Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Producing Gone With The Wind


Telegram to David O. Selznick from Katherine Brown. Click to enlarge.

Telegram to David O. Selznick from Katherine Brown.

The Purchase

After it was decided that the rights to the book were worth purchasing, Brown and Selznick had to act quickly because other studios were interested in buying. In a flurry of teletypes (1) from May 28, 1936, Brown and Selznick discuss the purchase price for the rights to the book, as well as casting, indicating that Ronald Colman was a possibility for the part of Rhett Butler. Brown was vying for the rights to the book in New York while convincing Selznick that a competitive offer on the rights was justified.

A week later, Brown's reiterated her interest in the project to Selznick. Brown had been corresponding with Margaret Mitchell's agent about the book and purchasing the rights, but Selznick was not convinced that the purchase should occur unless it could be cast properly (2) on some of the major roles, as expressed in a memo to Brown in reference to Ronald Colman's interest in the part of Rhett Butler. Another week passed with no action taken on the book, but on June 9, Selznick wrote to Brown expressing a renewed interest (3). She emphatically responded, "Never say die!" (4) Pressure built on the decision to buy as other companies were showing an interest in purchasing the rights.

On July 7, 1936, Brown was finally able to close the deal with Margaret Mitchell's agent for $50,000. In her message to Selznick, Brown requested confidentiality over the closing price (5) because comparable offers were made by other companies and rejected by the agent. She did not want the agent to be accused of "playing favorites" or to impact later business relations for the agent. Three weeks later, contracts were signed (6). Selznick's concerns over casting were justified, as it would be more than two more years before Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh signed contracts for their respective roles of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara.

NEXT: Casting