Happy Birthday Ira Gershwin

ira gershwin

NAME: Ira Gershwin
OCCUPATION: Songwriter
BIRTH DATE: December 6, 1896
DEATH DATE: August 17, 1983
EDUCATION: City College of New York
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Beverly Hills, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Lyricist Ira Gershwin wrote for popular musicals like Porgy and Bess in the 1920s and ’30s. He was in the first writing team to win a Pulitzer for songwriting.

Lyricist Ira Gershwin was born as Israel Gershowitz in New York, New York, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, on December 6, 1896. The oldest of four children born to Russian Jewis immigrants Rosa Bruskin and Morris Gershovitz, the future lyricist was always a bookish child. Unlike his brother George, whose interests were primarily musical, young Ira’s ran more along literary lines. The family moved frequently throughout Gershwin’s childhood due to his father’s ever-changing job status. In 1914, the word-loving Gershwin enrolled as an English major at City College of New York, but dropped out after only two years.

Gershwin spent the next several years taking after his father, moving from job to job. He worked at various times as a steam room attendant, a photographer’s assistant and a business manager for a carnival. Occasionally, Gershwin would write theater reviews, but otherwise he did not show much promise as a writer. Meanwhile, his brother George was making a name for himself in the music business, composing and arranging, as well as making a brief foray into vaudeville.

At his brother’s prompting, Gershwin took a shot writing lyrics for one of his songs. Their first collaboration came in 1918 with “The Real American Folk Song,” which appeared in Ladies First. Ira Gershwin once said, “I always felt that if George hadn’t been my brother and pushed me, I’d have been contented to be a bookkeeper.” He continued writing lyrics, but often under the pen name Arthur Francis, a playful combination of the names of his younger brother and sister.

Still using his pen name, Ira wrote his first published song, “You May Throw All the Rice You Desire but Please Friends, Throw No Shoes.” He followed up in 1921 with his first stage success, providing lyrics for the show Two Little Girls in Blue. The critically acclaimed show was produced by Abraham Erlanger and co-composed by Vincent Youmans and Paul Lannin.

In 1922, the Gershwin brothers came together again creatively to write the first major hit of their career, I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise. In 1924, they followed up with the hit show Lady, Be Good! The next decade of collaboration would cement the brothers firmly in American musical history; combining their talents, they wrote for Broadway musicals, operettas and even vaudeville. In the 1920s, their big hits included Tip Toes (1925), Oh, Kay (1926) and Funny Face (1927).

On September 14, 1926, Ira Gershwin married Leonore Strunsky. Around the same time, the Gershwin brothers decided to combine their personal lives as well as their professional careers, moving both families into one five-story house in Manhattan. During this time, the house served as a creative nerve center for the brothers; artists, musicians and friends could be seen coming and going at all hours of the day and night.

Soon, however, the frantic pace became too much and Ira Gershwin retreated to spend some time on a farm north of the city. His brother would join him in the spring and summer to work and collaborate. It was there that the two wrote and re-wrote Funny Face and Smarty.

Biographers and music historians note that the brothers’ huge popularity was due, in part, to their innovative new style and combinations. Ira Gershwin in particular was adept at implementing new lyrical styles, playing with timing and unusual word combinations. Charles Schwartz once said that the brothers had “the uncanny knack for coming up with the fresh and the novel ballads appropriate for their time and genre with wonderfully creative lyrics, songs of chivalric love and gallantry.”

In 1928, the Gershwins and their wives went on a trip to Europe that included stops in Vienna, London and Paris. Their journey across the Atlantic ended up becoming the inspiration for the iconic orchestral, “An American in Paris.” Four years later, Ira Gershwin shared the honor of a Pulitzer Prize with writers George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind for the score of the musical comedy, “Of Thee I Sing.” The award gave the men the distinction of the first ever Pulitzer Prize for songwriting.

The Gershwin brothers’ biggest triumph came in 1935 with their famous “folk opera,” Porgy and Bess. The characters in the musical are almost exclusively African-Americans hailing from Charleston, South Carolina. The Gershwins insisted on hiring only black singers to play the parts, a progressive move at a time when blackface entertainment was still common. Musically, the composition was the brothers’ most ambitious and successful, and it remains a popular production even today.

After Porgy and Bess, Ira Gershwin began working almost exclusively on motion pictures, spending much of his time in Hollywood. For his work on “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” (1937), “Long Ago and Far Away” (1944) and “The Man That Got Away” (1954), the lyricist was nominated for three Academy Awards.

