On January 26, 1939, director George Cukor yelled “Action,” and Gone With the Wind‘s principal photography began. The opening scene he shot that day turned out to be one of Gone With the Wind‘s jinxed scenes.
Vivien Leigh in her green sprig silk muslin dress warned the Tarleton boys that one more mention of war would send her right into the house. But when the rushes of that scene were shown, producer David O. Selznick was aghast that the Tarletons’ curly hairstyles had photographed bright orange. He ordered the scene reshot.
Four days later, the trio once more appeared on Tara’s porch. This time the Tarletons’ hairstyles were straightened and darkened. Selznick was pleased with the results of their coiffures, but the acting abilities of Fred Crane and George Reeves left much to be desired.
When Victor Fleming took over directing duties on March 1, the porch scene was shot again. This third time the camera caught Scarlett’s flirtations from a different angle, but this was no better than the previous two tries.
On June 14, 1939 Vivien Leigh reported for the scene of Gerald’s walk with Scarlett in which he declares that “land’s the only thing that lasts.” While preparing for that scene, she learned the Selznick had decided she would wear the white, high-necked, ruffled dress from the Evening Prayers sequence. White, Selznick believed, would make Scarlett look more virginal. That meant, of course, that all of the previously filmed porch scenes had to be scrapped. Not even close-ups could be saved.
The fourth version of the porch scene was filmed on June 26. Vivien Leigh dressed in white, listened as the Tarletons told her that Ashley was engaged to marry his cousin Melanie. But Leigh’s face reflected more than distress at this news. She looked pale, haggard and worn from five months of grueling work.
On October 13, Victor Fleming directed the fifth version of the porch scene. Leigh, fresh from a vacation, was well rested and once again the beautiful image of 16-year-old Scarlett as she complained to the Tarletons that talk of war was spoiling all the fun at every party.
Blog Bio: Pauline Bartel is the author of The Complete GONE WITH THE WIND Trivia Book and an expert on the film and its history. Visit the website (www.paulinebartel.com/resources/books/books-available) for further information.