Customer Reviews: On the Road to Tara
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on December 22, 2003
Overall, ON THE ROAD TO TARA gives dozens of wonderful anecdotes about the making of the epic film GONE WITH THE WIND, using Selznick as the focal point. The real life characters seem much larger than life here, and not the one's you'd expect. Issues of that time resonate in our own, including racism, Hollywood's role in shaping national morality, ageism, drug addiction, homophobia and meglomania.
Unfortunately, David Selznick is a very unsympathetic character. He's troubled, undisciplined, unwittingly cruel, irrational-and those are his endearing qualities! Though the author takes pains to show that Selznick was always apologetic after he flew off the handle, there is no soft side to warm this character up a bit. He is reminiscent of Charles Foster Kane but with no love interest but a wife who stays completely out of sight.
Vivien Leigh is just as complex, living a life filled with scandals-she was living out of wedlock with Laurence Olivier, which had to be kept a complete secret from press and public. She was British, and many thought it a crime that a non-Southerner, let alone a non-American play Scarlett. But her determination closely mirrors Scarlett O'Hara's in single-mindedly getting just what she wanted. Over all, a good overview of the making of a classic.
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on August 22, 2014
Reading this brisk narrative of one of the most troubled movie shoots ever, you'll feel like a beleaguered member of the crew, striving to keep up with studio boss David O. Selznick's driven, manic, disorganized energy as he miraculously fashioned his mess of a production into one of the greatest of movie-going experiences. That GWTW still retains its grip on viewers 75 years later is testament to Selznick's vision and dedication to craft. It is testament as well to the alchemy of movie-making, the most collaborative of the arts, where even the smoothest production affords infinite opportunities for it all to go wrong. (Howard Hawks summed it up for an interviewer who asked why one of his movies had flopped. "We made one mistake on that picture," the director replied. "We put film in the camera.") In GWTW's case, that catastrophe was avoided is proof that the Muses do exist and were working overtime at Selznick Studios in 1939. His film should have been the movie equivalent of the disaster of the Civil War itself. Instead, it is said that since its premier, GWTW has been seen by more people the world over than any other piece of art in history.

Harmetz's account of the chaos covers the usual ground, the endless script revisions, the prolonged search for the actress to play Scarlett, the maddening production delays while Selznick dithered, day by day, on what he wanted, the controversial firing of George Cukor as director two weeks into production, the legendary night when Atlanta burned on the back lot in Culver City and Vivien Leigh emerged from the flames, the ambivalence of Gable and Howard toward their respective roles, the profligate spending by Selznick that resulted in his running out of funds midway through production, the intricate censorship battles, as in its day Margaret Mitchell's runaway best seller was considered a randy tale indeed, yet Selznick's unwavering order was, "stick to the book."

What's fresh here is a discussion of all the backstage maneuvering that went on with the Hays Office over the book's dicier parts, including Rhett's famous utterance of "My dear, I don't give a damn" at the finale. She makes clear what was at stake for the studios regarding the political realities of censorship during Hollywood's heyday. There is a forthright explanation of the racial issues that had to be tackled in bringing the book to the screen, and why the story in itself is an irredeemable affront to African American sensibilities, then and now. At the Academy Awards ceremony this year, the 75th anniversary of THE WIZARD OF OZ was celebrated, while GWTW was pointedly ignored. I can only attribute this slight to the film's inherent repugnance to African Americans, an unfortunate aspect that casts a pall over a monumental film-making achievement.

Visually, this oversize volume is sumptuous, relying heavily not on stills from the film or behind the scenes photos from the production, but on full color reproductions of storyboards and watercolor sketches. These were done mostly by artists Dorothea Holt and Joseph MacMillan "Mac" Johnson in their attempts over years of pre-production to capture Selznick's ever-changing vision for what he determined would be the most magnificent motion picture ever made. Apart from their significance to GWTW, these are simply beautiful pictures, rich in detail and color, that are a pleasure to behold and fascinate the eye. Thus, Harmetz has given us an art book as well as a movie tome.

