In December of this year, it will be 80 years since the release of Gone with the Wind.
Gone with the Wind is my favourite film. It is a masterpiece, the story is multifaceted, the acting was brilliant and it brought to life a period of history that has indeed, gone. Some may say, good riddance.
The film itself defies being pigeonholed. Is it a love story? Not really, for anyone who has bothered to sit through the whole film will know, it doesn’t work out that way at all. Is it a war film? Not really, although the American Civil War is a part of it. Is it about Slavery? Again, not really, although this is a thread that weaves through the plot. Really, this film is about survival in the face of adversity. It is also about selfishness versus selflessness.
I have always loved this film and yet I have learned something new about the film that I think highlights inequalities in America at that time and also highlights how far we’ve come and yet how far we still have yet to go.
One of the most endearing characters in the film is Mammy, played by the brilliant Hattie McDaniel. Her performance was so good, she became the first African American to win an Oscar. However, she was not invited to attend the premiere of the film in Atlanta Georgia. Nor was she actually allowed to attend the Oscar event because it took place in a segregated ballroom. She had to wait at the back and when her name was announced she was allowed to collect her prize and make a speech. It was one of the most moving speeches ever given at the Oscars.
Another interesting this I have learned about this film is how much the main actors received in salary. It is quite enlightening.
The main character in the film is Scarlett O’Hara and indeed she appears in almost every scene, over an above every other performer. She was played by the English actress Vivien Leigh, who also won an Oscar for her performance.
She was paid in the region of $30,000 for her work. That may sound like a lot of money, and indeed it would have been back then when compared to the salary of a factory worker, but her co-star, Clark Gable received $117,000 as his salary, and it is that comparison that is so shocking.
Admittedly, Vivien Leigh was an unknown in Hollywood at that time compared to Clark Gable who was ‘the King’, but Olivia De Havilland wasn’t an unknown and her performance of Melanie Hamilton provided the heart against Scarlett’s animal survival instinct. It was a crucial role and she received just $25,000 for it.
In contrast, the actor who portrayed her husband, Ashley Wilkes, The English Actor Leslie Howard received $76,000.
You can see the pattern developing here. It certainly appears that Hollywood rated having a certain appendage above actual ability when it came to salaries.
To really drum home the inequality represented here. Ms McDaniel whose Oscar-winning performance remains my favourite in the film received just $6,780 as her salary.
We have come so far since then but still have so very far to go.
I hope one day we achieve true equality of gender and race and the only thing that is judged is our abilities and our achievements and never our sex, sexuality or the colour of our skin.
Thank you for reading.