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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Gone With The Wind --- Part Two

Gone With The Wind seemed the ultimate collector’s dream in 16mm. To own it was something I dared not conceive. Dealers seldom listed GWTW. Bootlegs off 1967-68 prints were out there, but color and running time dictated a cost beyond what most could pay. You’d spend upward of $400 for any rainbow’ed dupe back then (I worked a sawmill not unlike Johnny Gallagher's the summer of 1973 to get up scratch for The Adventures Of Robin Hood). One startling occasion found Tom Osteen offering a black-and-white 8mm magnetic sound Gone With The Wind, difficult to imagine then as now (how and why would someone have generated such a hybrid?). Think of the hundreds he wanted for that (in the early seventies!) against today’s cost of a Blu-Ray with its quality to surpass any of the 35mm eastman prints in circulation then. My biggest collecting score was a Gone With The Wind in 16mm from a procurer of seemingly boundless resource who made no disclosure as to origin of his treasured find. Suffice to say he had it, and among collectors circa 1977, that was ‘nuff said. Possession of a classic movie in those days was a huge source of pride and accomplishment. I preened not unlike a peacock when opportunity arose to display my bounty. Never mind that Films, Inc. or Metro could have swooped down on unauthorized shows I was giving to slap cuffs upon me. Aggressive enough collecting took a lot of us far afield of copyright observance. Those were the only laws I broke then, but break them I did with impunity. Temptation to impress and be a center of attention guided many a reckless step. One occasion found me dragging Gone With The Wind and necessary equipment into a girl’s college where hundreds of quivering Scarletts gathered round my Bell and Howell to watch GWTW and hear my discourse as to history surrounding it. Robert Osborne never had it so good as this boy then twenty-three showing off his prize in that Garden Of Eden.

As stated previous, Gone With The Wind was always best viewed with a crowd. I’m less patient with it alone. It’s taken a week getting through GWTW in clumps. Different reactions came over me this time. Wind’s first hour is fun, the rest somewhat less so. What harrowing hours these are, and so many! There’s an awful lot of death and lice and men chopped up. I knew a girl in college who left the theatre at intermission thinking it was over. Salvation for Gone With The Wind lies in humor salted throughout. Screwball comedies of the era weren't nearly so funny. Who among the many contributing writers do we credit for infusing this show with such wit? As Selznick put a final polish on every page going before cameras, I’d suspect he was responsible too for easing intensity throughout GWTW via welcome levity. Clark Gable’s Rhett was the writer’s primary instrument for lightening the burden of heated dramatics between Scarlett and Ashley. The character plays modern still and exhibits likeable cocksuredness to relieve our march toward four sitting hours. Patrons I was with never failed to audibly gasp (or sigh) when he first appeared at the bottom of Twelve Oaks' stairs. Gable’s iconic status indeed maintained past his 1960 passing, but for how long? Would a full 2010 house react the same at his entrance?

Vivien Leigh was fortunate casting as Scarlett. She has sufficient appeal for contemporary eyes to justify Rhett’s tireless pursuit throughout GWTW. Imagine how some of those other candidates would play now. Such speculation could veer us toward considering what 30’s actresses still register on (male) audience desire meters. Not so many do on mine, even as I admire their performing. Once around the Wind might have been enough had Bette Davis or Katharine Hepburn done Scarlett. The level of passion Gone With The Wind maintains must have stunned patrons five years into rigid enforcement of the Code. Kissing scenes are intense and dialogue is way more sexually coded than any other pic I can think of past mid-1934. Domestic/bedroom exchanges vis-à-vis Scarlett and Rhett achieve intimacy other movies got nowhere near. Do we credit Selznick here? --- or primary director Victor Fleming? There were other shocks I absorbed in 1968 that must have rocked earlier crowds. How often was someone shot full in the face close-up, as the Yankee deserter here? Melanie’s follow-up line, Scarlett, you shot him … I’m glad you shot him, used to get all but a standing ovation in shows I attended.

