“Gone With the Wind” was made 78 years ago, at the end of the Great Depression and before World War II. Its gross receipts, if not adjusted for inflation, would make it a very modest hit by today’s standards. However, on an adjusted basis “Gone With the Wind” is the most financially successful Oscar best picture winner of all time.
In 1939 dollars, “Gone With the Wind” brought in $199 million, according to Box Office Mojo. Adjusted for inflation, the figure hits $1.75 billion. Based on current dollars, the top grossing movie released in the past decade is “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Released in 2015, it has brought in $937 million in domestic ticket sales.
In some ways, “Gone With the Wind” was an improbable success. It runs 3 hours and 58 minutes. The U.S. economy was only at the start of an economic improvement, which would accelerate with Roosevelt’s programs and the onset of World War II. Unemployment was still high, which made it a less than ideal time to release a movie.
The movie did have a number of advantages. One of the great leading men of all time, Clark Gable, played the leading role. The balance of the leading cast was played by other Hollywood heavyweights, most of whom had multi-decade careers. These included Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard and Olivia de Havilland.
Another advantage the movie had was that it was based on a wildly successful novel of the same name, penned by Margaret Mitchell.
“Gone With the Wind” was produced by one of Hollywood’s most successful executives. David O. Selznick won the producer’s Oscar for the movie, and he won another for “Rebecca,” which was released in 1940.
“Gone With the Wind” was an unqualified success at the Oscars. It was nominated for 15 awards, including Best Movie, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress. Aside from the Best Picture award, Victor Fleming won the Best Director award and Vivien Leigh for Best Actress. In total, “Gone With the Wind” won 10 Oscars.
The critical acclaim for the movie has lasted over the decades. It is listed in sixth place among the American Film Institute’s Top 100 American Movies of All Time.