Gone with the Wind is a novel and a movie that epitomizes the Civil War in the minds of so many who have read or seen it. Margaret Mitchell began writing the novel while penned up in a little apartment after she became temporarily disabled due to an accident. She hid its existence from all of her friends for a very long time until one provoked her by stating that she didn’t take her life seriously enough to be a novelist. Her novel became one of the best selling books of all time.
The story centers on a stereotypical Southern Belle, Scarlett O’Hara, with beauty and coyness and all the snobbery possible. She is a jealous sort, and she likes to be the center of all attention, so when Ashley Wilkes, one of the gentleman of her acquaintance, begins to fix his attentions on Melanie, her cousin, Scarlett fixes her sights on Ashley. When she proclaims her love to him, however, he confesses that he loves her also but they are too different and cannot be together. Rhett Butler is also in the library during this interaction, and he shows himself when Ashley leaves. When Charles Hamilton asks Scarlett for his hand in marriage, she agrees, only hoping to make Ashley jealous. Instead, they have a double wedding in which Scarlett does, indeed, marry Charles, and Ashley marries Melanie.
The men go off to war, and Scarlett’s husband dies of pneumonia, making her a young widow. She leaves her home, Tara, to visit her aunt and her cousin Melanie in Atlanta. There she meets Rhett Butler again when he pays $150.00 to dance with her at a charity dance. This causes quite a scandal, of course, as Scarlett was only recently widowed. In spite of that, they begin to spend time together and become close, and Rhett asks her to run away with him. She declines, wishing instead to return to Tara. Scarlett, Melanie, and Aunt Prissy pack up their belongings and prepare to go back to Tara. Rhett accompanies her on her journey but must go back to the war when he safely gets them to the gates of Tara where Scarlett finds her home rundown, her father confused, and her mother dead.
Scarlett slowly rebuilds Tara, the war ends, and the men come back home. Scarlett and Ashley confess their love to one another once again, but still concede that they cannot run away together due to Scarlett’s commitment to her home. However, the taxes on her home are raised to $300, an amount that Scarlett cannot come up with. She goes to Atlanta to ask for Rhett’s help, but he is in jail. She marries Frank Kennedy for the $300, and her home is saved. Scarlett is once again widowed, however, when Frank is killed.
Time passes and once again Rhett and Scarlett begin dating, and finally Scarlett says “yes” when Rhett asks for her hand in marriage. They have a daughter, Bonnie Blue, but Scarlett still carries love for Ashley. Rhett leaves her and takes Bonnie with him. When he returns her, he finds that Scarlett is pregnant with his child, and neither of them wants the baby. He suggests that “maybe she will have an accident” out of anger, and tragically she later falls down the stairs and loses the baby. Later Bonnie also dies when she tries to make a jump and fails. Soon after Melanie also dies, and with that Scarlett realizes she never really did love Ashley. She rushes home to talk to Rhett and profess her love to him, but he already has plans to leave and go to Charleston. When Scarlett asks, “What shall I do?” Rhett answers with the most famous quote of the movie, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” With that Scarlett decides to return to Tara, the place where she can regain her strength and build her life again.
Movie producer David Selznick purchased the rights for Gone With the Wind in 1936 for a then-unheard of amount of $50,000. Great care was taken with sets and costumes and makeup to make the movie as authentic as possible. The actors were chosen carefully, and it is said that Clark Gable was always to be Selznick’s Rhett Butler. Scarlett O’Hara, however, was not envisioned by Selznick, and reportedly 1,400 actresses auditioned for the part, including those well known at the time; Katherine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, Lana Turner, and Lucille Ball were others considered for the part. However, the part instead went to Vivien Leigh, an actress little known and little seen. She was paid the least of the four main characters and was listed last on the playbill. Her name catapulted to the top, however, after she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Gone With the Wind captured ten Academy Awards in 1939, and was nominated for five others. David Selznick made his money back and more. The film to present has grossed over $200 million.
The following links give this information and more about this timeless classic, a book that became as equally popular as a movie.
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