This is my entry in the Clark Gable Blogathon hosted by Love Letters to Old Hollywood
The world was agog in the late thirties over Margaret Mitchell's book, Gone with the Wind. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was reading it and anticipating who would play whom in the upcoming film version of the book. If, that is, it would ever get made.
Yes, there were more than afe who were aghast that Hollywood would even consider TRYING to bring it to the big screen. After all, for the 30's at least, it was as racy as Old Mother Hubbard's porn stash.
But still, when it came time to cast the film, there was a long line of young and sometimes not so young starlets who thought themselves up to he task of bringing Scarlett O'Hara to cinematic life. The list of actresses who auditioned for the role is as long as the list of bad girls and boys on Santa's "Naughty List".
Among those who tried for the role are the then top actresses of the day, including Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Paulette Goddard, Tallulah Bankhead and Miriam Hopkins and about 100 others. The girl who won the role, Vivian Leigh, was a long-shot at the outset, but eventually won the role.
But there was only one real actor who was in the running for Rhett Butler. Not only was Clark Gable the preferred choice of the money men and casting bigwigs, but it seems that Mitchell herself had Gable in mind when she was creating the character. (Although there was a casting call, and some of those who vied for it make for an interesting "what if" when considering the possibilities of potential film versions.)
OK its time for one of those anecdotes which you may or may not find intriguing but that I like telling. Earlier this year I got to see Gone with the Wind in the theater (and experience that anyone should have, not just devotees of this film. As with a previous viewing of It's a Wonderful Life, the theater had one of it's employees address the audience prior to the show. And she showed up in authentic costume. No not authentic costume from the movie.
She told a few of us that she was telling her father about the event and her father suggested she do it Carol Burnett style. Just in case you have been living under a rock for most of your life I am including here the classic Carol Burnett parody.
Anyway, it turns out this poor girl had been one of those poor souls living under a rock most of her life and didn't know about the parody. So her father sat her down and watched it with her. And she loved it, and incorporated the same theme into her costume. (BTW, if you are a devotee of the film, but find the parody lower than a wart on a toad's ass, you probably won't like hanging out with me... I absolutely love it.)
Gone with the Wind (1939):
Scarlett O'Hara (Vivian Leigh) is one spoiled rotten brat. She has gotten her way all her life, and as a result, is like many of the spoiled rotten brats of today. At a party at her parents' plantation, Scarlett learns of an impending proposal for marriage to her best friend, Melanie (Olivia de Haviland). The problem is that the suitor is Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard), and Scarlett has had heart and mind set on obtaining Ashley as her own husband.
So inevitably, Scarlett, believing that she can get what she wants just because she wants it, tries to win Ashley's heart before he can marry her cousin. But Ashley, despite having some attraction to Scarlett, rebuffs her advances. After he leaves she angrily throws a vase against the wall, not realizing that Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) has been in the room and overheard every word.
In a pique over her loss of Ashley, Scarlett accepts a proposal of marriage from Melanie's brother, Charles (Rand Brooks). Scarlett doesn't really love Charles, however. More or less, she only accepts the proposal as a kind of "getting back" at Ashley for rebuffing her advances.
What with every good Southern boy and man going off to join the Confederacy and fight for the honor and integrity of the South, her new husband is among the early casualties of the war, But Scarlett doesn't really care. Her selfish mind is still focused on her next conquest and objective, ultimately trying somehow, someway, to get Ashley, of course.
Enter Rhett Butler again. At a dance to raise money for the South, Rhett bids a substantial amount of money for the honor to dance with Scarlett, and to the chagrin of those around her, she accepts, despite the fact that she has a moral obligation to be in mourning for her dead husband.
Ashley comes home on Christmas leave, and asks Scarlett to help take care of Melanie, who is now pregnant with their child. After the child is born, Scarlett sends word to Rhett to ask for his help in returning to Tara with Melanie and the new baby, so the whole crew leave as Atlanta burns. When they arrive at Tara, they find it in ruins with Scarlett's mother dead and her father a virtual mental case.
Sometime later Scarlett learns that her beloved Tara is in arrears on taxes. Having no money, and with the threat of a former overseer on the plantation threatening to buy it for a pittance when it goes on the auction block, Scarlett heads to beg Rhett for a loan (in the aforementioned dress made from the window curtains). But Rhett is basically broke.
So Scarlett, being the ever resourceful (conniving) girl that she is, she finds a way by getting the beau, Frank (Carroll Nye), of one of her sisters, Suellen (Evelyn Keyes), to marry her instead. Of course, Scarlett doesn't love him either. She just wants to have access to his wealth to save Tara.
If this is beginning to sound like a soap opera, I'm pretty sure this was the predecessor of those same soap operas we have today. Eventually Frank dies (didn't see that coming...NOT!) and Scarlett eventually marries Rhett. Which is a tumultuous marriage, to say the least. Because after all, Scarlett still loves Ashley and has hopes that someday God will include him in His plans for Scarlett. Of course, eventually Rhett tires of the little biddy and leaves her. (Good for him!)
Except that Scarlett finally grows up (a little too late) and realizes that she loves Rhett after all. But Rhett doesn't give a damn anymore.
Gone with the Wind, despite some negative predictions about how it could be successfully made in the wake of the Hays code restrictions, was a resounding success, and went on to dominate the Oscars that year, winning in virtually every category for which it was nominated. Significantly, however, Gable lost the Best Actor to Robert Donat for Goodbye, Mr. Chips, which may be one of the most significant Oscar faux pas in the history of the Academy (author's opinion).
It was, without a doubt, a significant role in the actor's career. Ask anyone to name one movie that Clark Gable starred in and I bet 99% or more will immediately respond with Gone with the Wind. (the other 1% will probably say "Who is Clark Gable?"... which makes it even more significant if you ask me.)
Well folks, time hitch up the horses and pull this old wreck home. Drive safely, folks.