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This Happened

This Happened—December 15: "Gone With The Wind" Makes Its Debut

A famous romance set in the Confederate South, the American film would go on to win multiple Academy Awards and a 30-year reign as Hollywood’s biggest box office champion, though later being criticized for its portrayal of African Americans at the time. It hit the screens on this day 83 years ago today.

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How long did Gone with the Wind remain top of the box office?

Gone with the Wind tells the story of Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh), the strong-willed daughter of a Georgia plantation owner, following her romantic pursuit of Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard), who is married to his cousin, Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland), and her subsequent marriage to Rhett Butler (Clark Gable).

The film was incredibly popular with audiences when it was first released, and became the highest-earning film ever made at that point, holding that record for over 25 years. The film is still regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, and in 1989 it became one of the just 25 films selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

What is the controversy surrounding Gone with the Wind?

The film has been criticized for glorifying slavery, and streaming services like Disney+ have removed the film from its service temporarily, citing the need for “an explanation and a denouncement” of the movie's depictions of race relations. Ultimately though, some say the film has helped trigger changes in the way in which African Americans were depicted cinematically.

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