Cinema: G With the W

  • December 25, 1939 TIME Cover: Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh)

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    When Cukor "resigned," Vivien Leigh and Olivia de Havillanc? charged into Selznick's office and in an emotional, sometimes tearful scene, pleaded with him to keep Cukor. Being smart women as well as capable actresses, they realized that the chances of getting another director with the same peculiar interest in women's roles were very slim. But they were fighting a lost cause.

    Selznick called in Clark Gable, showed him a list of possible new directors. On Selznick's list were Robert Z. Leonard, Jack Conway, King Vidor, Victor Fleming. Asked to choose, Gable promptly named his great & good friend Victor Fleming, a big, grey, handsome, nervous, highly efficient Hollywood veteran, who has pulled through such problem pictures as The Crowd Roars, The Great Waltz, The Wizard of Oz, recently directed two of M.G.M.'s greatest moneymakers, Captains Courageous, Test Pilot. On Feb. 27, Fleming started the cameras rolling. Conscientious Craftsman Fleming drove his company hard.

    Though Clark Gable taught Vivien Leigh to play backgammon, and never won a game from her, they were not the best of friends. Director Fleming and Cinemactress Leigh differed over the interpretation of Scarlett, to which Fleming wanted to restore the "guts" he thought George Cukor had taken out of it. Vivien

    Leigh began a sparring game to preserve the Cukor conception.

    On the set quarrels between Fleming and Leigh popped up over trifles, often ended with Leigh in tears, Fleming in rage.

    Meantime there was interminable dissatisfaction with the script. Hours were wasted while it was written on the set. Fleming confessed to a friend in the cast that at one point he thought of driving his car off a cliff he was passing, and finally went to bed for a week while M.G.M. Director Sam Wood (Good-Eye, Mr. Chips') carried on.

    Last day of shooting was July i, 1939. With shooting completed, cutting began.

    The 225,000 feet of film (printed from 475,000 feet of film exposed) had to be cut and spliced into a moving picture short enough to exhibit.

    In more all-day all-night sessions, Fleming and Selznick worked with cutters, taking out, putting in, putting in, taking out, until they had a picture that ran just under four hours. They took this to Riverside, in the orange country, surprised fans there with a sneak preview. With them was Jock Whitney, who had not seen the film before. When the picture ended, tears were streaming down his face.

    The Picture. No great shakes as literature, the novel had been dropped on the floor by most literary critics as soon as it dropped in their laps. They thought its love story a bore, its history sectional, its length pretentious, its writing as drab as a bolt of butternut shoddy. The destruction of the South's civilization in the War between the States, told as the case history of two plantation families, the red-blooded O'Haras and the blue-blooded Wilkeses, had been better told before. The overlapping loves of Scarlett O'Hara for Ashley Wilkes, Rhett Butler for Scarlett O'Hara, could be read in any confession magazine.

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