In 1937, Ira Gershwin’s beloved brother and partner, George Gershwin, died of a brain tumor. Throughout their lives, Ira had functioned as his brother’s business manager and always looked after his finances. After George’s death, Ira devoted himself to organizing his brother’s legacy in the hopes of preserving it for future generations. His work paid off and the Library of Congress now has an extensive Gershwin Collection dedicated to that end.

1940, Ira Gershwin began writing and collaborating again with the likes of Jerome Kern, Kurt Weill and Harold Arlen. The famed lyricist said his goodbye to Broadway in 1946 with his last work for the stage, Park Avenue. He spent the rest of his life working on the family archive with historian Michael Feinstein.

Though he died on August 17, 1983 in Beverly Hills, California, symbols of his legacy and contribution continue to live on. In the Gershwin Room of the Library of Congress, curious visitors can see George’s piano and Ira’s typewriter on display. Despite his more bookish nature, the older brother and lyricist of the famed pair was just as invested in the joy of music, once saying, “Life is one long jubilee.”

Happy Birthday Patrick Nagel

Today is the 69th birthday of the artist Patrick Nagel.  If you grew up in the 80’s or have ever been to a nail salon in a strip mall, you know his work.  You probably didn’t know his story, which is where I come in.  I love the stylized era of his work, it takes me right back to watching music videos on MTV.  I think of Remington Steele, huge brick cell phones, and Duran Duran.  I hope this helps you appreciate his work and gives you a fuller understanding of the man behind the woman in sunglasses.  The world is a better place because Nagel was in it and still feels the loss that Nagel has left.

Name:  Patrick Nagel
Born: 25-Nov-1945
Birthplace: Dayton, OH
Died: 4-Feb-1984
Location of death: Santa Monica, CA

BEST KNOWN FOR:  Illustrator whose work consists of minimal paintings of women with white skin, black hair, and the barest hint of a nose. Recognisable work includes the cover of Duran Duran’s Rio (1984).

Patrick Nagel (November 25, 1945 – February 4, 1984) was an American artist. He created popular illustrations on board, paper, and canvas, most of which emphasize the simple grace of and beauty of the female form, in a distinctive style descended from Art Deco. He is best known for his illustrations for Playboy magazine, and the pop group Duran Duran, for whom he designed the cover of the best selling album Rio.

Nagel was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1945, but was raised and spent most of his life in the Los Angeles area. After serving in the United States Army with the 101st Airborne in Vietnam, Nagel attended the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles in 1969, and in that same year he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from California State University, Fullerton.

In 1971, Nagel worked as a graphic designer for ABC Television, producing graphics for promotions and news broadcasts. The following year, he began work as a freelance artist for major corporations and magazines, including Architectural Digest, Harper’s Magazine, IBM, ITT Corporation, MGM, Oui, Rolling Stone, United Artists, and Universal Studios.
In 1976, Nagel began to regularly contribute images to Playboy magazine, which improved his exposure and the popularity of “the Nagel Woman” image to a huge audience. In 1978, he made his first poster image for Mirage Editions, with whom he would print many Nagel women images.

Nagel’s 1982 painting for the album cover of rock group Duran Duran’s hit album Rio would become one of his best known images.

He also worked for many commercial clients, including Intel, Lucky Strike cigarettes, Ballentine Whiskey, and Budweiser. As his popularity grew he began offering limited edition prints of his work.

Nagel would start with a photograph and work down, always simplifying and removing elements which he felt were unnecessary. The resulting image would look flat, but emphasized those elements which he felt were most important.

According to Elena G. Millie, curator of the poster collection at the Library of Congress:

Like some of the old print masters (Toulouse-Lautrec and Bonnard, for example), Nagel was influenced by the Japanese woodblock print, with figures silhouetted against a neutral background, with strong areas of black and white, and with bold line and unusual angles of view. He handled colors with rare originality and freedom; he forced perspective from flat, two-dimensional images; and he kept simplifying, working to get more across with fewer elements. His simple and precise imagery is also reminiscent of the art-deco style of the 1920s and 1930s- its sharp linear treatment, geometric simplicity, and stylization of form yield images that are formal yet decorative.

Nagel’s figures generally have black hair, bright white skin, full-lipped mouths, and the distinctive Nagel eyes, which are often squared off in the later works. Because of the intense stylization and reduction of facial features into clean lines, generally the figures resemble each other, though Nagel worked with many models, including Playboy Playmates Cathy St. George, Tracy Vaccaro and Shannon Tweed. Nagel also painted several celebrity portraits including those of Joan Collins (whose portrait was subsequently released as a limited edition print) and Joanna Cassidy.

