On Gone with the Wind

Alex Von Tunzelmann at Literary Review:

The screen version of Gone with the Wind could not entirely ignore the existence of black people, so it toned down the book’s racist language as well as some of its racial violence. There is a degree of irony in Scarlett, whose ‘magnolia skin’ is heavily fetishised, being played by Vivien Leigh, who probably had Indian ancestry. The producer, David Selznick, and Leslie Howard, who played Scarlett’s first love, Ashley Wilkes, were both of Jewish origin. Howard, says Churchwell, ‘categorically refused to read Gone with the Wind’. Most notably, though, the film’s black cast had to be persuaded to work on a white supremacist project. Hattie McDaniel, who won an Oscar for her performance as Scarlett’s maid, Mammy, was born to parents who had both once been enslaved. Her father was a veteran of the Union Army who had fought in the Civil War. McDaniel insisted she had taken the role for the money: ‘she had chosen between $700 a week to play a maid, or $7 a week to be a maid.’ Yet she and Butterfly McQueen, who played Prissy, must have cared a bit about what they were doing. Both lobbied to have one of the novel’s most-used words – rendered by Churchwell as ‘nxxxxr’ – excised completely from the screenplay. Eventually it was, though only after Selznick struck a deal with the censors to eliminate it in return for being allowed to keep Rhett Butler’s final ‘damn’.

more here.