Monday, June 2, 2008

Burning Backlots

When Universal Studios went up in flames over the weekend, did anybody else notice the eerie similarity to another studio fire from the past? Take a look at these shots to the left and below, of the weekend's raging inferno...

Now take a peek at another studio flamer, from the late 1930s, ignited by David O. Selznick on his own backlot. The scene remains the centerpiece of one of the most popular films of all time:

Yep, that's Clark Gable driving a horse-drawn wagon through the burning streets of Atlanta in Gone With the Wind (actually through the burning wreckage of the Selznick backlot). The film seems to have fallen out of favor with movie enthusiasts of today, and rarely appears on anybody's top ten lists, but for decades, everybody loved it. And back then, everybody knew this little tidbit: the above scene was the first of the long, 4-hour film's to be shot, and the role of Scarlett had yet to be cast. That's a photo double riding in the back of the wagon with Butterfly McQueen. Hollywood lore has it that producer Selznick was introduced to Vivian Leigh that very night during the shoot, by her then husband Laurence Olivier, and in the fiery light of those burning sets, a star was born.

I wonder if anyone's career was made during this weekend's studio blaze...

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