'Gone With The Wind' actress remembers when
Web posted on: Thursday, June 25, 1998 5:18:24 PM
From Correspondent Cynthia Tornquist
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Friday marks another day in the spotlight for the motion picture classic "Gone With The Wind." Based on Margaret Mitchell's novel, the 1939 Oscar-winning epic about love and civil war will be re-released to theaters nationwide, with digitally enhanced sound and picture quality.
And one actress who starred in the movie is re-telling what it meant to be a part of motion picture history.
Olivia de Havilland played Melanie, cousin to Scarlett, in "GWTW." It was a part that temporarily altered her career path. She says she auditioned for the role secretly.
"I was under contract to another studio, Warner Brothers, and that would have been a very illegal, sueable sort of thing to do, so it had to be very hush-hush," de Havilland says.
After "GWTW" went on to become one of the most popular films of all time, earning more than $190 million dollars, de Havilland returned to Warner Bros., but received the cold shoulder.
Even though her work as Melanie had earned her an Oscar nomination, the studio offered her only second-rate roles. She accepted a few parts, including one in "The Strawberry Blonde," but turned down others. The studio put her on suspension, an old Hollywood practice that forced actors and actresses to sit on the sidelines, with the time they were contracted to the suspending studio frozen during their suspension.
'They wished it ill'
De Havilland fought back, ending the studio's policy of suspending actors in a landmark case. Rather than run the actress out of town, Hollywood gave her some of the best roles of her career, including "The Heiress" and "The Snake Pit."
Now she's reliving the fuss surrounding "GWTW." De Havilland says at the time the picture was being made, it was producer David O. Selznick's dream to make a film longer and more spectacular than any other of the time. He paid more than $4 million to do it, a huge sum in 1939.
While the picture was in production, it received little support from Hollywood. "The industry was fed up with 'Gone With The Wind,'" de Havilland recalls. "They wished it ill. They thought it was going to be a failure, and they weren't one bit sorry.
"Well, they changed their minds the night it was first seen," she added. "GWTW" went on to eight Academy Awards, and is now remembered as one of the top films of all time.
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