In 1984, at the age of 38, the artist participated in a 15-minute celebrity “Aerobathon” to raise funds for the American Heart Association. Afterwards, he was found dead in his car, and doctors determined by autopsy that he had suffered a heart attack.

Happy Birthday Dorothea Lange

NAME: Dorothea Lange
OCCUPATION: Photographer
BIRTH DATE: May 26, 1895
DEATH DATE: October 11, 1965
EDUCATION: Columbia University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Hoboken, New Jersey
PLACE OF DEATH: San Franciso, California

Best Known For:  Dorothea Lange was a photographer whose portraits of displaced farmers during the Great Depression greatly influenced later documentary photography.

One of the preeminent and pioneering documentary photographers of the 20th century, Dorothea Lange was born Dorothea Nutzhorn on May 26, 1895, in Hoboken, New Jersey. Her father, Heinrich Nutzhorn, was a lawyer, and her mother, Johanna, stayed at home to raise Dorothea and her brother, Martin.

When she was 7, Dorothea contracted polio, which left her right leg and foot noticeably weakened. Later, however, she’d feel almost appreciative of the effects the illness had on her life. “[It] was the most important thing that happened to me, and formed me, guided me, instructed me, helped me and humiliated me,” she said.

Just before Dorothea reached her teen years, her parents divorced. Dorothea grew to blame the separation on her father and eventually dropped his surname and took her mother’s maiden name, Lange, as her own.

“One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you’d be stricken blind.”

Art and literature were big parts of Lange’s upbringing. Her parents were both strong advocates for her education, and exposure to creative works filled her childhood.

Following high school, Lange, who’d never shown much interest in academics, decided to pursue photography as a profession. She studied the art form at Columbia University, and then, over the next several years, cut her teeth as an apprentice, working for several different photographers, including Arnold Genthe, a leading portrait photographer.

By 1918, Lange was living in San Francisco and soon running a successful portrait studio. With her husband, muralist Maynard Dixon, she had two sons and settled into the comfortable middle-class life she’d known as a child.

Lange’s first real taste of documentary photography came in the 1920s when she traveled around the Southwest with Dixon, mostly photographing Native Americans. With the onslaught of the Great Depression in the 1930s, she trained her camera on what she started to see in her own San Francisco neighborhoods: labor strikes and breadlines.

In the early 1930s, Lange, mired in an unhappy marriage, met Paul Taylor, a university professor and labor economist. Their attraction was immediate, and by 1935, both had left their respective spouses to be with each other.

Over the next five years, the couple traveled extensively together, documenting the rural hardship they encountered for the Farm Security Administration, established by the U.S. Agriculture Department. Taylor wrote reports, and Lange photographed the people they met. This body of work included Lange’s most well-known portrait, “Migrant Mother,” an iconic image from this period that gently and beautifully captured the hardship and pain of what so many Americans were experiencing.

The work now hangs in the Library of Congress.

As Taylor would later note, Lange’s access to the inner lives of these struggling Americans was the result of patience and careful consideration of the people she photographed. “Her method of work,” Taylor later said, “was often to just saunter up to the people and look around, and then when she saw something that she wanted to photograph, to quietly take her camera, look at it, and if she saw that they objected, why, she would close it up and not take a photograph, or perhaps she would wait until… they were used to her.”

In 1940, Lange became the first woman awarded a Guggenheim fellowship.

Following America’s entrance into World War II, Lange was hired by the Office of War Information (OWI) to photograph the internment of Japanese Americans. In 1945, she was employed again by the OWI, this time to document the San Francisco conference that created the United Nations.

While she battled increasing health problems over the last two decades of her life, Lange stayed active. She co-founded Aperture, a small publishing house that produces a periodical and high-end photography books. She took on assignments for Life magazine, traveling through Utah, Ireland and Death Valley. She also accompanied her husband on his work-related assignments in Pakistan, Korea and Vietnam, among other places, documenting what she saw along the way.

Lange passed away from esophageal cancer in October 1965.

While Lange sometimes grew frustrated that her work didn’t always provoke society to correct the injustices she documented, her photography has endured and greatly influenced generations of documentary photographers.

