20 Things You Might Not Have Known About Gone with the Wind

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Getty Images

1. Scarlett was cast after filming began.

Producer David Selznick still hadn’t decided, between the many leading actresses at his disposal, who would be best to play Scarlett. But he only needed a stand-in to start filming, since the tremendous “Burning of Atlanta” scene was one of the first. As the fire blazed in the background, actress Vivien Leigh joined Selznick on the director’s platform (after wangling an introduction from his brother), and was, legend says, called in for a screen test immediately.

2. Leigh almost lost the part after her first test reading.

Leigh was English, and she didn’t change her accent when she gave her first informal reading. As a popular actress on the London stage, Leigh was accustomed to clear projection and regal pronunciation. Says director Cukor, “She began reading this thing very sweetly, and very, very clipped.... So I struck her across the face with the rudest thing I could say. She screamed with laughter. That was the beginning of our most tender, wonderful friendship."

3. The Daughters of the Confederacy campaigned against Vivien Leigh

The Ocala, Florida chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy were greatly offended that a British actress had been chosen to play such an iconic southern character. However, when they were told that the role could go to Katharine Hepburn, they stopped their protest. Better an Englishwoman than a Yankee.

4. There is screen test footage of the women considered for Scarlett.

It’s fascinating to watch a parade of different actresses declare their love for Ashley in the library scene, each with a mildly different take on who they thought Scarlett was.

5. The author’s own choice for Rhett was Groucho Marx (or not).

The Rhett Butler Margaret Mitchell described in her book was a great deal more dark and nefarious than the one portrayed by the swaggering and polished Clark Gable. Mitchell had been "deviled by the press and the public" since she'd sold the film rights to her novel and would joke in exasperation that comedian Groucho Marx best inhabited the qualities she’d given Rhett. Or Donald Duck, for all she cared.

6. The first director was fired...

Gone with the Wind's original director was George Cukor, who had spent more than two years in planning and developing the film. Officially, he left the picture when he and producer Selznick couldn’t come to terms on the pace of filming and on how much expensive authenticity and detail Cukor was insisting on. However, the rumors surrounding his departure were more salacious, suggesting that Cukor, who was as openly gay as possible for the era, had friction with Clark Gable. Some say Gable didn’t want to work with a homosexual, and some say Gable had been a homosexual hustler in his youth and didn’t want Cukor to expose him. And some just believed that, since Cukor had a reputation for making “woman’s films,” Gable thought he’d lose the spotlight. 

6. ...and Ultimately, the film had a total of three directors.

After Cukor left 18 days into shooting, he was replaced with Victor Fleming, who had been directing another timeless classic, The Wizard of Oz. Later in production, Fleming reportedly had a (possibly faked) nervous breakdown, threatening to drive his car off a cliff. He left for a few well-earned weeks to combat  exhaustion, at which point Sam Wood took over until Fleming returned. The finished product was the result of Cukor’s 18 days of filming, Fleming’s 93, and Wood’s 24.

7. There is long-lost, behind-the-scenes footage of the filming.

Howard Hall was an Iowan business magnate and film enthusiast. At some point during the filming of the barbeque scene, Hall was allowed access to the set. There, he filmed the famous cast and crowds of extras lolling around Busch Gardens, where the scene was filmed. The film lay inside Hall’s Brucemore Mansion until the 2000s, when it was discovered amid other home movies when the estate was turned over to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

8. Leslie Howard absolutely despised playing Ashley.

Howard was a wan, slim man in his early 40s, and had done a lifetime of roles portraying weak men. He only agreed to portray Ashley Wilkes, who was supposed to be a handsome man of 21 at the start of the film, because Selznick offered him a producer credit in an upcoming film. He described his feelings in a letter to his daughter:

I hate the damn part. I'm not nearly beautiful or young enough for Ashley, and it makes me sick being fixed up to look attractive.

He even disdained the film itself: "Terrible lot of nonsense – Heaven help me if I ever read the book.''

