On February 14, 1939, when technical adviser Susan Myrick arrived on Gone With the Wind’s set, she took one look at the gloomy faces of crew members, watched them whispering in small groups and realized that something was going on. She asked assistant director Eric G. Stacey about the mood on the set, and he explained about the weekend blow up between Selznick and Cukor. In a letter she wrote to Margaret Mitchell later that day, Myrick related that Stacey’s “only reaction was that George had been damned patient not to have resigned before.”
Myrick waited for a break in the day’s filming to speak directly to Cukor. She told him how upset she was at the news, and he took her aside because he wanted her to know the truth.
“In effect, he said he is an honest craftsman and he cannot do a job unless he knows it is a good job and he feels the present job is not right,” Myrick explained to Mitchell in the letter. “For days, he told me, he has looked at the rushes and felt he was failing. He knew he was a good director and knew the actors were good ones; yet the thing did not click as it should. Gradually he became more and more convinced that the script was the trouble.”
The script was indeed the trouble. Dissatisfied with the original Sidney Howard script, Selznick had hired a succession of writers to undertake script revisions, including playwright Oliver H.P. Garrett. Still not satisfied, Selznick decided that he along with Garrett would take a crack at writing yet another version of the script.
“And George has continuously taken script from day to day, compared the Garrett-Selznick version with the Howard, groaned and tried to change some parts back to the Howard script. But he seldom could do much with the scene,” Myrick wrote.
She explained to Mitchell that often the cast would receive at 5 p.m. script pages for a scene they would shoot the next morning. “How in hell can I teach Vivien how to pronounce words or Leslie how to say ‘store’ and ‘love’ and such words when he gets the lines at quitting time…and starts acting them at 8:45 next morning! And how can George study scenes and plan out action when he doesn’t know what he is to shoot some days until he comes on the set at 8 o’clock!”
Myrick recreated for Mitchell the scene with Selznick that Cukor had relayed to her. “So George just told David he would not work any longer if the script was not better and he wanted the Howard script back. David told George he was a director – not an author and he [David] was the producer and the judge of what is a good script…and George said he was a director and a damn good one and he would not let his name go out over a lousy picture [and] if they did not go back to the Howard script…he, George, was through. And bull-headed David said ‘O K get out!’” (Source: White Columns in Hollywood: Reports from the GWTW Sets by Susan Myrick, pages 126-127)
2023 Twin Year: The 2023 calendar matches the days of the 1939, making 2023 a twin year to 1939. That’s the premise of Pauline’s new book Gone With the Wind: 1939 Day by Day. In that book, she chronicles the production, premieres and reception of GWTW from January 1, 1939 to December 31, 1939. Fans will love following the drama and intrigue of GWTW’s production on each event’s exact day and date.
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