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The Great Gatsby

Once, I went to a reading of the entire The Great Gatsby.  It took about eight hours and at least a half dozen people to play all the parts.  When they got to the last paragraph, we all recited it together.  It was intense and glorious and beautiful.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

 

 

It was on this day in 1925 that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby was published. Fitzgerald believed he had written a great book, and he was disappointed by its reception. He wrote to his friend Edmund Wilson: “Of all the reviews, even the most enthusiastic, not one had the slightest idea what the book was about.”

Fitzgerald was already famous when The Great Gatsby was published. His first novels, This Side of Paradise (1920) and The Beautiful and the Damned (1922), sold well. Scott and his wife, Zelda, were celebrities — a beautiful, fashionable, social couple. After watching them ride down Fifth Avenue on top of a taxi, writer Dorothy Parker said, “They did both look as though they had just stepped out of the sun.” Shortly after the publication of The Beautiful and the Damned, Fitzgerald wrote to his editor, Maxwell Perkins: “I want to write something new — something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.”But first he wrote a play, The Vegetable, and it was a flop. To pay off his debts, he churned out magazine stories. He wrote to a friend: “I really worked hard as hell last winter — but it was all trash and it nearly broke my heart as well as my iron constitution.” He had high hopes for a new book. He wrote to Perkins: “In my new novel I’m thrown directly on purely creative work — not trashy imaginings as in my stories but the sustained imagination of a sincere yet radiant world.”

The Fitzgeralds’ extravagant New York lifestyle was weighing on them, and in the spring of 1924, the couple and their young daughter headed to Europe, where Scott was looking for somewhere quieter and less expensive to work on The Great Gatsby. (Fitzgerald’s idea of a quiet lifestyle was relative; of his 1926 visit to the Riviera, he wrote: “There was no one at Antibes this summer, except me, Zelda, the Valentinos, the Murphys, Mistinguet, Rex Ingram, Dos Passos, Alice Terry, the MacLeishes, Charlie Brackett, Mause Kahn, Lester Murphy, Marguerite Namara, E. Oppenheimer, Mannes the violinist, Floyd Dell, Max and Crystal Eastman … Just the right place to rough it, an escape from the world.”)

After a stay in Paris, they headed south to the town of Valescure on the French Riviera, which Fitzgerald called the “hot sweet south of France.” In those days, the Riviera was cheap, and they rented a villa on a hillside. He described the Mediterranean: “Fairy blue […] and in the shadow of the mountains a green belt of land runs along the coast for a hundred miles and makes a playground for the world.” They went to fancy dinners with rich friends, listened to jazz on the phonograph, and lay in the sun drinking. Fitzgerald worked on The Great Gatsby, writing to Perkins that the south of France was idyllic and that he would finish the novel within a month. Zelda was not so happy; Scott was too busy with his novel to pay attention to her, and their daughter was watched by a nurse. She distracted herself by flirting with a French naval officer, and the Fitzgeralds’ marriage deteriorated.

They moved to Rome that fall, where Scott made final edits on The Great Gatsby. He couldn’t decide on a title — he considered On the Road to West Egg, Gold-hatted Gatsby, Among the Ash-Heaps and Millionaires, The High-bouncing Lover, Trimalchio, and others. While the book was in publication, Fitzgerald suddenly came up with Under the Red White and Blue, and Perkins had to convince him that it was not worth delaying publication and that they should stick with The Great Gatsby.

When The Great Gatsby was published on this day in 1925, it cost $2.00. The reviews were mostly good, but sales were bad — after the initial run of 20,000 copies, there was a second printing of 3,000 copies in August, but some of those copies were still in the warehouse when Fitzgerald died 15 years later. He told Perkins that he thought there were two reasons for the book’s failure: that the title wasn’t very good, and that there were no strong female characters and women were the ones buying fiction. A few years before he died, Fitzgerald went from bookstore to bookstore trying to find copies of his books for his lover Sheilah Graham, but he couldn’t find any.

In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald wrote: “There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.”

 

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The African Queen – Required Viewing

I have seen “The African Queen” dozens of times.  It was one of the many movies that we watched after school.  Each time I write that my sister and I watched old movies after school, I fully realize that it is not normal.  There were a number of factors that made it an obvious choice, from not having cable TV to it always raining.  Yet still, it does seem like a different choice to watch “North By Northwest” and the rest.  I am glad we did, I am sure that if we had watched soap operas after school, I wouldn’t have as fond memories of that time.
african queen

The Wiki:

The African Queen is a 1951 adventure film adapted from the 1935 novel of the same name by C. S. Forester. The film was directed by John Huston and produced by Sam Spiegel[5] and John Woolf. The screenplay was adapted by James Agee, John Huston, John Collier and Peter Viertel. It was photographed in Technicolor by Jack Cardiff and had a music score by Allan Gray. The film stars Humphrey Bogart (who won the Academy Award for Best Actor – his only Oscar), and Katharine Hepburn with Robert Morley, Peter Bull, Walter Gotell, Richard Marner and Theodore Bikel.

