June 9, 2020
HBO Max late June 9 quietly removed the Oscar-winning classic Gone With the Wind from the catalog of films available on the newly launched subscription streaming service.
The 1939 epic, based on the bestselling novel by Margaret Mitchell, depicts the plight of Southern white plantation owners during and after the U.S. Civil War. Its removal comes amid global anti-racism protests that have led Hollywood studios to reexamine the cultural depictions available through their platforms. The Paramount Network earlier in the day canceled the long-running reality TV series “Cops,” which originally premiered in 1989.
On Monday, June 8, Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley penned an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times in which he criticized Gone With the Wind for romanticizing the Confederacy and suggested WarnerMedia-owned HBO Max temporarily remove the film from its library. He recommended it return after a time accompanied with programs putting the film into a proper historical context, or at the very least label calling attention to the notion that the film was a product of its time.
Disney+, for example, often includes in the descriptions of some of its older films, such as Peter Pan and Lady and the Tramp, that they “may contain outdated cultural depictions.”
At the 12th Academy Awards, Gone With the Wind won eight Oscars out of 13 nominations and received two additional honorary awards for its technical achievements and use of color. Among its wins were for Best Picture, Best Actress for Vivien Leigh and Best Supporting Actress for Hattie McDaniel, who became the first African-American to win an Academy Award.
However, McDaniel — who played the chief house servant to Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara — had not been invited to the film’s gala Atlanta premiere, nor was she allowed to sit with her co-stars at the 1940 Oscars ceremony.
Accounting for inflation, Gone With the Wind remains the highest-grossing film in history with $3.7 billion in adjusted earnings.
Originally produced by David O. Selznick with financial assistance from MGM, Gone With the Wind was eventually bought out by MGM, which continued to re-release the film every decade for the next 50 years. It was purchased with the rest of the MGM library in 1986 by Turner Entertainment, which in turn was acquired by Warner Bros. in 1996.
Warner subsequently made Gone With the Wind a staple of its home entertainment library, with frequent anniversary releases of the film on VHS, DVD and Blu-ray Disc every five years, often in elaborate gift sets.
Update 6/10/20: A spokesperson for HBO Max told CNN, another WarnerMedia company, that the film would eventually return to the service, unedited, but “with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions.”