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“Gone with the Wind” premiered 75 years ago

By Fernando Mexia

Los Angeles, Dec 12 (EFE).- Seventy-five years have gone by since “Gone with the Wind” premiered on Dec. 15, 1939 in Atlanta, a moment that crowned with success the many years it took to make one of Hollywood’s most ambitious, most complex productions until then.

Today the film is a part of popular culture, with iconic phrases that are still repeated even by those who have never watched this four-hour story of an impossible love between Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) at the dawn of the U.S. Civil War.

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” and “After all…tomorrow is another day,” are bits of a screenplay that made a movie of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Margaret Mitchell.

Sidney Howard was charged with writing the adaptation that won him an Oscar, one of the 10 honoring this feature film – including Best Picture – which impressed the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences more for its technological achievements, among others its use of the still rarely seen Technicolor, than for the performances of its actors.

Clark Gable saw Robert Donat take the statuette for Best Actor for “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” and only Leigh and Hattie McDaniel, the beloved “Mammy,” took the awards in the acting categories, for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.

Leigh, who did not get along with Gable particularly well off the set, won the role after surviving a two-year casting process, in which 1,400 artists took part, and during which producer David O. Selznick had considered such stars as Katherine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Lana Turner and Paulette Godard.

Gable was cast after Gary Cooper decided not to appear in the film because he thought it would be a flop.

Selznick budgeted $3.9 million to make the film according to the IMDb Web site, a fortune for the Hollywood of those days, topped only by “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ” (1925) and “Hell’s Angels” (1930).

He hired 50 actors and 2,400 extras, and had problems with the directors because he employed several, though it was Victor Fleming who finally shot the film.

Aside from its production, the film was a promotional marvel.

Selznick orchestrated a launch campaign that climaxed with the governor of Georgia declaring the day of its premiere a state holiday.

A million people are said to have crowded around Loew’s Grand Theater to try and see the cast of the film about which they had heard so much.

“Gone with the Wind” had a worldwide box office of some $400 million, an unimaginable amount at the time.

Even today, adjusting the sum for inflation, it would be the biggest box-office film of all time, ahead of “Star Wars” (1977) and “The Sound of Music” (1965), according to Box Office Mojo.