The African Queen has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, with the Library of Congress deeming it “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”.

 

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Dorothea Lange – Style Icon

NAME: Dorothea Lange
OCCUPATION: Photographer
BIRTH DATE: May 26, 1895
DEATH DATE: October 11, 1965
EDUCATION: Columbia University
PLACE OF BIRTH: Hoboken, New Jersey
PLACE OF DEATH: San Franciso, California

Best Known For:  Dorothea Lange was a photographer whose portraits of displaced farmers during the Great Depression greatly influenced later documentary photography.

One of the preeminent and pioneering documentary photographers of the 20th century, Dorothea Lange was born Dorothea Nutzhorn on May 26, 1895, in Hoboken, New Jersey. Her father, Heinrich Nutzhorn, was a lawyer, and her mother, Johanna, stayed at home to raise Dorothea and her brother, Martin.

When she was 7, Dorothea contracted polio, which left her right leg and foot noticeably weakened. Later, however, she’d feel almost appreciative of the effects the illness had on her life. “[It] was the most important thing that happened to me, and formed me, guided me, instructed me, helped me and humiliated me,” she said.

Just before Dorothea reached her teen years, her parents divorced. Dorothea grew to blame the separation on her father and eventually dropped his surname and took her mother’s maiden name, Lange, as her own.

“One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you’d be stricken blind.”

Art and literature were big parts of Lange’s upbringing. Her parents were both strong advocates for her education, and exposure to creative works filled her childhood.

Following high school, Lange, who’d never shown much interest in academics, decided to pursue photography as a profession. She studied the art form at Columbia University, and then, over the next several years, cut her teeth as an apprentice, working for several different photographers, including Arnold Genthe, a leading portrait photographer.

By 1918, Lange was living in San Francisco and soon running a successful portrait studio. With her husband, muralist Maynard Dixon, she had two sons and settled into the comfortable middle-class life she’d known as a child.

Lange’s first real taste of documentary photography came in the 1920s when she traveled around the Southwest with Dixon, mostly photographing Native Americans. With the onslaught of the Great Depression in the 1930s, she trained her camera on what she started to see in her own San Francisco neighborhoods: labor strikes and breadlines.

In the early 1930s, Lange, mired in an unhappy marriage, met Paul Taylor, a university professor and labor economist. Their attraction was immediate, and by 1935, both had left their respective spouses to be with each other.

Over the next five years, the couple traveled extensively together, documenting the rural hardship they encountered for the Farm Security Administration, established by the U.S. Agriculture Department. Taylor wrote reports, and Lange photographed the people they met. This body of work included Lange’s most well-known portrait, “Migrant Mother,” an iconic image from this period that gently and beautifully captured the hardship and pain of what so many Americans were experiencing.

The work now hangs in the Library of Congress.

As Taylor would later note, Lange’s access to the inner lives of these struggling Americans was the result of patience and careful consideration of the people she photographed. “Her method of work,” Taylor later said, “was often to just saunter up to the people and look around, and then when she saw something that she wanted to photograph, to quietly take her camera, look at it, and if she saw that they objected, why, she would close it up and not take a photograph, or perhaps she would wait until… they were used to her.”

In 1940, Lange became the first woman awarded a Guggenheim fellowship.

Following America’s entrance into World War II, Lange was hired by the Office of War Information (OWI) to photograph the internment of Japanese Americans. In 1945, she was employed again by the OWI, this time to document the San Francisco conference that created the United Nations.

While she battled increasing health problems over the last two decades of her life, Lange stayed active. She co-founded Aperture, a small publishing house that produces a periodical and high-end photography books. She took on assignments for Life magazine, traveling through Utah, Ireland and Death Valley. She also accompanied her husband on his work-related assignments in Pakistan, Korea and Vietnam, among other places, documenting what she saw along the way.

Lange passed away from esophageal cancer in October 1965.

