Gone With The Wind Book

2011–The 75th Anniversary of GWTW, the book, based in part on writings from the Mitchell family scrapbook, shown above.

The Strange Outcomes Of Some In “Gone With The Wind”

This week in history, George Cukor, the original Director for Gone With The Wind died on January 24, 1983 at the age of 84. He remained best friends with David O. Selznick—even though Selznick replaced him with Victor Fleming to finish the movie and gave him no screen credit for all the work he had put into it.

Though he had a long and well-respected life, Cukor had an interesting twist in his death. It was said that Frances Goldwyn, wife of Hollywood movie mogul and producer Samuel Goldwyn, had been in love with him (though he was gay) and she persuaded her husband to include him their family burial area at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California. He is buried in an unmarked grave next to Frances Goldwyn.

That was a happy ending. Many other actors from the movie had strange endings.

One of the scenes  that Cukor directed was Melanie Wilkes giving birth to baby Beau at Aunt Pittypat’s house during the time  ‘the Yankees were coming” As it turned out, Melanie, played by Olivia de Havilland died at the end of the movie, but in real life she continues to have a happy life at age 93. Cukor and de Havilland — and Ann Rutherford who lives in Beverly Hills– are the exceptions though with a cast and crew who had many different circumstances surrounded in mystery.

The four principal actors, besides de Havilland, who did not die in the movie, died very young by traditional standards. Leslie Howard, who played Ashley, Melanie’s husband was the first to die. He died in a plane crash in 1943 at age 50.  Clark Gable, who played Rhett Butler died at 59 of a heart attack; Vivien Leigh, Scarlett O’Hara,  died from tuberculosis at 53; and Hattie McDaniel, who played Mammy died at 57 of breast cancer.

Denise Tucker of the website  www.gonewiththewindfans.com has done a lot of research on the GWTW deaths. She put together a list of causes of death for the various actors (available at end of this article).

A recent post  on Tucker’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/GWTWButNotForgotten brought discussion about the paths that many of the Gone With The Wind people took. Nikki Luebke, a GWTW collector has always wondered about some of the strange deaths.

“I just always felt uneasy about the deaths surrounding Gone With The Wind,” she said. “There was Margaret Mitchell’s own horrible death,  Ona Munson’s (Belle Watling) suicide, George Reeves’ supposed suicide, Leslie Howard being shot down, Vivien Leigh’s mental illness and fatal disease.
It seemed as though many died within 10 years of the filming too. It was very sad.”

At the time Mitchell started the book, she was laid up with an injury suffered from her many years of horseback riding, and she seemingly never fully regained her health. The most active of people, she was known for her spunk and interviewing interesting people when she worked at the newspaper; and for being a flapper who once performed a scandalous dance, the young author died in 1949 at age 48–an unhealthy person who got hit by a speeding car as it rounded the corner.

She was walking with her husband John Marsh who writers have called an “invalid” at the time. Why were they not clinging to each other as the two attempted to cross the street? Her death, caused by a drunk driver– a cab driver who was off duty– robbed readers of ever finding out if Rhett and Scarlett got back together. Her first husband, Berrien Upshaw, upon who some have suggested she based some of Rhett Butler’s qualities, had committed suicide earlier in the year.

Strangely enough, Oscar Polk, who played Gerald O’Hara’s trusted slave Pork, also died in 1949, after stepping off a curb and being hit by a cab.  That same year Director Victor Fleming died of a heart attack at the age of 49; and Sam Wood who came in to direct during the time Fleming took time off allegedly for a nervous breakdown also died of a heart attack in 1949.

To add to the oddity, Harry Davenport who played Dr. Meade and Howard Hickman, John Wilkes died in 1949 of heart attacks; so at least five key members of the movie died the same year as Mitchell. Screenwriter Sidney Howard did not even live to see the movie come to life as he died in August of 1939 in a tractor accident at his home in Tyringham, Massachusetts at age 48.

Producer David O. Selznick first married Louis B. Mayer’s daughter, Irene Mayer and had two sons, Daniel and David; then he divorced her to marry actress Jennifer Jones.  Selznick died in 1965 at the young age of 63 and their daughter jumped to her death in 1976 one day after what would have been her father’s birthday.

Ona Munson, who played Belle Watling died at age 44 and just like the real-life Belle Brezing of Lexington, KY whose life her character had been patterned after, she was in so much pain from illness that she took an overdose and her death was ruled a suicide.  Brezing had cancer, and died of an overdose of sleeping pills, less than one year after Gone With The Wind premiered

Marcella Rabwin, Selznick’s executive assistant lived a long life but suffered heartache as she lost her husband and two children within a few years of each other.

