On May 22, 1939, director Victor Fleming completed filming “Scarlett Searches for Dr. Meade,” one of Gone With the Wind‘s most memorable scenes.
Known as the crane shot, the sequence begins with Scarlett’s arrival at the Atlanta depot. She walks gingerly among the “hundreds of wounded men…stretched out in endless rows.” When she finds Dr. Meade, she tells him that Melanie is having her baby, and Meade is incredulous.
“Are you crazy? I can’t leave these men for a baby! They’re dying — hundreds of them.” To underscore his words, the camera slowly pulls back and up to show a field of “stinking, bleeding bodies broiling under the glaring sun” and comes to rest on the tattered Confederate flag flapping in the wind.
The planning of this scene started four months before it was filmed. The major problem was getting the camera up to the required height. The camera crew estimated that by the end of the scene, the camera needed to be 90 feet off the ground. But the tallest camera crane available in Hollywood reached only a height of 25 feet.
Selznick International’s production manager, Ray Klune, contacted a southern California construction company that owned a crane with an extension range of 125 feet. He rented the truck-mounted crane for ten days.
During tests, he found that vibrations from the truck’s engine shook the camera at the beginning and end of the scene. To solve the problem, Klune ordered the building of a 150-foot-long concrete ramp. The truck slid smoothly down the ramp while the arm of the crane lifted the camera easily into the air to capture the breathtaking panorama.
Happy 75th Anniversary, Gone With the Wind!
Blog Bio: Pauline Bartel is the author of The Complete GONE WITH THE WIND Trivia Book (2nd edition), which will be published in spring 2014, and an expert on the film and its history. Visit the website (www.paulinebartel.com/resources/books/books-available) for further information. Follow her on Twitter @PaulineBartel and “like” her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/TheCompleteGWTWTriviaBook).