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“Gone With The Wind” opens (1940)

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Scarlett & Rhett

‘Gone With The Wind’ at Ritz Friday night

Hollywood’s biggest effort represented in film production

The most fabulous undertaking ever to come out of always fabulous Hollywood is here.

“Gone With The Wind” is the name — the three-hour-and-45-minute Technicolor film production made by David O Selznick from Margaret Mitchell’s sensationally popular novel of the old South, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.

Gone With The Wind posterGiven its world premiere in Atlanta, Ga., only two months ago, “Gone With The Wind” comes to West Texas this week, opening a week’s engagement at the Ritz theatre in Big Spring Friday evening. After that 8 o’clock showing, there will be two programs daily, at 2 and 8 pm, at advanced prices — a scale, incidentally, which we be observed for “GWTW” throughout 1940.

Big Spring is the smallest city in which the picture has yet been released. Abilene and San Angelo open with the picture on the same day, and otherwise, the only the metropolitan centers of Texas are offering it. It represents some alert attention to the public’s wishes on the part of the local R&R management, just as the story itself represented a challenging assignment to the film studio.

>> What it felt like to play Scarlett O’Hara (1940)

David O Selznick, who paid $50,000 in July of 1936 for the film rights to Margaret Mitchell’s absorbing story of Civil War and reconstruction days, made no attempt to dodge any of the million-and-one problems that were showered on him. He invited everyone who had read the book to contribute suggestions of favored players for the leading characters; he began intensive research in all phases of life in the Georgia of seventy-five years ago; and he launched a search of unprecedented scope to find the right actress for the role of Scarlett O’Hara.

Finding a Scarlett

No fictional characterization of modern times had attracted so much reader interest, and it was Mr. Selznick’s feeling from the start that it would be preferable to find an actress who was not identified in the public mind with too many earlier parts. To find such a player for a role on which the spotlight of avid curiosity and criticism would be focused by ten million “Gone With The Wind” readers required great patience, rare discrimination, sanguine expectancy – and a bit of luck.

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Qualifications of every eligible stage and screen player, as well as 1,400 “unknown” aspirants for the art, were weighed and sifted, at a production cost approaching $100,000. At the end of two and a half years, the role was still unfilled. With the camera grinding on the initial sequences of the story in a January day in 1939, there was still no Scarlett O’Hara.

Then, as if by a belated intervention of Fate, came Vivien Leigh, a little known English actress whose family ancestry and physical appearance provided a startling counterpart of Miss Mitchell’s Civil War heroine. To add an ironic twist, she was introduced to Mr. Selznick by his brother Myron, a well-known agent who had been turning California upside down for thirty months trying unsuccessfully to help solve the family dilemma. Miss Leigh was given a screen test shortly after Mr. Selznick had met her, and the results definitely assured her of the most eagerly contested role of the decade.

Gable ideal choice

An overwhelming public demand had reinforced Mr Selznick’s confidence that Clark Gable was the ideal choice for the part of Rhett Butler. Ever since publication of the novel, a steadily rising stream of letters had been finding their way to Hollywood suggesting, pleading and insisting that Gable be given the part of the irresponsible, dashing, irresistible Georgian who scorned the conventions of his era. So arrangements were worked out with M-G-M, the company to which Gable is under contract, for him to play this role.

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