I’m now seven years older than Clark Gable when he played Rhett Butler, yet he still seems older than I guess I’ll ever be. Can we ever age to parity with film idol images, much less surpass them? Would anyone say they’ve been around the block more times than Humphrey Bogart? Gable and the rest represent ideals of maturity and worldliness seemingly unique to that generation. I can’t imagine our present one ever saying the same about Matt Damon or Leonardo De Caprio (aren’t they really the same person?). Rhett was surely Gable’s hardest act to follow. Even he knew there’d never again be a role so good, acknowledging on more than one occasion that reissues of Gone With The Wind was what really kept his name alive with a postwar public (you can be sure as hell it wasn’t "Betrayed," he said in 1954 upon release of this last for MGM). Vivien Leigh might have enjoyed Hollywood’s outstanding career as a leading woman had she regarded movies higher. As it was, the stage beckoned, and with it desire to live up to expectations of husband Laurence Olivier and legit figures who’d never afford screen efforts so much respect. Seems I read somewhere that Leigh’s problem onstage was a voice lacking punch beyond footlights and initial rows. Remarkable that greatest female part Scarlett O’Hara (maybe in all of American films?) was never followed up. Going back to routine work must have disheartened much of GWTW’s cast. Olivia De Havilland was soon humbled (deliberately so) by Warners via further girl roles opposite Errol Flynn. She alone survives among Gone With The Wind four principals (and beginning her forty-third year of doing so!).

The Blu-Ray Gone With The Wind comes in a big velvet covered box. I don’t really have a place to store such luggage. Who has? Extras and then some are proven necessities for selling product that’s been marketed to death, thus here are booklets, photo cards, and a touted eight hours of supplemental material. I got over intense curiosity as to how GWTW was made back in eighth grade, but acknowledge others only now discovering epic accounts of Selznick’s struggle (Molly Haskell’s Frankly My Dear is the latest thread in a ribbon extended back to souvenir books like mine from 1968). All I really sought out of this weighty trunk was the single disc housing the feature, and purpose there was mainly to see how much improved the picture would be since GWTW’s last DVD release. Those with a near-lifetime invested in classic shows have to take into account exhaustion setting into repeated purchase of ones we long since saw enough of. I’m alarmed to realize I no longer possess heightened senses to evaluate Gone With The Wind color values the result of millions Warners spent to render it most pristine ever. I remember watching several times a 1954 dye-transfer 35mm print at a friend’s house and pitting every frame against presentations myself and others had given over years of GWTW exposure. That archival print, said to represent the last run for which Selznick personally supervised lab work, had a look unique and not unlike seeing a painting as opposed to a reproduction. Is it unrealistic to think we’ll ever get imagery like that on a home disc? The gulf between film and digital remains vast, though I wonder how close modern technology will finally take us. It seems Blu-Ray compliments black-and-white more than color in any event, as Warner’s rendition of Casablanca remains for me the most impressive vintage title I’ve seen delivered on high-definition format.


Anonymous Griff said...

I have always suspected that preferred Selznick scribe Ben Hecht supplied much of the picture's abundantly scattered wit and levity. I give Selznick full credit, of course, for grasping the importance of leavening WIND with humor. What a showman!

John, these recent posts have been a privilege to read. Please, some more at your convenience.

10:02 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Many thanks for the nice words, Griff. I'm happy to say that, as of this moment, Greenbriar is twelve posts ahead (and intends to maintain that cushion), a first ever, so at least I shouldn't get behind schedule in the forseeable future.

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Jim Cobb said...

So--- John--- what is your opinion on the quality of the GWTW blu ray? A good friend of mine who is in his 70's and a major GWTW fan says it looks all wrong and notes the way it looked in the '47 and '54 issues has never been seen again. Many years back I saw what was advertised as the last extant true Technicolor print of GWTW at the Senator theatre in Baltimore. Apparently it was struck in 1965 and was about to become unprojectable. It did not look all that different than the Metrocolor prints I'd seen from 1967 and through the 70's. Certainly this movie, since it has probably the longest history of theatrical exhibition, aside from some of the Disney films, has had more restorations and "improvements" over the years than any film in history. Again... I am curious about your opinion of the blu ray.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Jim Lane said...

Is it unrealistic to think we’ll ever get imagery like that on a home disc? I vote "yes" on that question. I've said this many times, so forgive me if I repeat something I've written here before, but I believe it's an actual physical property of the projector light passing through layers of dye on celluloid, then reflecting off a screen. It's the difference between a beautiful coffee-table-book reproduction of a stained-glass window at Chartres or Notre Dame and seeing the real thing from inside the cathedral.

