A new book from LIFE exhaustively details the film's shoot and premiere

By Associated Press and Alex Heigl
Updated December 18, 2014 02:00 PM
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Credit: Everett

Dec. 15 marks the 75th anniversary of Gone With the Wind‘s premiere at the Atlanta Loews Grand Theater, and if you’re a fan, LIFE’s new book, Gone With the Wind: The Great American Movie, 75 Years Later, is exactly what you need in your life.

LIFE is exactly the right outlet to put the book out: The magazine extensively chronicled the film when it was first released, and it now draws from a large archive of behind-the-scenes photos from the set and film premiere.

Meanwhile, Emory University film studies professor Matthew Bernstein has conducted extensive research into the archives of the film’s producer, David O. Selznick. His findings illustrate some of Selznick’s concerns with the city’s treatment of the film’s black stars at the 1939 premiere.

“Producer David O. Selznick was upset that Hattie McDaniel would not be invited to the Atlanta premiere,” Bernstein told the Associated Press. “He argued over and over that she should be allowed.”

McDaniel played the character, Mammy, and went on to become the first black actor to receive an Academy Award for her performance as Best Supporting Actress in 1940.

But due to the racial segregation laws in the Jim Crow South, none of the movie’s black stars were allowed to attend the premiere or even be included in the movie’s promotional program. McDaniel did attend the Los Angeles premiere, but she was featured in the program.

“Selznick, because he was Jewish, was very mindful of the persecution of the Jews in Europe in the late-1930s under Nazism,” Bernstein remarks. “And he saw an analogy between that persecution and the life of African-Americans under Jim Crow, especially in the South.”

In contrast to the city’s treatment of the movie’s black cast, local black organizations performed at various events leading up to the night of the premiere.

“One of the most fascinating things about the festivities is Martin Luther King Jr., when he was 10 years old, actually appeared on stage at a charity ball dressed as a slave in front of a mock-up of Tara singing with the Ebenezer Baptist Church choir,” Bernstein points out.

Steve Klein, a spokesman for The King Center, confirmed the event as a reflection of the times but offered a poignant analogy for the civil- and human-rights icon. “It’s kind of neat that he could go on and be awarded the Nobel Prize.”

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