9. Writing the final script for the movie was such a horrible, hilarious event that it was developed into its own play.

The stage comedy Moonlight and Magnolias tells the mostly true story of producer Selznick, director Fleming, and script doctor Ben Hecht locking themselves (or rather, being locked by Selznick) away in an office for a week to turn Mitchell’s doorstop novel into a satisfying screenplay. Selznick reportedly refused his captives any food except bananas and peanuts, believing other food would slow the creative process. By the end of the imprisonment, Selznick had collapsed from exhaustion, requiring resuscitation, and Fleming had burst a blood vessel in his eye.

11. Vivien Leigh brought a copy of the book to the set every day to make director Fleming angry.

Leigh was very unhappy when Cukor was replaced by the boorish, man’s man Fleming, and disagreed with much of his direction. In silent protest, she carried Mitchell’s book to the set each day, reading each scene, to remind Fleming that she found the original source far superior to his interpretation. Eventually, Leigh recalled, “Selznick shouted at me to throw the damned thing away."

12. Gable begged not to be shown crying on camera.

Toward the end of the film, Melanie must gently tell Rhett that Scarlett has miscarried, after Rhett dodged a blow that caused Scarlett to fall down stairs. The news is supposed to bring Rhett to tears, but Gable was afraid such a sight would ruin his image, to the point he threatened to walk off the set. Fleming—who was famous for his ability to work well with male leads—shot two versions: one with crying, one with a back turned in heavy sorrow. Then, Fleming convinced Gable that the weeping version would only endear him to the audience, not make him appear weak.

13. There weren’t enough extras in the entire Screen Actors Guild to shoot the Confederate Wounded scene.

Producer Selznick insisted on no less than 2500 extras to lie in the dirt, portraying the dead and wounded Confederate soldiers toward the end of the war. But at the time, the Screen Actors Guild only had 1500 to offer. Selznick saved money by ordering 1000 dummies to round out the epic suffering he wanted to portray.

14. Selznick pleaded for months to get the word “damn” past the Hays Code.

Rhett’s iconic line, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn,” was integral to the film. That line summed up Rhett’s defeat, and the years of suffering he’d endured both from Scarlett and himself, as well as the severity and finality of his exit. The censors finally agreed to allow the line after much convincing. Selznick insisted that the film would be a mockery if the line was changed to the preferred “My dear, I don’t care.” Selznick also pointed out that the actual dictionary definition of the word referred to nothing prurient, only recording it as “a vulgarism.”

15. Atlanta went crazy for the film’s premiere.

Margaret Mitchell’s book had been a phenomenal best seller, and the film was hotly anticipated. Over a million people poured into Atlanta just to be in the festive atmosphere of the premiere. The Governor of Georgia declared the day of the premiere a state holiday, and the mayor of Atlanta organized three days of parades and parties. Citizens took to the streets in hoop skirts and top hats, celebrating what was to them the faded glory of their homeland. Tickets were scalped at $200 a head (in 1939 money). Attendees of the premiere included the Vanderbilts, the Rockefellers, the Astors, J.P Morgan, and all the Governors of what used to be the Confederacy.

16. Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to win an Oscar, but was banned from the premiere.

None of Gone with the Wind’s black actors were allowed to attend the film’s Atlanta premiere. Hattie McDaniel, who plays Mammy, won an Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance. It is reported she sat at a segregated table in the back of the venue before and after her acceptance, and that her speech (which contains a cringe-worthy reference to being “a credit to her race”) was written by the studio.

17. Author Margaret Mitchell was fatally struck by a car 10 years after the film's release.

On August 11, 1949, Mitchell and her husband went to see a movie. As they prepared to cross the street, a car appeared. Her husband stepped back, but Mitchell stepped forward and was struck. She never regained consciousness and died five days later, aged 48, without ever having published another book. In recent years, the daughter of the off-duty cab driver who hit Mitchell has written her own version of what happened that night, claiming her father was not drunk or driving recklessly, but the victim of a murderous cover-up.

18. Advanced mathematics account for one of the most beautiful shots in the film.

Early in the movie, there is a glorious shot of Scarlett and her father standing before a fading sun, surveying the beauty of Tara. Nobody could figure out how to make it work. Technology of the day didn’t allow for the synching of the film of the actors, the sunset effect and two different matte paintings. So the crew consulted the Math Department at UCLA, who came up with a way to fit everything together using advanced calculus.

