Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Book Tour, GONE WITH THE WIND

The 1939 film adaptation was such an Oscar-winning box office champ, that it was still making good money when I was in middle school.  The movie had not yet been aired on television and would be re-released theatrically, delighting old fans and acquiring new ones.  On May 3rd in 1937, novelist Margaret Mitchell won the Pulitzer Prize for her 1936 debut book.  Hollywood searched well over a year for the right actress to play the strong-willed Southern belle Scarlett O'Hara.  British actress Vivien Leigh won the role and instant Hollywood fame with her galvanizing performance.  The performance earned her the first of her two Oscars for Best Actress.
Vivien Leigh.  Lord have mercy, what a gorgeous face.  However, here's the opening of Margaret Mitchell's novel:

"Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.  In her face were too sharply blended the delicate features of her mother, a Coast arisocrat of French descent, and the heavy ones of her florid Irish father.  But it was an arresting face, pointed of chin, square of jaw."
Based on box office receipts, Hollywood had picked the perfect Scarlett, even though the actress playing her was breathtakingly beautiful unlike in the book.  And Leigh was a foreigner.  No one cared because, when it came to acting, she delivered the goods.  The film version won the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director (Victor Fleming).  When the book was a nationwide best-seller, Clark Gable was America's choice to play Rhett Butler.  He did and he was the only male in the cast to get an Oscar nomination.  He was a nominee for Best Actor.                                    

Three women were Oscar nominees.  Vivien Leigh won for Best Actress.  Olivia de Havilland was a Best Supporting Actress nominee and so was Hattie McDaniel.  McDaniel broke ground as the first black person to be nominated for an Oscar and the first to win.
A few years, I shot a pilot in and around the Atlanta area for a proposed film-related travel show.  Two of the happiest days in my entire broadcast career were the days I spent with the co-host and the entire location crew of that project.  I loved each and every moment I spent with them.  Because of this day in history, here's a clip of our visit to the Margaret Mitchell museum in Atlanta.  It was the home in which the novelist lived.

The tour was terrific.  I brought up to the guide that, in the film, Vivien Leigh's performance is so riveting, so fiery that your eye is constantly on her.  The only person in the entire cast who can pull focus away from Vivien Leigh is Hattie McDaniel.  The guide enthusiastically agreed and then revealed that novelist Margaret Mitchell had donated a huge amount of money to a Morehouse College, a traditionally black college.  The scholarship money was specifically to help medical students at the Atlanta school.  Why?  Probably because Mitchell had a black maid who was very dear to her.  The maid needed urgent medical attention one day and was rejected by a hospital because she was black.  The hospital would only care for white patients.  At that time, this news about Mitchell's financial generosity to an African-American college was a little known fact.

We were given the greenlight by a top PBS station to shoot our pilot/demo.  This was back in 2009.  Unfortunately, PBS did not pick up our show and put it into production as a weekly program.  What a loss.  I still feel it was a great show with a great crew.  Oh, well.  As Scarlett O'Hara said, "Tomorrow is another day."
And there you have a few extra facts about the impact of GONE WITH THE WIND.







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