Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Man Out of His Freaking Mind~ David Selznick, And The Road to Tara

  Reading about the time when Gone With the Wind was made was different than I expected it to be. It was more a focus on the director, David Selznick, how he worked, and those who worked with him. Like one would expect in any topic on the workings of a director, it discussing his pros and cons, his flaws and strengths. And at the end...I am convinced the dude was out of his freaking mind. But he made Gone With the Wind. Something obviously worked. Human beings, and the things we are able to create, are a curiosity. Really. Reading through this book, The Road to Tara: the Making of Gone With the Wind by Aljean Harmetz, I wonder how on earth events ever came to be to create a movie that was so raw, and living. And of course, needless to say a lot of that was due to the writing of Margaret Mitchell. Selznick was loyal to her words.

  Gone With the Wind is an example of a story about characters who were just entirely human--not the stereotypically "good" or "bad" characters that many writings hold. Good writing is hard to come by. And I'm not saying that a character can't be mostly good, or undoubtedly bad--only that many stories portray flat characters--not the grit of human nature. And what was best about The Road to Tara, was that it too was just human. All these people were real, their lives shared in a very human way, and I, the reader, got to see what it must have been like working with such people. I'm not sure how long I would have lasted--well, I think I would have stuck it through, but it was a mess. So many writers, so much "ingenious" meddling on the part of Selznick. It was said that he had a habit of getting into other's jobs other than his own. But he had the energy and enthusiasm of a child. As much as the dude was out of his mind and had no discipline, he played and worked hard--was loyal to the story. And in the end, it payed off--he got a movie that he could always be proud of, a movie that would always be "modern", just as he wanted. Even though it cost him many things, including his studio.

"David had wanted to create the greatest movie ever made. For most moviegoers in 1939--and for more than a few in 1996--he had succeeded. But that success came at the cost of his studio and, in the end, of his self confidence. How can you top yourself after you've made Gone With the Wind? Selling his stake in Gone With the Wind made David solvent. If he had lived or worked with even a touch of financial caution, he wouldn't have been $9.5 million in debt to banks six years later. But if he hadn't lived extravagantly and spent unnecessary millions on his movies, he wouldn't have been David Selznick). The causes of David's success and of his failure were the same. To his benefit and his peril, he was obsessive, indecisive, recklessly extravagant, undisciplined, and too much of a perfectionist to settle for less than what he considered the best. Whatever his faults, David dreamed big.

In 1951, walking with Ben Hecht throguh a deserted Hollywood at dawn, David called Hollywood a new Egypt: "Full of crumbling pyramids" that would keep on crumbling "until finally the winds blows the last studio prop across the sands."

  But I think we can all say that some things stay behind, lasting because they sincerely meant something. And something like Gone With the Wind will, indeed, always be fresh and modern, because it is distinctly human.

  Aljean Harmetz has apparently written several Hollywood making-of books, including ones on the Wizard of Oz and Casablanca. Now those I'd definitely like to find!

  For other posts, I'll be covering the actors, and other aspects of the making of the movie. I can't bludgeon you all with the entirety of the facts all at once! Entirely too much good stuff to cover. So--I hope you enjoyed the post. And of course, I love to hear your comments! What do you think of Selznick, and the movie he made?

I would have included pictures, but apparently blogger has changed on me, and this thing called Google Drive happened. I can't figure out how to upload a simple picture! And it used to be so easy the other way. The blithering idiots, changing it on me. Needless to say I'm ticked off. 

  ~ Miss Cocoa Latte

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