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GWTW (you know what) is coming

by Ted Magee

Picture Play 10/1939

Along about Thanksgiving, Americans will get their, first peek at what David O. Selznick fondly hopes will be the most important motion picture ever shown-the long-awaited "Gone with the Wind."

If money expended and untiring efforts of countless people are an accurate gauge, D. O. S. may find his dreams coming true. And most certainly those lucky few who have seen "rushes" of certain scenes swear they have never been so impressed and fascinated by a film before.

Selznick has spent something more than three million dollars on the job-no one is quite sure how much exactly. The picture represents approximately a million man hours of work, three quarters of which was in actual shooting. The other fourth represents one of the biggest jobs of research Hollywood has ever attempted.

When the equivalent of a million men work an hour apiece translating into photographic terms what one woman created in words all by herself, then the world has the full right to expect a powerful result.

Your correspondent started following this picture when carpenters first began building a replica of Peach Tree Lane (main drag of Atlanta in the story). That was around Christmas time. Actual production began in January and was finished in the waning days of July. During that time the picture had three different directors and maybe five others who might be called assistant or associate directors.

George Cukor was the first man named by Producer Selznick to direct the epic. Within a couple of weeks he had packed his bag and departed. Then came Victor Fleming, who thought he knew what D. O. S. wanted. After a -few weeks, Fleming was stricken down with illness, gave way to Sam Woods. The latter kept things moving until Fleming was able to return to the task a fortnight later.

Events like that gave rise to all kinds of wild rumors. Your correspondent heard variously that Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh were not on speaking terms, that Mr. Selznick went around grimly muttering to himself, that everyone was mad at everyone else. If such reports were true, it would have been difficult indeed to make anything good out of the picture.

On the other hand, our most assiduous attention to the production failed to provide one single supporting clue to such suspicions. Invariably when we walked on the set Mr. Gable was laughing and joking with Miss Leigh, or perhaps quietly discussing a scene with her. The production crew had their little jokes to tell. And Mr. Selznick, while he looked grimly contemplative and had little to say, certainly did not breathe fire nor wear a set of sharp horns.

The journalistic fraternity of Hollywood has not yet been given the privilege of viewing actual scenes from the picture. But we have watched many of them before the camera. It is very obvious to everyone that "Gone with the Wind" at least must have some tremendously thrilling big moments. And there is every reason to believe it will be utterly absorbing.

Vivien Leigh has proved daily on the set that she was a good choice for the role of Scarlett O'Hara. The adherents to the Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn schools of thinking may find that a little difficult to swallow But chances are a-swallow they will, come late autumn.

In the role of Scarlett, Miss Leigh has had every kind of an acting job to do. Much of I was difficult. Some of it was downright hazardous. I saw her, for instance, in a big mob scene where she dashing dawn Peach Tree Lane in a wild search for Rhett Butler. Now it is easy enough to dash down a quiet country road, but your troubles begin when the action taxes place on a street filled with fleeing refugees of war and hard-riding, hard-swearing troops making a desperate last stand.

Such was the task confronting Miss Leigh. And to make it worse, the street itself was two inches deep in red-brick dust (intended to simulate the red clay of Atlanta).

When the cameras started grinding, everyone on the set had a job to do. The refugees refug-ed. In fact, they ran like hell, their flimsy wagons stirring up great clouds of red dust. Into this maelstrom plunged Miss Leigh, darting down the center of the street. Cannon, hauled by teams of a dozen sweating horses, came galloping into the scene directly at her. The horse went one way, she the other. They only missed by carefully planned inches. It was dangerous.

She came out of the scene grinning. A sympathetic make-up girl begin brushing the coat of dust from her face and hair. And just when she was all pretty again, Director Fleming called for another take!

Miss Leigh and all the cast performed their tasks with a minimum of complaints. My admiration for her grew considerably. You will like her in this role.

The Gable fans will find him as fascinating as ever. He plays Rhett Butler with all the dash and charm Margaret Mitchell gave the character in her book.

Leslie Howard is just very much himself in the role of Ashley - and why not? Everyone in Hollywood saw Ashley in terms of Mr. Howard.  Very few people ever dreamed of Olivia de Havilland doing the role of Melanie, but the fact remains that she wound up her job at Selznick's with everyone doffing their collective hat to her.

Henry Hathaway, producer-director now making "The Real Glory" with Gary Cooper for Samuel Goldwyn at the latter's plant, told your reporter this: "I don't have to look at the rushes to know that 'Gone with the Wind' will be a great picture.  When a producer simply goes crazy over a picture - when he believes in it fanatically and will spend any amount of time and money on it for that reason alone - then the picture will be good.  Understand, I don't say that money alone will do the trick.  We have all seen some pretty miserable million-dollar pictures.  It must have the complete and sublime faith of the producer behind it.  When he is sold on the picture he will get the very utmost out of his cast.  And Dave Selznick is determined to make 'Gone with the Wind' a picture worthy of the book."

Probably three hours will be required to show it in full form.  That is one reason for Mr. Selznick's decision to road-show it for a year before shaving it down for general release.

We have already told you that the costs will exceed three million.  Perhaps with that deep an investment seldom return a grosss sufficient to pay their way.  Will Selznick, in all his zeal, take a loss with "Gone with the Wind"?

Well, we will let you in on a real secret.  MGM, which will distribute the film on a percentage basis, has been reliably reported to have offered Selznick one million dollars cold profit for the completed job.  And when a studio does that - brother, it thinks the take will be a lot bigger yet!

Best available gauge to the final outcome is a survey made by the Gallup poll people.  Their sample of public opinion indicated that fifty-six and a half million want eventually to see "Gone with the Wind."  And since Americans represent roughly sixty  percent of the total picture audience, eventually some hundred million human beings might view the film all over the world!

Those figures are unbelievably high, but don't forget that the Gallup poll has a great reputation for accuracy.  "Ben Hur," I believe, has the world's record for total revenues at something like twelve million dollars.  And believe it or not, the best guesser in the business think "Gone with the Wind" will beat that total, depression or not!


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