Gone with the Wind had its world premiere in Atlanta 73 years ago today and ever since, people have pondered if Scarlett would ever get Rhett back. Margaret Mitchell refused to ever answer the question, so everyone was left to their own imaginations.
Screen Guide magazine held a contest for their readers to come up with the best new ending for GWTW and published the winner in its September 1940 issue:
The fadeout of “Gone with the Wind” whets the curiousity of millions of moviegoers. They watch Scarlett return to Tara alone, deserted by Rhett, and they argue hotly among themselves about what happened afterward. “He’d never go back to her!” “Oh yes he would!” “He wouldn’t have to, she’d go back to him!”
Deluged by readers’ suggestions for a sequel, Screen Guide offered a prize of $10 for the most interesting continuation of the turbulent love story. The prize ending, submitted by Arnold Manning, 4th Division, USS Portland, Long Beach, Calif., appears on these pages, with artist Bernard Thompson’s conception of scenes from the imaginary sequel.
The controversy surrounding the ending of “Gone with the Wind” is no criticism, but a great tribute to the film’s compelling force. So real are the characters created by Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh that they do not cease to exist when their images on the screen fade. Their lives go on in the imagination of every moviegoer. Screen Guide believes that Mr. Manning’s conclusion is thoroughly consistent with Margaret Mitchell’s characters. If she had chosen to end her story more decisively, the final chapters might well have looked like this.
“I don’t give a damn!” was Rhett’s weary reply to Scarlett’s selfish cry. “What will become of me?” Now see what might have happened after that.
Rhett tries to forget in the company of Charleston’s Belle Watlings, drinking too much, cursing Scarlett.
Meanwhile, Scarlett, fearing the pitying amusement of gossips, again plays the coquette with man after man, stealing younger girls’ lovers.
Alone, Scarlett gives way to despair, realizing that she cannot live without Rhett. “I’ll think about that tomorrow,” the little opportunist used to say. But this problem she must think about it now. She begns to plot ways and means of bringing Rhett Butler back to her.
Aboard his ship, Rhett continues to drink himself into insensibility, determined not to return to his wife, but still unable to break her hold over him. He decides to set sail on a long voyage. Scarlett, when she hears of the plan, takes desperate action to forestall it.
Scarlett has Rhett kidnapped and brought to their home. They spend another night like the one after Rhett carried her upstairs, but this time it is Scarlett who takes the aggressive. All goes well until he sobers up, and then he becomes furious at her trickery.
He slams out of the house, returns to his ship, and gives orders to sail. He retires to his cabin with a bottle. No matter how much salt water he puts between himself and Scarlett, Rhett is never able to escape from the love he once thought was killed by her selfishness.
A day out to sea, Rhett wakes up, smashes an empty bottle against the cabin door, yells for a full one. A hand sets the bottle on the table. For a moment he thinks he sees Scarlett before him, but convinces himself that the vision is only a drunken mind’s hallucination.
Moments later, a slightly more sober Captain Cutler appears on deck. He stops by the mate at the weel, begins to ask, “Did you see…?” Looking at the seaman’s poker face, he finishes, “Never mind.” “Your wife, sir?” the mate asks. “My wife?” “That’s what she said, sir. She said you’d be looking for her, that she would be waiting in the fo’c’sle.”
Rhett strides angrily along the deck, fists clenched. “My wife! I’ll throw that hussy in the brig. Said I’d be looking for her! If she thinks that I’ll come running any time she snaps her fingers–this time I’ll kill her!…My wife,” he muses. “She said she was my wife.”
A different Scarlett waits for him–proud, yet mutely appealing, promising surrender. “So you said you’re my wife!” His manner changes. “You still say it–and by God, Scarlett, I’ll hold you to it!” And Rhett and Scarlett return together to Tara, to the land. Fadeout.
He forgives her why? What exactly did she do here to earn a reconciliation? And how is this coincide with Margaret Mitchell’s characters? This is hardly a satisfying new ending. If this was the winning submission, I would be horrified to read the ones that didn’t win!