Atlanta native Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel, Gone With the Wind, occupies an important place in American literature. After breaking publishing records with one million copies sold within six months, the novel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, has been translated into over forty languages, and remains one of the best-selling novels of all time.
Even before the book’s publication, producer David O. Selznick had secured the film rights at Mitchell's asking price of $50,000, which was more than any studio had paid for the rights to an author’s first novel. The film debuted in Atlanta at Loew’s Grand Theatre in December 1939, breaking all box office records in the course of its first run. It featured such popular actors as Clark Gable (Rhett Butler), Olivia de Havilland (Melanie Wilkes), and Leslie Howard (Ashley Wilkes), and made a star of Vivien Leigh (Scarlett O'Hara).
Gone With the Wind remains one of Hollywood’s most popular and commercially successful films, and set new standards through its use of color, set design, and cinematography. The film was nominated for thirteen Oscars and was awarded ten, including Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress, which went to Hattie McDaniel (Mammy), the first African American to win an Academy Award.
With its detailed atmosphere of a vanished age, its compelling characters, its forceful narrative, its description of human survival, and its portrayal of the persistence of romantic dreams, Gone With the Wind continues to entertain and sometimes exasperate readers. As well as being a novel of epic proportions, it is valuable as an historical document, though one that should be carefully read. A depiction of life and conflict in the nineteenth-century South, the novel also documents twentieth-century emotions about the region’s past and memories of a way of life that many considered gone with the wind.