Book Article

Mitchell, Ripley, 'GWTW,' and 'Scarlett'

''Gone With the Wind'': By the numbers -- The facts and figures surrounding the movie and books

UP FRONT Margaret Mitchell received a $5,000 advance for Gone With the Wind; Alexandra Ripley received a reported $160,000 for Scarlett.

AT WORK Mitchell worked for nine years on GWTW; Ripley spent five years on Scarlett.

TONGUES GWTW has been translated into 27 languages and issued in 37 countries; Scarlett has been translated into 18 languages and issued in 40 countries.

FIRST PRINTING GWTW: 10,000 copies; Scarlett: 500,000 copies.

EARLY WARNINGS Macmillan sent 1,000 copies of GWTW to reviewers and members of the press. Warner Books was far far more cautious and mailed out only 200 copies of Scarlett a few days before publication.

SALES GWTW has sold 28 million copies in just over 50 years. In the U.S. alone, Scarlett sold 1.2 million in the first six weeks after it was published on Sept. 25, and had sold more than 2 million copies in the United States and Canada by the end of the year.

SIGNINGS Margaret Mitchell obligingly signed copies of GWTW until her death in 1949. During a seven-hour signing fest in Atlanta, Alexandra Ripley signed her name to 5,000 books. But she burned out after hitting the 10,000-copy mark in three weeks. She is now afflicted with carpal tunnel syndrome in her signing hand.

HEFT GWTW: 1,037 pages; Scarlett: 823 pages.

FREIGHT GWTW: $3; Scarlett: $24.95

SCREEN GEMS David O. Selznick paid $50,000 for the movie rights to GWTW; the TV rights to Scarlett went for a whopping $9 million to producer Robert Halmi (Lonesome Dove), to air on CBS.

MEASUREMENTS GWTW's Scarlett was famous for her 17-inch waist (courtesy of whalebone corsets). In Scarlett, the heroine forswears artificial cinches forever.

NURTURING In GWTW, Scarlett reluctantly agrees to help deliver Melanie's baby; in Scarlett, she valiantly nurses Mammy through her last days.

VICES In GWTW, Scarlett eats too much at the Twelve Oaks barbecue, thinks mean thoughts about Melanie, steals her sister's fiance, and drinks too much brandy after Frank's funeral. In Scarlett, the heroine bets on the horses, drinks, and eventually becomes an alcoholic before reforming.

POLITICALLY QUESTIONABLE GWTW is full of stagy black dialect — most famously, Prissy's (Butterfly McQueen in the movie) ''Ah doan know nuthin' 'bout bringin' babies.'' In the sequel blacks scarcely speak. Even Mammy on her deathbed is conveniently terse: ''So tired.''

BASHFUL BEAU In GWTW, Ashley keeps Scarlett at arm's length. In the sequel he finally proposes and is turned down.

SEX In GWTW, Scarlett is, as far as we can tell, no more than a passive participant in the act. In Scarlett, the heroine is hot in pursuit.

Originally posted Jan 17, 1991 Published in issue #101 Jan 17, 1992 Order article reprints
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