Take a Look at the Largest Collection of 'Gone With The Wind' Memorabilia Ever Assembled
With more than 300 original items, the exhibit is the largest and most comprehensive exhibit on the film, says Steve Wilson, curator of the exhibition and the museum's curator for film. He recently discussed the exhibit with Texas Standard.
The epic Civil War drama won 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Lead Actress and Best Director and it is still considered the top movie moneymaker of all time when adjusted for inflation.
"Selznick thought it would be an important production, but just like every other production he was making," Wilson says. "The average film for him at that time – from the time he had the idea and bought the property to release – would be, maybe, 10 months. He made half a dozen movies during the time he was trying to make 'Gone With The Wind.'"
"Selznick bought the rights to the novel just as the novel was coming out," Wilson continues. "This novel became a runaway bestseller within 10 days after its release, and it was on every bestselling list of the country. And consequently everybody who was reading the novel knows that David Selznick of all people is going to make a film of this novel. So immediately starts this … parlor game across America, of people trying to guess who's going to play the different parts."
Much of the exhibit is dedicated to the casting of Scarlett in a section called "I am Scarlett."
The role was coveted by many high-profile ingénues of the era, including Lana Turner, Talullah Bankhead and Paulette Goddard. Selznick finally decided to cast British actress Vivien Leigh, who Selznick had met and signed 10 days before principal photography began in late January 1939.
Many of the 75,000 fan letters and correspondence on display in the collection center around the character, and controversial casting of Scarlett O'Hara.
The exhibit delves into the controversy surrounding the production, including protests from the African-American press that the film would whitewash the Ku Klux Klan and slavery in the South. The production received hundreds of letters of concern.
"Just about everyone in his organization told him, 'Just ignore it, it will go away,'" Wilson says. "But [Selznick] said 'No, we need to answer these letters'. What he did was he had his staff come up with a form letter to answer the protests. And rather than sending out mimeographed letters, he had them take that form letter and respond individually to each writer."
"Selznick was what he called a Hollywood Liberal, with a capital H and a capital," Wilson continues. "He wanted to do the right thing. And very early on, in the fall of '36, he said, 'I have no intention of making an anti-Negro film.' [And] that was one of the things he did – eliminate the mention of the Klan in the movie."
"The Making of 'Gone With The Wind'" is free and open to the public, and runs from Sept. 9 to Jan. 4 at the Harry Ransom Center museum at The University of Texas at Austin.