George Reeves who played Stuart Tarleton (listed wrong in the credits) and went on to become more famous for his portrayal of Superman, died of a gunshot wound to the head; a controversial death at age 45. The death was ruled suicide but many, including his friend Fred Crane who played his GWTW twin Brent Tarleton did not believe it. There were circumstances that could have  led them to believe it was murder or possibly an accident.

It has been reported that Butterfly McQueen, Prissy, died of burns suffered after a kerosene heater she was near blew up.

Laura Hope Crewes, Aunt Pittypat, died at age sixty-two of kidney failure while appearing on stage in Arsenic and Old Lace on Broadway. An interesting story I mentioned in my book, regarding Laura Hope Crewes involved the home she bought using her earnings from Gone With The Wind. It was a colonial-style white mansion with a rounded driveway in front.

“Lana Turner was a later occupant of that home,” said Chris Sulllivan, GWTW collector. “It was the same home where her daughter Cheryl Crane stabbed Lana’s boyfriend to death.”

The death was ruled a justified homicide and the girl was sent to a home for girls at the time.

Evelyn Keyes, the actress who played Scarlett’s sister Suellen, lived a long life filled with marriages to many famous people. She is included here because according to the New York Times, during the time she was working on GWTW and shortly after, (1938-40) she was married to a businessman named Barton Bainbridge. She left him for the director Charles Vidor, and Bainbridge reportedly committed suicide.

There were a lot of people involved with Gone With The Wind, and according to Marcella Rabwin and all other reports, the months and years surrounding the production of the movie were stressful to many.

These strange oddities were all individual cases. There was no “curse of GWTW” as some people tried to say  “The Dark Knight” movie that Heath Ledger was in had. Real curses do not exist for those strong in their faith. In both movies each person had their own life, and many had a strong faith, whether it be Christian or Jewish. It was just what happened. No one knew that over 70 years later people would be wondering about it all.

If only all the actors and crew could have lived long lives, and been as optimistic and appreciative as Ann Rutherford has been in all of her over ninety years. She loved working on the movie and loves talking about it even today. She is living proof there can be happiness after Gone With The Wind, but there sure were some other odd stories.

A FULL LIST OF WHO’S WHO AND CAUSE OF DEATH, sorted by cause of death, Compiled by Denise Tucker

Name /                 Role /             Date of Death /   City of Death / Cause of Death

