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Unearthed shooting script from 'Gone With The Wind' shows scenes depicting horrors of slavery
March 03 2023, 08:00

A nearly-lost script from the 1939 classic, "Gone With the Wind," reveal screenwriters battled over how to portray slavery in the Civil War epic.

While the film based on Margaret Mitchell's novel has long been criticized for its portrayal of its Black characters and race relations of the era, the unearthed script revealed scenes showing the horrors of slavery were cut from the film. Behind-the-scenes drama ensued over the topic between two groups of screenwriters who had polar opposite views of the antebellum period.

Historian David Vincent Kimel shared images of lost scenes from the rare "Rainbow Script" he purchased in a bookstore auction for $15,000 dollars with Hollywood insider newsletter The Ankler. 

"Had these scenes remained in the final film, they would have stood in startling juxtaposition to the pageantry on display at the premiere in Atlanta," he said.


Kimel described how the removed scenes gave a much harsher portrayal of how the slaves were treated.

"Remarkably, much of the excised material in my Rainbow Script was a harsh portrayal of the mistreatment of the enslaved workers on Scarlett's plantation, including references to beatings, threats to throw ‘Mammy’ out of the plantation for not working hard enough, and other depictions of physical and emotional violence," Kimel wrote.

Race relations was also portrayed differently. Scenes depicted slaves "luxuriating in the misfortunes of their enslavers, belying the Southern myth that mutual respect was the norm," the historian stated.

"If not for Selznick’s choices to err on the side of white pacification, he could have altered the course of one of the most celebrated — and disgraced — movies ever made," the Ankler added.


But not all the writers agreed with this portrayal. "Romantics" who preferred a more idealized version of the period fought with "Realists" who wanted to play up the scenes of mistreatment. 

"[Producer David O.] Selznick’s demand of absolute fidelity to [Margaret] Mitchell led to two tonally contradictory perspectives on slavery and its legacy. Rival groups of screenwriters among the many engaged on the script emerged: "Romantics" who leaned into the mythos of Moonlight and Magnolias, and "Realists" who amped up scenes of mistreatment to highlight the brutality of Scarlett’s character and even condemn the institution of slavery itself," Kimel wrote.

"The Great Gatsby" author F. Scott Fitzgerald was one of the writers who asked Selznick to give a more romantic view of the era, in a letter where he used racial slurs.

"To suggest the romance of the old South immediately… I’d like to see a two or three minute montage of the most beautiful pre-war shots imaginable… I’d like to see… negroes singing… Then we could go into the story of disappointed love, betraying overseers, toiling n---ers and quarreling girls," the letter shared in the Ankler read.

Kimel estimates his rare find is one of half a dozen scripts that survived, after Producer David O. Selznick allegedly ordered all shooting scripts destroyed.

Despite the controversies surrounding the Civil War flick, it remains the top grossing film of all time, adjusted for inflation, according to Box Office Mojo.