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On June 30 in 1936, Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind was published. It immediately became one of the best selling books. Although it was written many years ago, it is still considered to be one of the most important works in the world of literature.
Now we will tell you some astonishing facts about the book and the author.
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- Margaret Mitchell was a journalist of the magazine called “Atlanta Journal Sunday” when she took a leave to recover from her ankle injury. When her ankle proved to heal she decided to occupy herself by writing. So, the boredom caused her to write 63 of the most beloved chapters in literary history.
- No one actually knew that she was writing a book. She went to extreme lengths to hide her work from friends and family, including hurriedly throwing a rug over pages scattered on her living room floor once when the company showed up unexpectedly.
- You know her as Scarlett now, but for years, the heroine of Gone with the Wind was named Pansy. It probably would have stayed that way had the publisher not requested a name change. “We could call her ‘Garbage O’Hara’ for all I care,” Mitchell wrote to her friend and the book’s associate editor, “I just want to finish this damn thing”.
- Though Gone with the Wind is a classic now, not everyone was a fan of the epic novel when it was released—and that includes critics. Ralph Thompson, a book reviewer for The New York Times, was quite unimpressed. Among his criticisms: “The historical background is the chief virtue of the book, and it is the story of the times rather than the unconvincing and somewhat absurd plot that gives Miss Mitchell's work whatever importance may be attached to it.” “Miss Mitchell writes from no particular point of view.”
“I happen to feel that the book would have been infinitely better had it been edited down to, say, 500 pages—but there speaks the harassed daily reviewer as well as the would-be judicious critic. Very nearly every reader will agree, no doubt, that a more disciplined and less prodigal piece of work would have more nearly done justice to the subject-matter.” In the end, Thompson rather begrudgingly admits that “Any kind of the first novel of over 1000 pages is an achievement and for the research that was involved, and for the writing Itself, the author of Gone With the Wind deserves due recognition.”
- When movie mogul David O. Selznick purchased the movie rights for $50,000 in 1936, it was the most ever paid for rights to a book. Mitchell declined to be involved with the production of the movie, though she was said to have loved it—save for a few details (she found Tara to be too opulent, for example).
Though she spent a decade writing her masterpiece, Mitchell only enjoyed the ensuing fame for a little more than that (truth be told, she didn’t really “enjoy” the fame). Mitchell was hit by a speeding car as she was crossing Atlanta's Peachtree Street with her husband on their way to see a movie on the evening of August 11, 1949. She died from her injuries a few days later.
- Selznick cannily made the search for Scarlett into a publicity stunt, soliciting suggestions from the public and holding open auditions in the South. A-list actresses under consideration included Joan Crawford, Tallulah Bankhead, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Miriam Hopkins, Norma Shearer, Jean Arthur, and Paulette Goddard, toward whom Selznick was leaning, though he was still holding out for an unknown. A couple of then-unknowns who auditioned were Susan Hayward and Lana Turner.
- Vivien Leigh was a 25-year-old British actress who had come to Hollywood on the arm of lover and future husband Laurence Olivier when he shot "Wuthering Heights" in 1938. Convinced she should play Scarlett, she smartly hired Selznick's brother Myron as her talent agent. In December 1938, on the very night David was blowing up his old sets for the Atlanta-escape sequence, Myron introduced Leigh to his brother, saying, "Hey, genius, meet your Scarlett O'Hara."
- The film was nominated for 13 Oscars and won 10, a record that stood for 20 years (until "Ben-Hur"), including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay (Sidney Howard became the first posthumous Oscar winner, having died in a farm-tractor accident before the film's release), Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Set Decoration, and Best Editing. Gable and de Havilland were nominated, but he lost Best Actor in an upset to Robert Donat of "Goodbye, Mr. Chips." De Havilland lost to co-star McDaniel.
- For her performance as Mammy, Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American ever nominated for an Oscar and the first to win one. Her victory was widely seen as a sign of racial progress, but even at the Academy Awards banquet held at Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel, segregation rules forced her to sit at a table far away from her co-stars.
- Over the course of several theatrical re-releases over the years, "Gone With the Wind" has remained the most popular movie of all time, having sold 200 million tickets in North America and having grossed $390 million worldwide. Adjusted for inflation, that's $3.3 billion, more than such modern biggest-picture-ever contenders as James Cameron's "Avatar" ($2.8 billion) and "Titanic" ($2.7 billion).