In April 1939, producer David O. Selznick recognized that the grueling pace of filming Gone With the Wind was taking a toll on his cast and crew, especially director Victor Fleming.
On April 14, Selznick confided in a memo to executive staff that Fleming “is so near the breaking point both physically and mentally from sheer exhaustion that it would be a miracle…if he is able to shoot for another seven or eight weeks.” Selznick recommended “selecting an understudy…so that he could step in on brief notice.”
One possibility Selznick suggested was Robert Z. Leonard, the Academy Award-nominated director of The Divorcee (1930) and The Great Ziegfeld (1936). Selznick wrote: “I once dragged him in on A Tale of Two Cities when [Jack] Conway fell ill and he started shooting for me on twenty minutes notice.”
Another possibility was William Wellman, who was the noted director of The Public Enemy (1931), A Star is Born (1937) and Nothing Sacred (1937). Selznick wrote: “I am sure Bill would do this as a favor for me.”
But the director Selznick ultimately chose to wait in the wings as Fleming’s understudy was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contract director Sam Wood. (To be continued…)
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).