19. Selznick removed racially offensive scenes under pressure from the NAACP.

The book is set in the Civil War, and the language and depictions of black people represent that time. It often did so with stereotypes and terrible bias. When the NAACP heard that there would be scenes referring positively to the Ku Klux Klan and a justified lynching, they threatened a boycott of the movie. Selznick called a meeting of the nation’s most influential black journalists to assure them he’d removed as much inflammatory footage from the film as possible.

20. It took 16 different writers to make the screenplay a viable length.

Sidney Howard was the first screenwriter to try and translate Gone with the Wind to the screen without sacrificing its spirit—but his version would have had a runtime of around six hours. So over two years, a bevy of writers took turns hacking away at it, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, until finally Selznick had his Moonlight and Magnolias lockdown.

All images courtesy of Thinkstock unless otherwise stated. 

9 Royally Interesting Facts About King Cake

iStock
iStock

It’s Carnival season, and that means bakeries throughout New Orleans are whipping up those colorful creations known as King Cakes. And while today it’s primarily associated with Big Easy revelry, the King Cake has a long and checkered history that reaches back through the centuries. Here are a few facts about its origins, its history in America, and how exactly that plastic baby got in there.

1. The King Cake is believed to have Pagan origins.

The king cake is widely associated with the Christian festival of the Epiphany, which celebrates the three kings’ visit to the Christ child on January 6. Some historians, however, believe the cake dates back to Roman times, and specifically to the winter festival of Saturnalia. Bakers would put a fava bean—which back then was used for voting, and had spiritual significance—inside the cake, and whoever discovered it would be considered king for a day. Drinking and mayhem abounded. In the Middle Ages, Christian followers in France took up the ritual, replacing the fava bean with a porcelain replica engraved with a face.

2. The King Cake stirred up controversy during the French Revolution.

To bring the pastry into the Christian tradition, bakers got rid of the bean and replaced it with a crowned king’s head to symbolize the three kings who visited baby Jesus. Church officials approved of the change, though the issue became quite thorny in late 18th century France, when a disembodied king’s head was seen as provocation. In 1794, the mayor of Paris called on the “criminal patissiers” to end their “filthy orgies.” After they failed to comply, the mayor simply renamed the cake the “Gateau de Sans-Culottes,” after the lower-class sans-culottes revolutionaries.

3. The King Cake determined the early kings and queens of Mardi Gras.


A Mardi Gras King in 1952.

Two of the oldest Mardi Gras krewes (NOLA-talk for "crew," or a group that hosts major Mardi Gras events, like parades or balls) brought about the current cake tradition. The Rex Organization gave the festival its colors (purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power) in 1872, but two years earlier, the Twelfth Night Revelers krewe brought out a King Cake with a gold bean hidden inside and served it up to the ladies in attendance. The finder was crowned queen of the ball. Other krewes adopted the practice as well, crowning the kings and queens by using a gold or silver bean. The practice soon expanded into households throughout New Orleans, where today the discovery of a coin, bean or baby trinket identifies the buyer of the next King Cake.

4. The King Cake's baby trinkets weren't originally intended to have religious significance.

Although today many view the baby trinkets found inside king cakes to symbolize the Christ child, that wasn’t what Donald Entringer—the owner of the renowned McKenzie’s Bakery in New Orleans, which started the tradition—had in mind. Entringer was instead looking for something a little bit different to put in his king cakes, which had become wildly popular in the city by the mid-1900s. One story has it that Entringer found the original figurines in a French Quarter shop. Another, courtesy of New Orleans food historian Poppy Tooker (via NPR’s The Salt), states that a traveling salesman with a surplus of figurines stopped by the bakery and suggested the idea. "He had a big overrun on them, and so he said to Entringer, 'How about using these in a king cake,'" said Tooker.

5. Bakeries are afraid of getting sued.

What to many is an offbeat tradition is, to others, a choking hazard. It’s unclear how many consumers have sued bakeries over the plastic babies and other trinkets baked inside king cakes, but apparently it’s enough that numerous bakeries have stopped including them altogether, or at least offer it on the side. Still, some bakeries remain unfazed—like Gambino’s, whose cinnamon-infused king cake comes with the warning, "1 plastic baby baked inside."

