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The Backstage Feud That Almost Ruined 'Gone With The Wind'

MGM

Almost 80 years after it was released, the sweeping Civil War-era romance Gone With the Wind remains the definition of a Hollywood classic.

But while fans love this movie, by all accounts making it was an absolutely awful trial. From the very beginning, turning Margaret Mitchell's 1,000 page novel into a movie was a total headache. It took 16 writers just to trim down the story, and their first draft ran for at least six hours.

Mitchell, who was annoyed with her newfound fame, wasn't much help.Bambinoides

To finish the script in time to start shooting, producer David O. Selznick had to lock himself, director Victor Fleming and writer Ben Hecht in an office for a week. He also insisted they should only eat bananas and peanuts (since the diet would motivate them).

They did finish the script, but Selznick collapsed from exhaustion and Fleming burst a blood vessel in his eye before the week was through.

Casting the lead role of Scarlett O'Hara was even tougher. Producers tested 32 actresses, and only settled on Vivian Leigh after filming began. Fans of the book were actually upset - since Leigh is a Brit and not a real Southern belle.

To silence a protest from the United Daughters of the Confederacy, producers threatened to cast Katharine Hepburn, a Yankee, instead.

And once filming began, the real feuds and fights started...

The film's credits say that Victor Fleming was the only director, but Gone With the Wind actually had three.

Clark Gable and Victor Fleming.MGM

George Cukor lasted just 18 days on set before he was replaced by Wizard of Oz director Fleming. But just weeks later, Fleming had a nervous breakdown, threatening to drive his car off a cliff. Sam Wood stepped in until Fleming could recover and finish the project.

Vivien Leigh is probably responsible for some of the stress Fleming was feeling. She resented the director, and protested him by bringing a copy of the novel to set each day, just to remind him how good the original scenes were. Things got so tense a producer threatened to throw Leigh's copy at a wall.

Finally, the dramatic scene were Rhett cries over Scarlett's miscarriage was the cause of another argument. Clark Gable refused to cry on screen and threatened to walk off set over the issue. Producers had to film a less emotional version, then talk Gable into showing his soft side later.

It was a long and disastrous shoot, but by the time the film premiered in Atlanta everyone knew they had a hit on their hands. A million visitors swarmed the city for a three day festival, ending in a state holiday. Moviegoers dressed in antebellum costumes and paid $200 per ticket ($3,500 today) to see the future Best Picture-winner.

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