Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Gone With The Wind.....Part Deux

There is nothing quite like it and this past weekend it happened again!
The Summer Film Series had its annual showing of Gone With The Wind at the wonderfully resplendent - Orpheum Theatre.  It is my favorite pic of all time and while there are many contenders for the top spot, nothing quite compares to the 1939 classic & in this beautiful setting before a decidedly southern audience on the Big Screen.....
The Summer Film Series is simply fabulous (with Casablanca, Breakfast at Tiffany's & The Firm in the lineup) and at 5 bucks a ticket.....a Bargain!

The film made box office history. It received ten Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Brest Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (for Hattie McDaniel - the first time a black person had been nominated & so honored) & no, Clark Gable did not win for Best Actor.  GWTW is the highest grossing film of all time (adjusted for inflation).  Costing almost 4 million to make, a tidy some back then, box office receipts for the movie, if adjusted for inflation, would make it the top grossing movie of all time; Star Wars would be the second most successful movie of all time. According to the Guinness World Records, the total gross in 2009 figures would be $3,785,107,801.  To date, over 200 million movie tickets have been sold!

Interestingly too is that author Margaret Mitchell's first choice for Rhett Butler was Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes???).  The part was later turned down by Gary Cooper and then offered to Clark Gable who really didn't want the role and saw the movie as 'a woman's picture'.  Ummmm Clark, the term now is chick flick. This southern film was shot almost entirely in Culver City, California. Tara sat on a 40 acre back lot that later became the TV set for Hogan's Heroes.  The first movie scene shot was the burning of the Atlanta Depot, filmed on December 10, 1938. If there was a major mistake during that filming, the entire project might have been scrapped. They actually burned many old sets that needed to be cleared from the studio back lot including the "Great Wall" set from King Kong.  The fire cost over $25,000, and yielded 113 minutes of footage. It was so intense that Culver City residents jammed the telephones lines, thinking MGM was burning down.
Clark Gable & Vivian Leigh had not even signed as yet and were stunted for.

OK, so there's a bit of little known (& useless) trivia on the flick unless you've got a spot coming up on Jeopardy next week.  The lore and timeless attraction make this film so special none the less.  It is historically romantic in its portrayal of so many aspects of the era....including its decidedly racist view of slavery.  Nevertheless, it gives a fascinating view of the American South of long ago and when viewed in an elegant southern theatre before a southern audience it is even more special & fascinating!
Friday night The Orpheum Theatre was packed.  I have seen GWTW 4 out my 5 years in Memphis and the locals always come out for this one.  It's interesting the wide diversity of the crowd and we even had some 'southern belles' decked out in full regalia. The house lights went down precisely at 7:15 and the Overture began to resounding applause.

Interesting too are the very distinct halves of the film.  The first part featuring the glories of the south & "We'll show them Yankees" along with, of course, Scarlett's infatuation with Ashley Wilkes and the second part with the devastation & recovery of the south, the tumultuous relationship between Rhett & Scarlett and , of course, the continuing infatuation with Ashley. Then too there is always Tara!  Sitting in the audience you can feel the mood and pulse of the crowd as it changes dramatically through the course of the 4 hour viewing.  Some things never change though....resounding applause for Rhett's final line in response to Scarlett's "But Rhett what shall I do?" -----"Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!"..... ironically a rather harsh curse on film back in 1939.  Even louder & sustained applause after Scarlett's final line and the credits!  No wonder in my mind that GWTW continues to endure and, I suspect, will always be my favorite movie........made even more special by the venue, my own parallels &, of course, my hometown - Memphis!
Two other small pieces of trivia:
All four principal characters appear together in the same scene only once, after the raid on Shantytown, when Rhett tells the anxious group of the fate of Scarlett's second husband, Frank Kennedy. Yes Scarlett, you are a widow once again!

The scene where Scarlett makes a dress out of a curtain was later spoofed on The Carol Burnett Show in what became one of the most memorable comedy bits in TV history. Carol Burnett as "Starlet" O'Hara wears the curtains with the rod still in them. Harvey Korman as "Rat" Butler says: "Starlet, that gown is lovely", to which she responds: "Thank you. I just saw it in the window and couldn't resist it!"  I swear most everyone in the audience thought of this spoof and laughed when Vivian Leigh pulled down the curtains to make that dress 8-)
                                   GWTW in 2 minutes & 34 seconds
                            Movie Rating: 5 Big Ass Beale Street Beers 
How do you top off a Friday night like that????  Only one way.........

As you can plainly see, there is no film critic future for me.  I am just hopeful that my passion here & for excellent customer service does not mean a different career path.........Hello! Welcome to Wal-Mart 8-)


  1. Several years ago, the orpheum Theater in Memphis, in conjunction with the Hunt-Phelan Plantation co-hosted portions of The Shaw-Tumblin Gone With The Wind Collection. Fred Crane, who played Brent Tarleton, also attended. Although Mr. Crane is now deceased, sure wish that they would bring back the Gone With The Wind Exhibit which featured original costumes worn in the film!

  2. I would so loved to have seen that and had a chance to speak with an original cast member....
    Love the Hunt-Phelan Plantation too! I am so glad they restored it.....some rich southern tradition there. I drive by it almost every day. A couple of years ago they were trying to sell it for a couple of million dollars+ but had no takers. The history below.....
    Located on Memphis's historic Beale Street and called the city's "best kept secret," this restored Greek Revival house opened to public tours in the mid-1990s. Completed in 1832 by George Wyatt, the house featured several architectural flourishes, including an escape tunnel. Eli and Julia Driver purchased the house from Jesse Tate in 1850. The couple made improvements, including the addition of a kitchen ell, landscaping, moving the original front portico to the side, and constructing a two-story portico of Ionic columns.

    Driver's son-in-law, William Richard Hunt, owned the house through the Civil War. Confederate General Leonidas Polk used the house as his headquarters while he planned the battle at Corinth, Mississippi. Before the fall of Memphis in 1862, Confederate officials provided a boxcar for the removal of family furnishings. Union General Ulysses S. Grant headquartered in the house from June 27 to July 12, 1862, and planned the Vicksburg campaign in the library. Gun emplacements encircled the house, and Union forces used the tunnel to relay messages.

    Between 1863 and 1865 the Union's Western Sanitary Commission used the mansion as a soldiers' home and housed Freedmen's Bureau teachers. In 1865 President Andrew Johnson returned the house to Hunt, who began years of repairs.

    In the twentieth century the house passed to Stephen Rice Phelan, a Standard Oil geologist. Phelan wrote a history of the house but neglected its maintenance. The house, heavily coated in gray paint and isolated from the surrounding community by barbed wire, padlocks, and weeds, slowly deteriorated.

    Bill Day, a nephew of the reclusive Phelan, inherited the house and in the 1990s embarked on an extensive restoration project. Using old photographs and maps, teams of restoration architects and artists worked to return the house to its former glory and reintroduce the Hunt-Phelan house to Memphis. Maintaining the property has proved difficult, however. In 2000 Day auctioned most of its furnishings and papers; in early 2001 the property was on the real estate market, its days as a historic house museum seemingly numbered.