Remembering 'Gone With the Wind' at 75 and the Movie's Lavish, Troubling Atlanta Premiere

On Dec. 15, 1939, 'Gone with the Wind' premiered at the Loew's Grand theater in Atlanta, Georgia. By that point the movie — based on Atlanta native Margaret Mitchell's best-selling novel — was already a huge media event. Seventy-five years later, the nearly four-hour drama still holds the box-office record for the most successful film of all time when adjusted for inflation (for reference, 'Star Wars' is no. 2) and remains a cultural touchstone. Yet the film’s legacy is a complicated one. While actress Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to win an Academy Award (Best Supporting Actress for her role as the slave Mammy), the film has been widely criticized for its portrayal of the antebellum South, and for making the struggles of the African-American characters inconsequential when compared to those of tempestuous plantation owner Scarlett O’Hara (played by Vivian Leigh) and her lover Rhett Butler (Clark Gable). The racial tensions underscoring the film extended to its premiere: Because Georgia was segregated, McDaniel and the other black performers were banned from attending. Click through to see a gallery of vintage news images from the night.