I've been watching GWTW since I was a young girl. I remember thinking it was much too long to sit through, having to split up the movie over several school nights, but the costumes kept bringing me back. I can quote almost every line; I know every expression, every turn of the head, every sniffle of fiddle-dee-dee.
Once you've got the movie securely in your pocket, you naturally delve into all the behind-the-scenes facts about the actors, the costuming, the sets and production notes.
Much has been written and researched on the movie. Leslie Howard thought he was too old to play Ashley Wilkes and dreaded the thought of portraying another weak, introspective character. To secure his role, producer David Selznick promised Howard a more robust role opposite Ingrid Bergman in which he would not only star but also co-produce (Intermezzo).
Vivien Leigh was virtually unknown before this role, and was in fact not cast until several weeks into filming. She was on set more than any other actor and the grueling production schedule took its toll on her. Of course, her costumes were as diverse as they were gorgeous. Who can forget the green, ruffled barbeque dress, the fringed, drapery dress or the stunning burgundy velvet number she wears to Ashley's birthday party? But for a large part of the movie, she wears a simple cotton day dress. Several versions of this were made to show the wear and tear over time. The final dress was actually sewn with the wrong side of the fabric facing out for maximum faded effect.
The Burning of Atlanta scene was actually the first scene filmed. The back lot at MGM Studios had to be cleared of several old sets, including one from the 1933 film, King Kong, starring Fay Wray. All the old sets were set up and burned down as Rhett Butler lead the wagon past the destruction. Incidentally, Vivien Leigh was not yet cast and a stand-in actress was playing Scarlett's role in the wagon seat.
During the wide-angled scene at the railroad yard, half the wounded Confederate soldiers were dummies, moving only with the aid of the live actors next to them. During the Atlanta premiere, one elderly soldier was reported to have said, "If we'd had that many men, we'd have won the war!"
Gone With the Wind was the only novel ever written by Margaret Mitchell. She was reluctant to hand over the manuscript, thinking it wasn't good enough, but she wrote about the South as she knew it, the South as it was in her childhood, a breed of people and a way of life that died with the Civil War. And even today, I thrill at the thought of seeing this brought to life on the big screen. I'll be glued to that theater seat for every minute of those four hours because frankly, my dear, I do give a damn!