Leslie Howard’s Letter to Picture Show Readers (1940)
Dear Picture Show and Film Pictorial Readers,
It’s easier to talk about “Gone With the Wind” when you’re in London, eight thousand miles away from where it was made. The actual filming was like living in a dream. Every now and then you’d wake up for a few minutes and become sharply aware of other things, and then there’d be more scenes or retakes and the dream would get you again. Everybody you met was possessed by the same dream and that made it all the harder to shake off the sense of dimity and the deep South.
From my own point of view, it was the most–what can I say?–violent film I’ve ever played in. Just one climax after another. That’s what happens when you compress a story of that size and that virulence into a couple of hours. All the bits between the high-spots have got to go. It’s full of deaths and murders and passions and jealousies and fighting–oh, and fires, lots of Technicolour fires.
The Technicolour cameras made me break one tradition of a lifetime. I had to wear make-up for the first time on the screen. My own hair photographed reddish-brown in Technicolour, and Ashley, you know, was definitely “tow-coloured.”So I had my hair bleached and I had to use a kind of greyish-white make-up on my face to get a natural pale skin tone.
Clark Gable and I hardly ever met on the floor. Our scenes very seldom coincided, and we used to work alternate shifts. Vivien Leigh, of course, was on duty all the time. I shall never forget the first time I heard her doing her stuff.
Curiously enough, we had never met in England, although we had both worked for Korda at one time. I had once wanted her to come out to New York to play Ophelia for me in the theatre, but she was tied up with her film work and with a play in London. The first tests I made for Ashley in Hollywood were with another actress altogether.
Well, just as I was coming off the floor from the test, thoroughly disheartened, I heard the most terrific Southern accent on the next set. It was the best Southern I’d heard yet–talking to the coloured mammy in the scene where she pulls up Scarlett’s stay-laces. I asked who it was, and they told me it was an English actress, Vivien Leigh, just come over to Hollywood on a visit. She had worked up her Southern accent in about five days, but she must have stuck at it like a Trojan. It was perfect. I believe she got the job on that scene. You realised in a flash why David Selznick believed he’d got just the right girl for Scarlett at last.
(Picture Show and Film Pictorial, July 27, 1940)