Lucille Ball Actress considered for role of Scarlett 04/26/89 Beverly Hills, CA acute aorta aneurysm
Myron Selznick Agent and brother to David O. Selznick 03/23/44 Glendale, CA alcoholism
George Meeker The Poker-Playing Captains 08/19/84 Carpenteria, CA Alzheimer’s disease
Susan Hayward Actress considered for role of Scarlett 03/14/75 Hollywood, CA brain cancer
Hattie McDaniel Mammy 10/26/52 Los Angeles, CA breast cancer
Bette Davis Actress considered for role of Scarlett 10/06/89 Neuilly, France breast cancer
Butterfly McQueen Prissy 12/22/95 Augusta, GA burns
Jackie Moran Phil Meade 09/20/90 Greenfield, MA cancer
Vincent Farrar Camera Operator 09/26/50 Los Angeles, CA cancer
Rand Brooks Charles Hamilton 09/01/03 Santa Ynez, CA cancer
Thomas Mitchell Gerald O’Hara 12/17/62 Beverly Hills, CA cancer
Ann Sheridan Actress considered for role of Scarlett 01/21/67 Los Angeles, CA cancer of the esophagus and liver
Eric Linden An Amputation Case 07/14/94 South Laguna Beach, CA cardio-respiratory arrest
Leslie Howard Ashley Wilkes 06/01/43 Bay of Biscay casualty of war
Louis B. Mayer President of MGM Studios 10/29/57 Los Angeles, CA complications from kidney infection
Laurence Olivier Actor, Lover, future husband to Vivien Leigh 07/11/89 West Sussex. England complications from muscle disorder
Max Steiner Musical Director 12/28/71 Hollywood, CA congestive heart failure
Clifford West Henry 10/16/18 dies in WW I
John Lee Mahin scriptwriter 04/18/84 Los Angeles, CA emphysema
Sidney Howard Screenwriter 08/23/39 Tyringham, MA farming accident
Eddie Anderson Uncle Peter 02/28/77 Los Angeles, CA heart attack
Ernest Whitman The Carpetbagger’s Friend 08/05/54 Hollywood, CA heart attack
Harry Davenport Dr. Meade 08/09/49 Los Angeles, CA heart attack
Howard Hickman John Wilkes 12/31/49 San Anselmo, CA heart attack
Jane Darwell Mrs. Merriweather 08/13/67 Los Angeles, CA heart attack
Louis Jean Heydt A Hungry Soldier 01/29/60 Boston, MA heart attack
Ward Bond Tom, A Yankee Captain 11/05/60 Dallas, TX heart attack
Elmer Ellsworth Wardrobe Associates 04/04/69 Los Angeles, CA heart attack
Clark Gable Rhett Butler 11/16/60 Los Angeles, CA heart attack
David O. Selznick Producer 06/22/65 Hollywood, CA heart attack
Sam Wood 3rd director 09/22/49 Hollywood, CA heart attack
Victor Flemming Director 01/06/49 Cottonwood, AZ heart attack
Basil Rathbone Actor considered for role of Rhett 07/21/67 New York, NY heart attack
Erroll Flynn Actor considered for role of Rhett 10/14/59 Vancouver, Canada heart attack
Joan Bennett Actress considered for role of Scarlett 12/07/99 Scarsdale, NY heart attack
Miriam Hopkins Actress considered for role of Scarlett 10/09/72 New York, NY heart attack
F. Scott Fitzgerald scriptwriter 12/21/40 Hollywood, CA heart attack
Winston Miller scriptwriter 06/21/94 Los Angeles, CA heart attack
Carroll Nye Frank Kennedy 03/17/74 North Hollywood, CA heart attack and kidney failure
Will Price Technical Advisor 07/04/62 McComb, MS heart failure
George Cukor Original director 01/24/83 Los Angeles, CA heart failure
Irene Dunne Actress considered for role of Scarlett 09/04/90 Los Angeles, CA heart failure
Jean Arthur Actress considered for role of Scarlett 06/19/91 Carmel, CA heart failure
Paulette Goddard Actress considered for role of Scarlett 04/23/90 Ronco, Switzerland heart failure
Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell Author 08/16/49 Atlanta, GA hit by cab driver on 8.11.49  while crossing Peachtree Street with John Marsh
Laura Hope Crews Aunt Pittypat Hamilton 11/13/42 New York, NY kidney failure
William Bakewell A Mounted Officer 04/15/93 Los Angeles, CA Leukemia
George (Besselo) Reeves Stuart Tarleton 06/16/59 Beverly Hills, CA Listed suicide
Roscoe Ates A Convalescent Soldier 03/01/62 Hollywood, CA lung cancer
Ronald Colman Actor considered for role of Rhett 05/19/58 Santa Barbara, CA lung infection
Eugene Muse Mitchell Nephew to MM 08/08/07 Farmington Hills, MI multiple illnesses
Fred Crane Brent Tarleton N/A N/A N/A
Mary Anderson Maybelle Merriweather N/A N/A N/A
Mickey Kuhn Beau Wilkes N/A N/A N/A
Olivia de Havilland Melanie Hamilton N/A N/A N/A
Alicia Rhett India Wilkes N/A N/A N/A
Ann Rutherford Carreen O’Hara N/A N/A N/A
Cammie King Bonnie Blue Butler N/A N/A N/A
Evelyn Keyes Suellen O’Hara N/A N/A N/A
Jack Cosgrove Special Photographic Effects 03/10/65 Hermosa Beach, CA natural causes
Katharine Hepburn Actress considered for role of Scarlett 06/29/03 Old Saybrook, CT natural causes
Loretta Young Actress considered for role of Scarlett 08/12/00 Los Angeles, CA ovarian cancer
Joan Crawford Actress considered for role of Scarlett 05/10/77 New York, NY pancreatic cancer
Carole Lombard Actress, wife of Clark Gable, Actress considered for role of Scarlett 01/16/42 Table Rock Mountain, NE plane crash
Norma Shearer Actress considered for role of Scarlett 06/12/83 Los Angeles, CA pneumonia
Warner Baxter Actor considered for role of Rhett 05/07/51 Beverly Hills, CA pneumonia
Tallulah Bankhead Actress considered for role of Scarlett 12/12/68 New York, NY pneumonia & influenza
Fredric March Actor considered for role of Rhett 04/14/75 Los Angeles, CA prostate cancer
Gary Cooper Actor considered for role of Rhett 05/13/61 Beverly Hills, CA prostate cancer
Ernest Haler Cinematographer 10/21/70 Marina del Ray, CA road accident
Tom Tyler A Commanding Officer 05/03/54 Hamtramck, MI scleroderma; heart attack
Claudette Colbert Actress considered for role of Scarlett 07/03/96 Speightstown, Barbados series of strokes
Albert Morin Rene Picard 04/07/89 Burbank, CA Stroke
Paul Hurst A Yankee Deserter 02/27/53 Hollywood, CA Suicide
Ona Munson Belle Watling 02/11/55 New York, NY suicide — overdose of barbiturates
Berrien “Red” Upshaw Jan-49 Galveston, TX Suicide by jumping from a hotel window
Margaret Sullivan Actress considered for role of Scarlett 01/01/60 New Haven, CT suicide by overdose
Lana Turner Actress considered for role of Scarlett 06/29/95 Century City, CA throat cancer
Ben Hecht scriptwriter 04/18/64 New York, NY thrombosis
John Henry “Doc” Holliday cousin of Margaret Mitchell, believed by some to be the inspiration for the character of Ashley Wilkes 11/8/1887 Glenwood Springs, CO tuberculosis
Vivien Leigh Scarlett O’Hara 07/07/67 London, England tuberculosis
Robert Gleckler Original “Jonas Wilkerson” 02/25/39 Los Angeles, CA uremic poisoning
Jean Harlow Actress considered for role of Scarlett 06/07/37 Los Angeles, CA uremic poisoning brought on by acute nephritis