Harmetz's treatment of the effect that GWTW had on Selznick's life and career juxtaposes the exuberant triumph of the movie and the tragic downfall for Selznick that followed shortly on its heels as the cost of that triumph. She assesses Selznick as a master who would have been without peer had he only been able to impose some self-discipline on his prodigious gifts in nearly every aspect of film-making. Her view is sobering for film fans. Imagine what other pinnacle film achievements we might have had from the man who, despite the ridiculousness of his approach, was capable nevertheless of giving us GWTW. A pity he never again was able to muster his talents to reach such heights. Instead, we got 1946's overblown Western DUEL IN THE SUN, a lugubrious pastiche of past glory by a man chasing his own legend.
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on January 1, 2015
A beautifully rendered collection of art designs created to give GWTW its powerful look comes to life with the reproduced art work that make this book stand apart from most other film writings on this one of a kind motion picture. The author not only provides interesting background to the making of the film but by gathering together very rare and beautiful sketches of costume and set design made it possible to fully appreciated the challenges an success of this masterpiece. Aljean Harmetz has searched out items that could only be found from many different sources and brought them together with excellent text that results in a very worth-while book for anyone interested in appreciating just what it took to bring Margaret Mitchell's book to the Technicolor screen.
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on January 1, 2000
Finally, a new and interesting book on the film Gone With The Wind! For years a certain Gone With The Wind "Authority" has published book after book containing the same fuzzy and out-of-focus photographs...many mislabeled !
Furthermore, Aljean Harmetz provides the reader with FRESH & NEW information...and does not, as other's have done, plow the same old field of familiar"facts" regarding this film .
BRAVO to Ms. Harmetz for giving the readers and collectors something FRESH & NEW !
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on November 23, 2014
It does a good job of not only describing the development of Gone With The Wind but also the personalities involved with it. The book presents an especially honest description of David O. Selznik. I know, because I volunteer at the Harry Ransom Center where the archives are held and where we are currently exhibiting The Making of Gone With The Wind.
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on December 13, 2013
If someone in your family is a fan of the majestic movie "Gone With the Wind", then this book -- On the Road to Tara -- is a MUST for them. We ordered this book as a Christmas gift for our daughter and I was very impressed with the content of the book, impressed with the pictures and original drawings from the movie, and are looking forward to her reaction when she opens this present and sees this marvelous book.
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on April 20, 2011
Harmetz work is a welcome addition to the literature about the making of "Gone with the Wind". It doesn't pretend to be all-inclusive but what it does, it does well. The author uses broad strokes to set the scene and fills in with generous detail and reproduces illustrations (not found elsewhere) that were used to construct Margaret Mitchel's novel for the screen.

For a wealth of well-researched and highly detailed information about GWTW, Haver's David O. Selznick's Gone with the Wind" and "David O. Selznick's Hollywood" are *the* standards works together with Behlmer's "Memo from David O' Selznick".

Harmetz' "On the Road to Tara" is an excellent supplement to these works detailing the making of Selnick's now legendary and timeless epic.

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VINE VOICEon December 13, 2009
This is an interesting book about the making of "Gone With The Wind." There is a nice description of the peculiarities of David O Selznick, his genius and his incredible eccentricities. He was the son of a movie pioneer who lost control of his studio. He was raised as a "Hollywood Prince," in the fashion of Budd Schulberg who wrote Moving Pictures: Memories of a Hollywood Prince. There is some background on Selznick but there could have been more. He went through multiple writers and directors and there could have been more about them. The book is filled with prints of watercolor illustrations from the art director and costume designer to the point that it begins to feel like padding. I have read a number of other books about the making of classic movies and this one was a bit disappointing. It's worth reading but could have been much better. There was, for another example, very little about Clark Gable although he was a huge star and the public virtually demanded he play Rhett Butler. I would have liked more about the book and the author, Margaret Mitchell. Maybe there are other books that do a better job. If you are particularly interested in set design and costume design, this is your book.
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on April 27, 2008
Fabulous! Fantastic set illustrations from a classic. Interesting background info. A treat. I want to frame some of the pages.
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on June 5, 2013
It is so cool to see how this epic was brought together!! I have read the book 8 times, seen the movie 9 times and am always swept away by the magic.
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