You're right about the humor of GWTW, but I think a lot of credit goes as well to simple charm, in the writing and the playing. In the book, Scarlett and Rhett are simply rotten people. The movie mentions Rhett's blockade running "for profit, my dear," but wisely omits any reference to his hoarding food and adulterating medicines to increase his profit margin. Rhett Butler is simply a no-good SOB, and Margaret Mitchell's suggesting Basil Rathbone for the role was more astute than it ever got credit for. Selznick was even more astute, though, knowing only Gable could carry us through Rhett's SOB-ness (and only Leigh could sell Scarlett's rampaging bitchery) for four long hours. The movie's Rhett also (again, wisely) tips his hand early on; in the book it's a surprise to learn only at the very end that Rhett has loved Scarlett all along. Up to then he's seemed just another lothario out to knock over this tasty little piece.

1:27 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Jim, the Blu-Ray looked good to me, but it's been a long time since I've seen GWTW in true Technicolor. Too long perhaps to make any worthwhile comparison now.

To Jim Lane's mention of Basil Rathbone, I would have welcomed him as Rhett Butler or any other character. Rathbone is the man!

2:09 PM  
Blogger East Side said...

Do you remember an ABC series from the '80s called "Our World"? Each week, it focused on one week, month or event of a certain year. One episode was about the making of "GWTW." I still have a copy of it, but haven't watched since its original run. I remember Melvyn Douglas' screentest for Ashley Wilkes. Now Douglas was a first-rate actor, but you can see he was totally unsuitable for the part -- he was just too strong (physically and psychologically) to be playing, well, such a wimp. There were other screentests, too -- are any of these on the Bluray DVD?

2:12 PM  
Anonymous Bill Luton said...

Really enjoyed the GWTW posts John. They bring to mind someone you may have met, the late Pat McCarver (brother of baseball's Tim McCarver) who was a GWTW collecting fanatic here in Memphis. He had a tremendous collection of memorabilla from posters to original costumes, letters, etc. He had a large scale model of Tara made and took it to film festivals for display for years. He was a real southern character and would have fit nicely into the plot of the movie!

4:08 PM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

My experience with GWTW is unusual. I have never seen it in a movie theater, although I had the oportunities to see archival reissues instead of MGM/Turner/Warner restorations. I'm not in the mood now to see this film in a big screen.

I could have seen it on VHS back in 1986, when MGM issued in Argentina, but we didn't have a video player at the time and we just switched from black and white to color television at home.

In any case, my first exposure with it came in 1988 (thanks to a parallel blog that provided me with some data I didn't remember that will follow), when an Argentine television station then under State ownership, LS85 TV Canal 13, paid U$S 700.000 to show it twice. (The channel was also forced to show some computer colorized films as well.)

There was a big build up with tons of articles in papers leading up to the event of its first broadcast, which was split in two nights. When it aired, I was disappointed... the biggest flaw was the horrible dubbing in Spanish, more appropriate to contemporary films, but totally unacceptable for a 1939 production (I guess that it is the one featured on the latests DVD and Blu-Ray releases). Most of the voices made it feel like it was parody instead of big it is melodrama.

Eventually I got it on VHS, in English. I didn't want to get it because it usually occupy two cassettes making it more expensive than other films. I got the MGM video in an used version and I didn't like it at all (I later learned realized that it was not the version show on television). But since in Argentina the television system is PAL instead of NTSC, I was finally able to get a version in a single cassette for a cheap price. This time (and not coming neither from MGM, Turner, nor Warner) the presentation was excellent, obviously an English language print lifted from the same master prepared for television. But affected by that lousy dubb I was never able to see it from begging to end in its intended language.

Here the story turns bizarre, when GWTW was being broadcast for a second time... another channel decided to show it, at the same time!

The channel in question was LS86 TV Canal 2. They were, technically, not violating copyrights because the film was considered at the time to be in the public domain for being more than 30 year old. That station was a private company, but in bankruptcy and was desperate to get a success. Film copyrights have been ignored a lot by Argentine television stations, but this incident would put a sort of end to it (some rare films, however, are still been shown, on the internet for free, at obscure night times!... and I have been taking advantage of this myself).

But the print used by this channel did not came from copyright holders, but probably from a film archive instead. And this version, although it was worn, was one to watch. They played a dubbed version from Spain, probably featuring the original dubbing when the film was released in that country. The voices in this case matched the actors much better. There was an even more interesting thing, the titles and most of the signs were shown in Spanish.

