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September 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

An exhibit of some 500 items from the vast archives of producer David O. Selznick related to the making of Gone with the Wind on display at the University of Texas’s Harry Ransom Center includes numerous references to the handling of the thorny issue of race, the Wall Street Journal reported today (Thursday). In a 1937 letter to screenwriter Sidney Howard, Selznick wrote, "We have to be awfully careful that the negroes come out decidedly on the right side of the ledger, which I do not think should be difficult." Selznick decided to remove all references to the Ku Klux Klan that appeared in Margaret Mitchell’s novel and refrain from using the term "nigger," despite receiving a letter from a man the Journal refers to as "a senior California Klansman" warning that "millions of Klanspeople would consider it a personal affront" if "the Klan part of the picture were distorted or deleted." The newspaper also calls attention to the slight difference in the souvenir programs sent to guests invited to attend the premieres in Hollywood and Atlanta. "At first, they seem identical, but their back covers are slightly different," the Journal observes. "The L.A. program features a portrait of Hattie McDaniel, as Scarlett’s devoted Mammy, at the bottom right. The Atlanta program gives that spot to [the white] Alicia Rhett, in the minor role of India Wilkes." The Journal then comments: "A few months later, McDaniel won the Oscar as best supporting actress — the first African-American to receive an Academy Award. But even if she hadn’t, her absence from that program speaks volumes."