One of my mother’s favorite books and movies is “Gone With the Wind.” So when I heard this year marked the 75th anniversary of the release of “Gone With the Wind,” Margaret Mitchell’s classic novel of the Civil War and its aftermath, I knew there had to be a celebratory book coming out about the phenomenon that surrounded this immense novel, and I wasn’t disappointed.
“Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood’’ by authors Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley Jr. is a comprehensive volume that will fascinate not only fans of the book and movie, but anyone interested in literary/filmmaking development.
The authors take a detailed look at the life of Mitchell and her amazing story about the Antebellum South, the war that divided a nation and the healing process that brought it back together.
Brown and Wiley manage to keep the story interesting amidst the technical and tedious processes they examine, from the novel’s laborious birth (it took Mitchell 10 years to finally get it to the point she would consider showing it to anyone in publishing) to the printing process (at more than 1,000 pages, it was a huge undertaking) to the negotiations between her publisher and filmmaker David O. Selznick.
Some tidbits from the book:
— Mitchell first wanted her heroine’s name to be Pansy but had to scramble to find a suitable replacement at the last minute because the editors didn’t think it was a strong enough name.
— The first printing of 10,000 volumes of GWTW were copyrighted with a May 1936 date. However, the book’s actual release was held up another month so the Book-of-the-Month club’s version could come out at the same time. So another batch of books was printed with the June date for the copyright. The price of the book: $3. (It would have been $2.50, but they upped the price since there were so many pages.)
— Publishers begged Mitchell for a sequel, another chapter in Scarlett and Rhett’s story, but Mitchell refused to consider it.
— Actress Mae West was considered for the role of madam Belle Whatley and Shirley Temple for the role of Bonnie Blue Butler in the movie.
— The Mitchell estate, overseen first by Mitchell’s husband, John Marsh, and then her brother Stephens Mitchell, fought numerous legal battles over copyright infringements and misuse of the GWTW legacy for years after Mitchell’s death, including suing the author of the slave’s viewpoint, “The Wind Done Gone.” (The suit was settled out of court, and the book went on to be published.)
According to a 2008 Harris Poll, Mitchell’s novel is still considered to be one of the best-loved books in America, coming in second only to the Bible. Learning more about how this fascinating novel came into being and how it still stands up is a captivating subject, and authors Brown and Wiley do an admirable job shining a light on the process.