After this incident, that version of GWTW vanished forever (it may be preserved in archives). For its third broadcast, of the copyrighted version, the film no longer commanded any attention.

People in Spain prefer films dubbed while in Latin America prefer them with subtitles, although since the early seventies dubbing was imposed. While I don't like dubbings at all, certain people believe that some films can improve with them (and they are useful when certain audiences can't follow the original soundtracks, as it was my case in my childhood... or even in the creation of subtitles). I have fondness to the Columbia THREE STOOGES shorts dubbing since that's the way I always saw them for more than twenty years, but contemporary dubbings can usually damage a film.

8:18 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

The problem with any discussion of "true Technicolor" is that GWTW looked different at different times, as Technicolor technology and tastes changed. Eric Grayson wrote a great post about all the varieties of Gone With the Wind on alt.movies.silent five years ago... followed by why he doesn't like the movie, but that's another matter!

8:36 PM  
Anonymous r.j. said...

Here's an interesting little Post Script, you reminded of, John:

In the 30's there were a group of transplanted New Yorkers all working out here (most under contract to one studio or another) who would meet, eat and play cards several times a month. Often they would be at my grandparents' home in Los Feliz. Among them was an elderly lady named Louise Carter. Dad could never say enough nice things about her. She gifted Dad and his little sister June one Xmas with seperate autograph books inscribed by many of the people she had worked with (Dad said they included Will Rogers and W.C.Fields). Anyway, she had a small but showy part in GWTW I gather and one night she informed my grandparents that she was so happy because the studio had called her in for re-takes "which meant an extra two-weeks work". Last time I watched my copy, I suddenly spotted her (as a mother, talking excitedly to Dr. Meade about her wounded son, I think). Suddenly Dad's story (which I had forgotten) came rushing back, and I yelled out, "There's Louise!"

9:55 PM  
OpenID fiftieswesterns said...

Great post. Not just for its GWTW content, but for the near-perfect description of film collecting.

My dad had a 35mm print for a while. It was beautiful on a home-sized screen, but it was four hours of very hard work.

10:35 PM  
Blogger The Great Bolo said...,

(mentioned in a comment)

is not a workable link.

9:16 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

East Side, I'd guess that any GWTW screen tests that are out there are included among the DVD extras. It's always surprised me, by the way, that Selznick didn't keep the footage he trimmed from the film, considering his having saved seemingly everything else.

Bill, I remember hearing Pat McCarver's name, but don't believe I ever met him.

Hope you've still got those swell autograph books, RJ.

Yes indeed, FiftiesWestern, screening a four-hour marathon in 35mm and operating the machine is work aplenty. I'd sure hate trying it now!

9:24 AM  
Anonymous KING OF JAZZ said...

Fascinating perspective that you've posted. I have only minor memories, but I'll add mother bequeathed the original 1939program to me, which is now available as a reproduction. I first saw GWTW in 1967 during its notorious reformatted release, but I had no awareness of that technical change. All I recall was the audience laughing mightily when Gable said "Has the war started?" I also recall feeling as if I knew Scarlett O'Hara for life by the time the film was over.

Years later I began to appreciate the humor in the film more....I love it when Mammy refers to Scarlett as being "prostrate with grief" when she's anything but!

Oh yeah, one other thing, as this is a bit of a 1967 I was on a tour of the MGM lot, and a stately building was pointed out as being used as the facade for Twelve Oaks. From what I later understand, I thought the latter only existed as a matte painting or whatever. Still, I managed to steal some plastic snow from the set of ICE STATION ZEBRA!

Anyway, thanks for your ongoing articles.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Dugan said...

I don't need to know anything more about the making of GWTW as well, but I would like to put in a plug for Rudy Behlmer's "Memo from David O. Selznick" which was one of the first film book's I read about Hollywood producers. I always thought it was a great book.

1:31 PM  
Blogger James Corry said...

John, I had to crack-up at your comment about the gal in college who left at intermission thinking the picture was over.......
MANY years ago I was watching "Mutiny On The Bounty" (the Brando/Howard/Harris version) at a theater in Northern England. The intermission hit, the lights came up and in walks an usher who starts to clean up......well, the time passed by and he's staring at us impatiently......I said "What's the problem?" He says: "Well, I'm waiting for you to go." I said: "It's INTERMISSION man, the picture's not over yet!" Well, he gets this kind of "horror-stricken" look on his face and races out and the picture started up again after about a 25-minute intermission! Young people TODAY (whom they target movies for) wouldn't have a CLUE what an "intermission" even is......they'd think the picture was over too, ("Geez, that was a weird ending.......!") and they'd wander into the next multiplex or something......


