Olivia de Havilland Revisits <I>Gone With the Wind</I>5 Nov, 2004 By: Thomas K. Arnold
The last of the four key stars of Gone With the Wind still with us, Olivia De Havilland, is prominently featured in Warner Home Video's four-DVD gift set due Nov. 9.
In fact, Warner's SVP of classic catalog, George Feltenstein, considers “Melanie Remembers: Olivia De Havilland Recalls Gone With the Wind” the high point of the DVD's special features — and the culmination of a quest he had been on since the actress, now 88, wouldn't participate in the film's 50th anniversary festivities in 1989.
“I thought it was going to be nearly impossible, but persistence and integrity, I hope, helped us in getting her involvement,”Feltenstein said. “Even then, we thought she was going to do a five-minute introduction. So, imagine how delighted we were when she ended up creating her own personal dialogue with the audience.”
Just before the DVD's release, De Havilland reminisced about her experience on the film at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.:
VSM: Did your work on the film have any lasting impact on you?
De Havilland: All I can tell you is, the whole cast, all of us, became Southerners. Our sympathies lay with the South.
VSM: You didn't grow up anywhere near the South. How did you and the other cast members get their accents?
De Havilland: We had two tutors, one from Atlanta and the other from Mississippi. I found it delightful — so charming. All of us had to go over our dialogue every day, to be sure we were pronouncing all the words correctly. There was an English actress who studied with us, who had a part in another film, and she told Vivien Leigh, ‘I'm terribly worried about this Southern accent I have to learn.' And Vivien said, ‘Don't worry — all you have to know how to say is, ‘I've got a four-door Ford.' Just practice saying that, and you'll be all right.”
VSM: What was Clark Gable like?
De Havilland: He was highly professional. He was very serious about his work. He was always on time. He always knew his lines. He was very patient, and he was very strict about going home at night by 6 p.m. He was very firm about that. That rule did not apply to the rest of us, so we were awfully glad when he put his foot down.
VSM: What about Vivien Leigh?
De Havilland: I think whatever psychological difficulties developed in her or were latent in her occurred long afterwards [in the mid-1940s Leigh was diagnosed a manic-depressive]. She was, I think, overworked on Gone With the Wind. But again, she, like Clark, was extremely professional.
VSM: What is your most vivid recollection of the shooting?
De Havilland: The burning of Atlanta [on MGM's Culver City lot]. They shot that right before we began filming; in fact, I hadn't even been cast yet. I lived in the Los Feliz district, and the window in my bedroom had a view straight across to the sea. One night, I was lying in bed, and I saw the night sky light up in this terrible conflagration, and I couldn't imagine what it was. That night was a very critical night for me. It forecast my future.
VSM: You make no secret of your love for Gone With the Wind. What makes it so special?
De Havilland: If I'm obliged for some reason to seeing it again, I get so riveted in three minutes that I can't wait to find out what's going to happen next. It has this marvelous capacity to seize your interest and keep it — even make you forget you ever had anything to do with it.