6. The French version of the King Cake comes with a paper crown.


iStock

In France, where the flaky, less colorful (but still quite tasty) galette de rois predates its American counterpart by a few centuries, bakers often include a paper crown with their cake, just to make the “king for a day” feel extra special. The trinkets they put inside are also more varied and intricate, and include everything from cars to coins to religious figurines. Some bakeries even have their own lines of collectible trinkets.

7. There's also the Rosca de Reyes, the Bolo Rei, and the Dreikönigskuchen.


"Roscón de Reyes" by Tamorlan - Self Made (Foto Propia).

Versions of the King Cake can be found throughout Europe and Latin America. The Spanish Rosca de Reyes and the Portugese Bolo Rei are usually topped with dried fruit and nuts, while the Swiss Dreikönigskuchen has balls of sweet dough surrounding the central cake. The Greek version, known as Vasilopita, resembles a coffee cake and is often served for breakfast.

8. The King Cake is no longer just a New Orleans tradition.

From New York to California, bakeries are serving up King Cakes in the New Orleans fashion, as well as the traditional French style. On Long Island, Mara’s Homemade makes their tri-colored cakes year round, while in Los Angeles you can find a galette de rois (topped with a nifty crown, no less) at Maison Richard. There are also lots of bakeries that deliver throughout the country, many offering customizable fillings from cream cheese to chocolate to fruits and nuts.

9. The New Orleans Pelicans have a King Cake baby mascot—and it is terrifying.

Every winter you can find this monstrosity at games, local supermarkets, and in your worst nightmares.

5 Wild Facts About Mall Madness

Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The mall, home of fashion brands, bookstores, and anchor locations like Sears, was a must-visit location for Americans in the 1980s and 1990s—and especially for teenagers. Teens also played Mall Madness, a board game from Milton Bradley introduced in 1988 that tried to capture the excitement of soft pretzels and high-interest credit card shopping in one convenient tabletop game. Navigating a two-story shopping mall, the player who successfully spends all of their disposable income to acquire six items from the shopping list and return to the parking lot wins.

If you’re nostalgic for this simulated spending spree, you're in luck: Hasbro will be bringing Mall Madness back in fall 2020. Until then, check out some facts about the game’s origins.

1. Mall Madness was the subject of a little controversy.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Milton Bradley put a focus on the tween demographic. Their Dream Phone tasked young players with finding the boy of their dreams; Mall Madness, which began as an analog game but quickly added an electronic voice component, served to portray tweens as frenzied shoppers. As a result, the game drew some criticism upon release for its objective—to spend as much money as possible—and for ostensibly portraying the tweens playing as “bargain-crazy, credit-happy fashion plates,” according to Adweek. Milton Bradley public relations manager Mark Morris argued that the game taught players “how to judiciously spend their money.”

2. The original Mall Madness may not be the same one you remember.

The electronic version of Mall Madness remains the most well-known version of the game, but Milton Bradley introduced a miniature version in 1988 that was portable and took the form of an audio cassette. With the game board folded in the case, it looks like a music tape. Opened, the tri-fold board resembles the original without the three-dimensional plastic mall pieces. It was one of six games the company promoted in the cassette packaging that year.

3. Mall Madness was not the only shopping game on the market.

At the same time Mall Madness was gaining in popularity, consumers could choose from two other shopping-themed board games: Let’s Go Shopping from the Pressman Toy Corporation and Meet Me At the Mall from Tyco. Let’s Go Shopping tasks girls with completing a fashion outfit, while Meet Me At the Mall rewards the player who amasses the most items before the mall closes.

4. There was a Hannah Montana version of Mall Madness.

In the midst of Hannah Montana madness in 2008, Hasbro—which acquired Milton Bradley—released a Miley Cyrus-themed version of the game. Players control fictional Disney Channel singing sensation Hannah Montana as she shops for items. There was also A Littlest Pet Shop version of the game, with the tokens reimagined as animals.

5. Mall Madness is a collector’s item.

Because, for the moment, Hasbro no longer produces Mall Madness, a jolt of nostalgia will cost you a few dollars. The game, which originally sold for $30, can fetch $70 or more on eBay and other secondhand sites.

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