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It may have problematic components according to our modern cultural landscape, but there’s no denying that Gone With the Wind was one of the most influential films of all time. It was a massive hit at the box office while also winning many awards. Like any film, the script went through revisions before it made it to the screen. And there was one change to Gone With the Wind‘s ending that modified it drastically. In fact, the alternate ending might have destroyed the classic character of Scarlett O’Hara.

A scene from 'Gone With the Wind'
A scene from Gone With the Wind | FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

The premise of ‘Gone With the Wind’

According to IMDb, Gone With the Wind was released in 1939. It told the story of Scarlett O’Hara as she attempted to navigate life in the South during the American Civil War.

The film sees her pine after a man named Ashley Wilkes, though she can’t have him. O’Hara ends up marrying three men, including the dashing Rhett Butler, portrayed expertly by Clark Gable. The story follows her exploits as the country undergoes internal strife. 

How did ‘Gone With the Wind’ end? 

The film ends with Rhett, finally realizing that Scarlett will always love Ashley, leaving her. Despite Scarlett’s pleas to the contrary, Rhett packs his things and prepares to depart. Rhett reasons that their marriage is a loveless one and that he’s had enough of Scarlett and her constant drama. Scarlett makes one final plea before Rhett walks out the door, begging him to stay. She attempts to appeal to Rhett’s good nature by asking what will become of her if he leaves her. 

Despite this ploy at sympathy, Rhett doesn’t bite. He instead delivers one of cinema’s most famous lines: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Before the film concludes, Scarlett resolves to make the most out of her future. She returns to her childhood home with an uncertain fate in front of her but determined to make the best of it. 

It’s not a happy ending in any sense, but it certainly is one of the more famous ones in movie history. Rhett’s cold, indifferent line specifically stands out to filmgoers as one of the most quotable of all time. What’s just as iconic, however, is Scarlett’s reaction to Rhett’s line. An original version of the script altered this. 

The alternate ending for ‘Gone With the Wind’


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An NPR segment discussed an alternate ending for the film included in a little-seen original script. Host Scott Simon detailed the difference between the finished film and the original dialogue: 

“But a script from the member of the crew of 1939 film has recently been found in which Scarlett says, ‘Rhett, Rhett, Rhett — you’ll come back. You’ll come back. I know you will — want to bet?’

Margaret Barrett of Heritage Auctions, which has script up for bid, told the Independent Newspaper, in the original, Scarlett comes across as a determined woman who will survive with or without Rhett. But this alternative ending is much more traditional. Ms. Barrett thinks the producers chose the right ending. Scarlet is such an enduring character, she says, because she is so independent.”

This ending would have destroyed Scarlett’s character. One of the reasons she’s such a compelling figure throughout cinematic history is her independence. So this ending goes a long way toward undermining that credibility. Rather than quickly moving on from the loss of her beloved Rhett, she beckons him to return. The finished version of the film sees her moving on, which is more in line with the rest of her character’s actions.