7:26 PM  
Anonymous Griff said...

"Would a full 2010 house react the same at his (Gable's) entrance?"

After our experience yesterday (Jan. 10th) at the Loews at 11th St. and 3rd Ave. in Manhattan, I would say yes, substantially so.

Reading these outstanding recent Greenbriar GWTW posts, as well as the wonderful comments from readers, I bemoaned the unlikelihood of again seeing the picture on the big screen anytime soon. My wife and I were quite pleased and surprised, accordingly, to learn that a local multiplex planned to screen it on Sunday afternoon. We got there early, which was wise; the show was a sell-out (excepting, of course, the first two rows -- it was about a 360 seat auditorium).

The crowd, which consisted of enough relatively young people that you could suppose that perhaps a third had never seen the movie on a screen before, took to the movie immediately. That is to say, they were quiet, after a time rapt, laughed at the right places, applauded at the right places...

It's useless to pick out a high point in this film so filled with great scenes, but the moment that struck me quite strongly this time around was the scene immediately following the death of Bonnie, in which Mammy walks upstairs with Melanie and tells her of the aftermath of the child's fall, and how Rhett and Scarlett reacted. This is simply an unforgettable sequence on all counts, brilliantly acted by Hattie McDaniel and Olivia De Havilland, perfectly scripted and directed.

We weren't wild about the print. It was the curious Warner/New Line late-'90s reissue print in which the 1.37:1 image was matted in the middle of an otherwise black 2.35:1 anamorphic frame, presumably to keep theatres from cropping the top and bottom off the image. This evidently befuddled the projectionist, who kept the masking to a full 2.35:1 throughout the screening. At any rate, the anamorphia probably needlessly magnified problems with three-strip registration and some poorly registered and dimly resolved lab scenes even made me long for the Metrocolor prints of the late '60s. The print was splicy and a bit pocked. The theatre cut the intermission, which was a mistake, of course -- this is one picture where you definitely look forward to getting up and stretching your legs during the interval, and I dare say the Loews folks could have done some concessions business at that point, too.

12:48 PM  
Blogger The Rush Blog said...

I find it sad that Vivian Leigh did not pursue a film career, because of her lavish regard of Laurence Olivier's view on stage and screen acting. She seemed so suited for the screen. I can recall Richard Attenborough saying the same thing about Anthony Hopkins.

As for the movie, it has a brilliant first half. Granted, the racism and sexism is hard to stomach at times. But I cannot deny that the movie - especially the first half - is entertaining and has an epic sweep. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the second half. I found it hard to follow. When I saw it at the Cinerama Dome theater in L.A., back in 1989; I fell asleep not long after Scarlett and Rhett got married. I woke up in time to witness Hattie McDaniel's brilliant moment when her character described the breakup of the Butler marriage.

3:00 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Griff, I really appreciate your on-the-scene report of a current GWTW screening, as well as telling us what the print looked like. I'm surprised that any theatre still runs this picture, but glad to hear there are still 35mm prints available.

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Jim Cobb said...

About a year ago the Byrd theatre here in Richmond ran GWTW. I contacted the manager beforehand and was told he was showing an almost new print. This was a fundraiser for this vintage movie palace and so I looked forward to the screening. So... after two long speeches about the Civil War which rambled... the film starts. And it was the worst print I have ever seen of this film... faded and scratched. I later complained to the manager... he claimed he did what he could. So... not sure just how good current 35mm prints for this are. Those Metrocolor prints showed up regularly in Virginia throughout the 70's, generally in good shape, though I did see one print which looked significantly different and maybe could have been an old Technicolor print that somehow got into the exchange system. Glad to hear that despite the poor presentation in NYC, that the audience responded well... certainly says a lot about the enduring power of the movie.

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John, Up till two days ago, my seeing GWTW on the big screen had occurred only twice. The first time was the 1968 reissue, being 11 at the time, I was dragged along by my sisters on the premise that it was a Civil War picture. The wide screen hack job and "stereophonic sound" was lost on me at the time. I then saw GWTW at the Tampa Theater in the early 80's. This time it was a horrible 16mm print, faded and dupey looking, perhaps a worn out Films Inc. print. There was a good crowd and I recall feeling embarrassed knowing many first timers knew nothing of how this majestic film once looked.

