While not being a great film like, say, Vertigo, The Searchers or Casablanca, the movie made from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind is a motion-picture phenomenon. When all adjustments have been made for inflation, it remains the most profitable Hollywood production ever. A single statistic makes the point: when the population of the USA was only 130 million, it sold 202 million tickets. Everything about the movie was gargantuan: five directors and fifteen screenwriters worked on it, and there was a nationwide search to find the actress best suited to play the heroine, Scarlett O’Hara. Paulette Goddard had the inside track, but MGM was worried that her affair with Charlie Chaplin might seep out and damage profits. As is well known, the role became Vivien Leigh’s finest screen achievement.
Moreover, the year in which Gone with the Wind was released (1939) was probably the most prolific ever in terms of the production of top-class movies: Mr Smith Goes to Washington, The Wizard of Oz, Wuthering Heights, Stagecoach, Young Mr Lincoln, Ninotchka, Love Affair, Only Angels Have Wings,