Article by Sally Tippett Rains, author of The Making Of A Masterpiece, The True Story Of Margaret Mitchell’s Classic Novel, Gone With The Wind. (www.GWTWbook.com)

Special thanks to Denise Tucker for her help with this article.

4 comments on “The Strange Outcomes Of Some In “Gone With The Wind”

  1. JD
    January 19, 2011

    Is Barbara O’neil on the list? I’ve looked and cant find her…I maybe just missing her but if not here she is:

    Barbara O’neil Ellen O’hara September 3, 1980 Cos Cob, CT Heart Attack

  2. Jillian
    January 20, 2011

    Thanks for posting this list!

    A couple thoughts:

    She was walking with her husband John Marsh who writers have called an “invalid” at the time. Why were they not clinging to each other as the two attempted to cross the street?

    Would they have naturally been clinging? I don’t tend to cling to people, even when ill/injured. Also, as I understand it, Peggy and John tried to remain a bit separate in public, so people couldn’t get a picture of them together. They felt if a picture of the two of them together became public, they’d become immediately recognizable, and they preferred their privacy.

    Also, Peggy (so they say) usually crossed Peachtree Street without checking for traffic. I can’t remember if John was before her or behind her, but it wasn’t unusual for her to walk into the road without looking. The wonder of it all is that it took her 49 years to get hit (if people who knew her are correct when they claim that she so often didn’t look.)

    What is spooky is that she once said she believed she’d die in a car accident.

    Her death, caused by a drunk driver– a cab driver who was off duty– robbed readers of ever finding out if Rhett and Scarlett got back together.

    I agree her death was tragic. (She’s my favorite writer — and really, a death like this, of anyone, would be tragic.) But Mitchell never intended to write a sequel to GWTW; she said it ended where it ended. So the cab driver robbed Margaret Mitchell of her life, and John of more time with his precious wife. But I don’t think we can claim he robbed us of hearing about the end of GWTW.

    Brezing had cancer, and died of an overdose of sleeping pills, less than one year after Gone With The Wind premiered

    Wow – I’d never heard that.

    Yes, the sheer number of suicides/early deaths is strange…

  3. JD
    January 21, 2011

    I think its reasonable to consider both of the points you mentioned above; it truly boils down to how “invalid” John Marsh was. If his mobility was in someway affected, then it makes sense to wonder why weren’t they closer together.

    You do bring up an interesting point about her tendency to cross streets without looking. I’ve never heard that before.

    And I certainly think its a more than reasonable claim that he prevented us from finding out what happened to Scarlett and Rhett. While, Mitchell did proclaim that the story was finished and never really expanded much on that. The sudden tragedy of her death robbed her (and her fans) of ever exploring the issue further.

  4. Jeanette sweat
    January 8, 2017

    I considered myself an authority on GWTW, but this proved me wrong. Thank you so much for all the information I received

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This entry was posted on January 18, 2011 by in Ann Rutherford, Belle Watling, Gone With the Wind, Marcella Rabwin, Rhett Butler, Scarlett O'Hara.


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