Then, just several days ago, I learned that the Paramount Theater (a wonderful restored 30's atmospheric in Ashland, Kentucky that has just recently started showing film again) was to show GWTW as a part of their ongoing classic film series. I decided to take my Mother and Mother-in-law, 79 and 75 respectively and both of whom had seen GWTW in the 40's.

We arrived 20 minutes early and a very large crowd was already filing in. Not only was there a Civil War cannon on display in the lobby but also some dozen men and women in authentic 1860's period dress greeting patrons, the men were dressed as Confederate soldiers and the women as Southern Belles! (Though Kentucky was in the Union, this area still today has strong Confederate leanings.) I knew right then that this would be an event. When we made our way in, the lower section was nearly full, so we worked our way up to the balcony. As I looked around I noticed it was what I would call a "mature" crowd, probably around 40 and up. An usher later told me that paid attendance was "around 700."

The Paramount had wisely chose to install digital equipment (I feel this way mainly because 16 and 35mm prints of vintage films for theatrical exhibition are just too much of a mixed bag these days) and so we were treated to what I now feel was an experience very close to what audiences saw in the 40's and 50's when Selznick oversaw the releases. The picture was the correct ratio (I assume) the sound was crisp, and though not IB Technicolor, I thought the color was very faithful to the original. The crowd was fantastic and very respectful, responding to all the comedy and drama in all the right places. I sat there thinking to myself, "Here is a film now 70 years old, being shown as an event still adding to an ever-growing box office take (heck, my 8mm Blackhawk of Phantom Of the Opera was ONLY fifty years old when I used to screen it for friends and family back in the 70's)

As a postscript I would like to note that the day before I saw GWTW I had taken my 10 year old son to see Avatar in 3D. I thought to myself that in many ways both these films have much in common. Both were produced by very single minded, driven individuals, both had long delays, both went over budget, both were criticized for their length, both were considered state of the art when they came out and became blockbusters. Then I thought, my Son would never have sat through GWTW and I know my Mother and Mother-In -Law would not have cared much for Avatar. I, on the other hand, enjoyed them both. Mike Mazzone

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Jim Lane said...

I think Mike M. may be underestimating his son; heck, I don't think any 10-year-old would sit through Gone With the Wind now (though they certainly did in 1940)! Try the boy again when he's, oh, say, 18. I'd also be interest in knowing if he's still interested in seeing Avatar then...

3:29 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Mike, that's a fantastic story of another 2010 public screening for GWTW. Thanks for bringing it to us!

4:13 PM  
Blogger twbrxdx said...

My best GWTW experience was at the Fox Theater in Atlanta in the mid 1980’s. I can’t speak for what happens when the movie plays in Atlanta today - but on this particular night it was like the second coming of Robert E. Lee. I thought the ceiling was going to come down around us all -- what with all the whooping and cheering and the genuine applause from the most enthusiastic mob I’ve ever had the pleasure to have been a part of The biggest audience reaction in the whole picture came with Aunt Pittypat’s line; “Yankees in Georgia! How did they ever get in?” -- which I’ve never encountered again in my many subsequent screening north of the Mason-Dixon. A friend of mine, a southerner, told me the next day, as if it were no big deal, that that “this happens every time with that movie.” I do hope this is still the case down there….

The poster who mentioned seeing the “Twelve Oaks” set on the MGM backlot isn’t the only one who this line of red sod was fed to. I’ve written a book on MGM’s mighty backlots which will be published in the Fall, and was told more than once that studio employees and tour guides used to love to tell this story to visiting outsiders. Some of them probably believed it themselves.

The set you saw was a southern mansion constructed for “The Toy Wife” in 1938 (when GWTW was in preproduction). Perhaps part of the confusion also comes from the fact that the façade actually was called “Twelve Oaks” (perhaps satirically?) in a much later picture, 1948’s “A Southern Yankee.”

Great site.

6:40 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Thanks for all that MGM backlot dope,twbrxdx. Also glad to hear that GWTW still plays well in the South. I didn't realize that "Twelve Oaks" was offered as part of the backlot tours, and am glad to see it set straight here.

7:12 PM  
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12:48 PM  

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