In the two weeks that followed the start of Gone With the Wind‘s principal filming, George Cukor had directed the opening scene of Scarlett and the Tarletons on Tara’s porch, the birth of Melanie’s baby, Scarlett’s shooting of the Yankee deserter and Rhett’s presenting the Paris hat to Scarlett. Cukor was working on the scenes from the Atlanta Bazaar when producer David O. Selznick fired him.
Things went sour quickly for a number of reasons. The script was the main problem. Changes in scenes and dialogue arrived almost daily on the set. Out of necessity, Cukor substituted dialogue from the novel for the often-unplayable lines of the still-unfinished script. He even rewrote scenes before he shot them to make them more realistic. This not only caused delays in the shooting schedule but incurred Selznick’s wrath as well.
After Selznick viewed the rushes, he and Cukor met head-on in heated confrontations. He told Cukor he expected to see each scene rehearsed before it was filmed to “avoid projection-room surprises for me.” Selznick was concerned that Cukor, in his zeal for capturing the nuances of characters and scenes, was forsaking the panoramic sweep of the film. Selznick then began visiting the set, offering his unasked-for opinions, and driving the director to distraction with his interference.
On February 13, 1939, Selznick and Cukor issued a joint statement: “As a result of a series of disagreements between us over many of the individual scenes of Gone With the Wind, we have mutually decided that the only solution is for a new director to be selected at as early a date as is practicable.”
Cukor was out, and production on Gone With the Wind shut down.
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. Follow her on Twitter @PaulineBartel