George Cukor's file of David O. Selznick memos regarding Gone With the Wind
46 Typed Manuscripts, 48 pp, 4to and 8vo, Culver City, October 1, 1936 to February 10, 1939, most to George Cukor, most on Selznick International internal memo letterhead, covering the entire period of pre-production on Gone With the Wind through the first months of shooting, discussing script development, casting, set design, costume design, and more, light toning and creasing throughout. Together with a typed carbon of a letter from Katherine Brown to Margaret Mitchell, October 13, 1936, discussing an upcoming trip to Atlanta and casting decisions, and an 8 page typed carbon of a Selznick letter to screenwriter Sidney Howard, dated January 6, 1937 and discussing the problems in adapting the script. Present also are a handful of short Cukor memos of the period to Selznick and others.
A rare find for Gone With the Wind fans, this lot features Cukor's own file of internal memos dating from summer of 1936 just after Selznick bought the property and as pre-production began. The earliest memos discuss the process for managing screen tests in Georgia and elsewhere, both to maintain secrecy and manage costs. Several early (and unusued) casting suggestions appear over and over, including Billie Burke for Aunt Pittypat, Lionel Barrymore for Dr. Meade, Gladys George for Belle Watling, and a variety of "real southern girls" considered for the smaller parts. The 1937 memos are relatively uninteresting, but by early 1938, the process is gaining steam. In a February 25, 1938 memo Selznick gives another update on script progress with Sidney Howard, and warns Cukor not to let extra dialogue from the book creep in on the set as has been happening in the tests.
Later in that year, the pieces start to fall in place. From October 13, 1938: "MGM has advised me verbally that we should definitely figure on getting Clark Gable January 5th for 'GONE WITH THE WIND.'" On October 17, Selznick announces that the start date has been determined and that he expects to see completed set sketches within weeks. On October 19, he reports that Clark Gable is eager to meet with Cukor to discuss costumes, hair, his mustache, and his southern accent. But by October 21, there is still no Scarlett. Selznick writes, "I am still hoping against hope for that new girl, and the last words I send as I leave the studio are those of fervent hope that somehow, some way, between you, you will be able to dig up a new girl, or that Arnow will be able to find one. If we finally wind up with any of the stars that we are testing we must regard ourselves as absolute failures at digging up talent...."
As they wait for their Scarlett, Selznick provides detailed notes on the casting of Scarlett's mother, the Tarleton twins (DOS thinks the actors are too husky to be 19th c. swains and instead look like "a pair of bohunks"), and Frank Kennedy.
By January 14, 1939, Scarlett has been cast and filming moves forward:" We are definitely starting shooting Monday, January 23." Selznick discusses last minute casting issues regarding Suellen and Careen and interestingly, does not seem to be leaning towards Anne Rutherford or Evelyn Keyes at this late date.
The memos end in February, just before Cukor was dismissed from the film. Nonetheless, a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the making of one of the greatest motion pictures of all time.
Provenance: The Papers of George Cukor; The Estate of Charles Williamson and Tucker Fleming.
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