It’s time for the GIG Movie Awards – part of the world famous GIG spotlight series – hosted by the lovely bloggers at The Closet Lullaby and Latinolook. As part of this spotlight, I have chosen to honor a film that changed the face of Hollywood and defined the future of the Oscars - Gone with the Wind. The main aspect of this film that appeals to me is the perfection of its production, from the casting and personalities to the costumes and sets, it is a magnificent film that incorporates everything films stand for. Hope you enjoy the post!
The Oscars, formally known as the Academy Awards, are awards that are presented annually to recognize achievements in cinema. As the most prestigious awards in Hollywood, the Oscars are an event that audiences and the film frateit look forward to every year. The tradition of the Oscars started back in 1929, when the 1st Academy Awards were hosted at the Hollywood Rooselvelt Hotel in LA - since then, they have been occurring annually to recognize and celebrate achievements in cinema.
Cinema made the leap from black and white into color, and still the Oscars remained to be the epitome to mark excellence and achievement. One of the things that have changed dramatically is the presentation of the awards and how they were accepted. The Oscars have evolved, just like cinema itself, to accommodate the innovation and talent of today’s film makers. Despite all of this, the 1940 Oscars remain to be my favorite awards since they not only focused on my favorite film of all time, but they were also a first for many things in the history of cinema.
Since then, the award ceremony has become an event that identifies the achievements in cinema, with the actual event being packed with entertaining performances and a huge build-up to the evening. In 1940, Gone with the Wind became the first film to receive 8 awards – making a dramatic entry into history with not only being the first colored picture to win the awards, but also the first African-American film.
1939 – An Iconic Year for Cinema
Imagine the setting of the 1940 Academy Awards – the buzz surrounding the event must have been phenomenal. It was a year of epic films, with the front seats taken by legendary movies including Wuthering Heights, Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. All award categories boasted excellent performances and unique achievements within the field, making the ultimate decision challenging and difficult.
There is no argument that The Wizard of Oz is one of the finest achievements in cinematic history. Considering the limitations of the time and technology, it is a feat in itself that this film was ever made – without any computer or animation. At it’s 1939 release, the film grossed an estimated $3 million which was a great accomplishment considering the era. Had the film been released a year before, or a year later, it would have won more awards at the Oscars – however the competition was set with an epic such as Gone with the Wind.
The Wizard of Oz had been nominated in 6 categories, including Special Effects, Outstanding Production, Music and Art Direction. It still fazes me that this film was made in 1939 – I mean, there was barely any innovative technology to work with and even then they managed to depict a film that was worthy of being nominated at the Oscars!
The Dream Cast
While I may be biased in my opinion (yes, I am), Gone with the Wind is a film that pretty much owned the Oscars in 1940. Even with powerful contenders such as The Wizard of Oz, it managed to rake in 8 Academy Awards in recognizing the excellence in cinema. Having read the book, I found this film to be one of the best adaptations from book to film. The casting of the film has often been scrutinized, however I believe that the character’s could not have had better actors – except for Ashley Wilkes of course.
Clark Gable was the first and only choice for the role of Rhett Butler, and Selznick refused to consider any other actors for the role – despite the unavailability of Gable himself. Due to previously agreed contracts, Gable was unavailable for filming for a period of 2 years, in which producer David O’ Selznick built up publicity for the film and found the perfect actress to play his female lead.
Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara is the epitome of adaptations – she plays the snobby, inappropriate and confident Southern belle to a level of excellence that no actress can compete with, and they probably never will. The casting for this role was not easy, with Selznick auditioning a whopping 1,400 ladies (costing as estimated $100,000) to find the perfect Scarlett. Many famous actresses of the time were pulling all stops for the role, including Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn – who went on record saying:
“I am Scarlett O’Hara! The role is practically written for me.”
Irrespective of these efforts, Selznick was adamant in his decision to find an actress who would partner well with his leading man, Clark Gable. Lucky for Selznick, Vivien Leigh was just making her way into Hollywood and asked her agent to book her an appointment. Even though Selznick’s initial impression was that she was “too British” for the role, he soon realized that he had struck gold with this leading actress.
A Year of Firsts
Th 12th Annual Academy Awards were one the most anticipated ceremonies in history. The evening was set to be a breakthrough in history and a night to remember – for the actors, film makers and the audiences. Hattie McDaniel, who depicted Mammy in the film, became the first African American actress to be nominated and win an Academy Award. Even though her Oscar statuette later went missing for around 4 decades, it was an achievement that cannot go unrecognized for the years to come.
Moreover, Gone with the Wind is the first motion picture that was released in color to receive an Oscar. The art direction and cinematography of the film is unparalleled to this day, depicting Tara and the South just as Margaret Mitchell intended it in her book. And finally, the film the first to receive as many Academy Awards as 8, and was undefeated for decades (Ben Hur in 1959 got 11 Oscars).
Now if there was an Oscar for the best Oscar speech, it would go to Vivien Leigh for her acceptance of the Best Actress.
The film won Academy Awards in the following categories: Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Picture and Best Screenplay.
On a Closing Note…
Gone with the Wind is definitely one of the most successful and beautifully portrayed films of all times. It is the epitome of cinema and how it can capture great performances, despite the era or setting. The 1940 Oscars must have been an evening of excitement and anticipation, therefore being the Best Oscars in History!