Gone with the Wind (1939)

An epic romance set against the backdrop of the American Civil War which broke box-office records and swept the board at the 1939 Academy Awards.

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“The real auteur was the producer, David O. Selznick, the Steven Spielberg of his day, who understood that the key to mass appeal was the linking of melodrama with state-of-the-art production values.”
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, 1998

Such was David O. Selznick’s determination to pull off this epic adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s bestselling 1936 historical romance, he put to work handfuls of directors (Victor Fleming taking sole credit) and writers – not to mention all seven Technicolor cameras then available in the USA, to shoot the burning of Atlanta.

The romantic entanglements of Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), first with the gentlemanly Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) and then with the caddish Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), are charted against the backdrop of the American Civil War and its aftermath. Though its racial politics have undoubtedly dated, the film included among its ten Academy Awards the first Oscar for a black actor – though Hattie McDaniel, the woman in question, was famously barred from the film’s Atlanta premiere.

Vivien Leigh won two Oscars playing Southern ladies, the first for Scarlett O’Hara and then for Blanche DuBois in Elia Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) opposite Marlon Brando.

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