Even if you haven’t seen it, you’ll have heard of it, because Gone With The Wind is still, 75 years after its release, the most successful blockbuster of all time. David O. Selznick’s multi-Oscar winning film has weevilled its way deep into the American – and the world’s – subconscious, creating so vivid a cultural memory we’re almost tricked into believing we lived through it all too. Even a lass like me, “southern” only in the east London sense of the word.
Over in Scarlett O’Hara country, The Making of Gone With The Wind opened this month. The assortment of ephemera – stills, story boards, costumes, notes, scripts, sketches – curated by the Harry Ransom Centre is seemingly endless and, whether you’re Vivien Leigh’s number one fan, or frankly, you couldn’t give a damn, it’s fascinating. On display is Hollywood’s heyday, yet so much remains familiar now; the actors seated in a make-up artist’s chair, the black clapboards and the booms. The concept art is gloriously Gothic, as are the set stills of eerily moonlit black and white rooms and landscapes.
Perhaps my favourite part of the collection is the plentiful supply of Vivien Leigh make-up stills – who even knew that make-up stills existed? – revealing the actress dutifully posing for mugshot after mugshot like a terribly well-dressed, serially convicted criminal. Equally brilliant are the images of the premieres, all Bugsy Malone look-a-likes queuing round a snowy corner of an Art Deco building.
Time, my dear, to take a trip back to Tara.
The Making of Gone With The Wind is at the Harry Ransom Centre at the University of Texas. It runs until 4 January 2015.