stanwyck, and Lana Turner, yet a relatively unknown actress called Vivien Leigh got the role.

Furthermore, once shooting had begun, George Cukor, the original director who had carried the project for two years was immediately dropped in favour of Victor Fleming. Cukor would go on to direct The Philadelphia Story (1940) and My Fair Lady (1964), whilst Fleming was co-directing The Wizard of Oz (1939) at the time he was drafted in to complete Gone with the Wind.

By the end of this debacle, mostly caused it should be added, by the producer, David O.Selznick, the film had cost around $3.9 million – an incredible amount at the time. Perhaps more staggering is the fact that whilst the financially lucrative Avatar (2009) currently has a world-wide gross estimated to be approximately $2.6 billion, Gone with the Wind’s adjusted gross is around $5.4 billion…


The full 850 word version of this review is published in Directory of World Cinema: American Hollywood 1, edited by Lincoln Geraghty, published by Intellect Books, 2011. 

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