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Hollywood Masterpiece

Long-awaited exhibit goes behind the scenes of Gone With The Wind like never before

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Gone With The Wind Exhibit
The famous green curtain dress at the new exhibit.  Photo by Pete Smith
Green Dressing Gown Gone With The Wind
The green velvet dressing gown worn by Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind. Courtesy of Harry Ransom Center
Gone With The Wind Exhibit
Green Dressing Gown Gone With The Wind

An endless number of details define the film Gone with The Wind: the jaw-dropping emerald curtain dress, Mammy's sinfully red petticoat, the sun violently setting in the sprawling verdant fields of Georgia, Scarlett O’Hara passionately locking lips with Rhett Butler as he goes off to war, fields of injured Civil War soldiers, the near-perfect symphony score, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," and countless other timeless cinematic details.

Now, 75 years after the film’s debut, Texans are getting an in-depth look into how the influential picture was produced. 

On September 9, the Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, unveils its much-anticipated The Making of Gone With The Wind exhibit, the largest and most detailed exhibition of the eight Academy Award-winning film. Showcasing over 300 extraordinary pieces, the display includes costumes, film footage, fan mail, storyboards, sketches, concept art and producer David O. Selznick’s extensive film notes and memos.

In fact, The Making of Gone With The Wind was inspired by the Harry Ransom Center's Selznick archive — the most extensive archive housed at the Center. 

Showcase pieces include three original gowns worn by Vivien Leigh (yes, even the green curtain dress!), audition tapes from actresses vying for the role of Scarlett O'Hara, more than 60 makeup stills and gorgeous scene renderings from the burning of Atlanta. Perhaps some of the most unexpected pieces: the film's correspondence with the NAACP and other groups, all of whom were deeply concerned with the treatment of Gone With The Wind and its depiction of African-Americans and slaves in the film. 

Interestingly, Steve Wilson, the Harry Ransom Center's curator of film, says even before filming began the picture was knee deep in controversy. "The treatment of African-American characters in the film, particularly after emancipation, was of great concern to the NAACP," Wilson says. "In the end, the African-American press had an influence in how they were portrayed and you'll see that detailed throughout the exhibit."

Wilson has worked extensively on both the exhibit and its accompanying catalog, The Making of Gone With The Wind (published by University of Texas Press), and says that even those who are deeply familiar with the film have something to take away from the show. "There's such a remarkable story behind the film that so many of us don't know, and this [exhibit] reveals the back story behind a film that became such a national obsession."

The Making of Gone With The Wind runs from September 9, 2014 to January 4, 2015. For more information on the exhibit, please see the Harry Ransom Center website.

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