Screenwriters working on ‘Gone with the Wind’ went to ‘war’ over the depiction of slavery – with more disturbing and violent elements ultimately cut from the 1939 blockbuster, according to a historian who discovered the scenes in a script extremely rare original shooting.

David Vincent Kimel, a doctoral candidate in history at Yale, wrote in the pinner Wednesday that he had paid $15,000 for a shooting script owned by casting director Fred Schuessler. He says several writers pushed for a more realistic portrayal of slavery and race relations during the Civil War and Reconstruction, but the scenes they wrote were ultimately cut.

“Gone with the Wind” has been criticized for decades for its sanitized version of slavery in the Antebellum South. HBO Max added a disclaimer to the film in 2020, saying it ignores “the horrors of slavery, as well as its legacy of racial inequality”.

‘Gone with the Wind’ was adapted from the epic 1936 novel, set in pre- and post-war Georgia and centered on the beautiful Scarlett O’Hara, which sold nearly 30 million of copies. Starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, the film was a colossal success, becoming the highest-grossing film of all time – a record it still holds when adjusted for inflation. It also won 10 Oscars, including Best Supporting Actress for Hattie McDaniel, the first-ever African-American to win an Oscar, and Best Picture.

Kimel says he acquired the extremely rare shooting script in 2020 and, while browsing through its 301 pages, discovered several deleted scenes. He also found many notes and revisions, including fierce debates among writers about how to approach scenes of slavery.

“Much of the excised material was a harsh depiction of the mistreatment of enslaved workers on the Scarlett plantation, including references to beatings, threats to throw ‘Mammy’ [McDaniel] off the plantation for not working hard enough, and other depictions of physical and emotional abuse,” Kimel wrote.

Kimel says the script was a miracle find, given that “Gone with the Wind” producer David O. Selznick ordered all scripts destroyed. He wrote that perhaps a handful—worked on by a dozen writers, including F. Scott Fitzgerald—still exist.

Rival groups of writers quickly formed, writes Kimel: “The ‘Romantics’ and the ‘Realists’ who amplified scenes of abuse to highlight the brutality of Scarlett’s character and even condemn the institution of slavery itself.” (For his part, Fitzgerald was a “romantic” who wanted to see a montage of slaves singing, “working,” and “the prettiest pre-war shots imaginable.”)

The “realists”, however, were creating material that “so often was so gritty and uncompromising that some of it was cut to rough drafts even before the script in my possession was created”, Kimel wrote. In one such scene, Scarlett hits a house slave with a rod while yelling, “Sit down, you fool, before I wear this on you!”

Film historians have known for years that Selznick negotiates with black actors and advocacy groups like the NAACP over things like the inclusion of racial slurs and the KKK (which also didn’t make the cut). But Kimel’s account is believed to be the first to shed light on the producer’s struggle over whether to include harsh depictions of slavery – and his eventual decision to cut them.

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