While Lange sometimes grew frustrated that her work didn’t always provoke society to correct the injustices she documented, her photography has endured and greatly influenced generations of documentary photographers.

Banned Books That Shaped America: Gone With the Wind

The Library of Congress created an exhibit, “Books that Shaped America,” that explores books that “have had a profound effect on American life.” Many of the books in the exhibit have been banned/challenged.  Give yourself the gift of a beautiful story and read one and them imagine what your life would be like if you were never given that gift.

Fight censorship.

Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 1936

The Pulitzer-prize winning novel (which three years after its publication became an Academy-Award Winning film) follows the life of the spoiled daughter of a southern plantation owner just before and then after the fall of the Confederacy and decline of the South in the aftermath of the Civil War. Critically praised for its thought-provoking and realistic depiction of ante- and postbellum life in the South, it has also been banned for more or less the same reasons. Its realism has come under fire, specifically its realistic portrayal – though at times perhaps tending toward optimistic — of slavery and use of the words “nigger” and “darkies.”

gone with the wind

In a film that had four directors, at least twelve scriptwriters, and a rotation of cameramen, the one unifying vision for the production of Gone With the Wind belonged to its producer, David O. Selznick. Born on May 10, 1902, to pioneering movie mogul Lewis Selznick, David lived his early years in financial comfort. Lewis gave his sons lavish personal allowances, advising them to spend it all and stay broke. Selznick’s family wealth vanished abruptly, taken not by the ravages of war but by his father’s poor business decisions and his gambling addiction. By 1923 Lewis Selznick declared bankruptcy, spending his last years financially supported by his sons.

Selznick moved to Hollywood in 1926 and quickly got a job in MGM’s story department, where he began working his way up the ranks. Just two years later he moved to Paramount Pictures, where he was hired as an executive before continuing on to become vice president in charge of production at RKO. He then returned to MGM to help produce several films, most notably David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, and Anna Karenina. When the original head of production at MGM returned, Selznick lost the creative freedom he craved and left to form his own production company in 1935. The following year, Selznick bought the film rights to Margaret Mitchell’s wildly popular novel Gone With the Wind.

Films about the old South were popular during the first half of the twentieth century. One of the first of these films was Edwin S. Porter’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and twelve years later the epic The Birth of a Nation electrified the country, redefining cinema as an art form. By the late 1930s, however, the genre had gone into a steep decline, and when Irving G. Thalberg, the head of production at MGM, heard the synopsis of Gone With the Wind he was unimpressed. “Forget it,” he was famously quoted as saying after he rejected the story. “No Civil War picture ever made a nickel.”

Selznick had his own reservations about the story, including the cost of screen rights and production and the difficulties of choosing a cast that wouldn’t alienate the many fans of the novel. Problems continued during the shooting of the film, ranging from wars between starlets over the lead role of Scarlett to Selznick’s constant rewriting of the script. The production surpassed its budget before any of the action sequences were filmed, the hours were so long that some of the cast and crew took drugs to keep going, and the once supportive press abandoned the project entirely. Selznick, however, remained unbeaten through these trials, firm in his vision of a sweeping romantic drama and determined to prove that the film the press was now calling “Selznick’s Folly” would be a success.

In the end, Selznick’s vision didn’t fail him. After its December 1939 premiere, Gone With the Wind proved to be a huge critical and box office success. It was labeled a masterpiece by the very critics who had once called it a folly, and it went on to be one of the top grossing films of all time. It was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards and won eight of them, including Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Actress (Leigh), Best Director (Fleming), and Best Color Cinematography. In addition, the Academy bestowed upon the film a special achievement award and an honorary plaque. Hattie McDaniel also walked into film history with her win as Best Supporting Actress, the first Oscar ever won by an African American. In England, Gone With the Wind ran in theaters for the duration of World War II, with Scarlett serving as a symbol of resistance and liberation. For these same reasons, the Nazis banned the film.

Such success, however, could not last. Despite the film’s achievements, Gone With the Wind’s enormous scope and budget precluded the chance of it strongly influencing other films. Even if the film had spawned an imitator, there would have been no market for it. By the end of World War II, protests over Hollywood’s racial stereotyping had permanently tainted Southern films, sending their popularity into steep decline. Selznick had another success in 1940 with the film Rebecca, but after that he was unable to repeat the success of his two most famous films and began losing money. The creative control of producers fell as directors rose in influence, and shifting balances of power marked the end of the glory days of the studio system. Like the story of the South in the Civil War, Gone With the Wind proved to be the end of an era.

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