Thursday, February 3, 2011

Fifteen Witty Authors and the Sequel to Gone with the Wind

It's the burning question embedded into very heart of Gone with the Wind: What happens next? If you're looking for different answers to that question than the ones served up by Scarlett and Rhett Butler's People (heaven knows we are), today we have a very special treat for you!

Reader Shaninalux, who you might remember from her wonderful guest post about Margaret Mitchell and the conclusion to GWTW, discovered a gem of an article in an old edition of The New York Times that discusses sequel ideas for our favorite novel. It was originally published in August 1976, following initial announcements about an official sequel and movie script. In it, 15 prominent authors of the day sound off about their own plot ideas for a GWTW sequel. Their suggestions range from the lighthearted to the serious to the downright absurd. You'll find them all waiting for you after the jump.

We hope you enjoy this eclectic mix of sequel suggestions. Do you have a favorite suggestion out of the bunch? Or simply one that strikes you as the funniest? Let us know in the comments!

Many thanks to Shaninalux for sharing this with us!

S.J. Perelman: They ought to bring it up to 1976, with Rhett and Scarlett living in an open marriage, as they would be today. Frozen by cryogenics after the Civil War, they meet in a New York singles bar when they thaw. Given the present freedom, they'd be swingers. They'd be miserable, but it would be very interesting sociologically. I'd have them played by Barbra Streisand and Eliot Gould, the most neuralgic combination of the year.

John Updike: Rhett might open a chain of general stores, selling used carpet bags. She, I would imagine, would get very plump, pleasing enough, and drink too much. He would wander back to her, less brash, beaten, ready to become a kind of Snopes.

Vance Bourjaily: I'd make the screenplay go back to the Confederate retreat and surrender and show how Rhett and Scarlett are likelier to survive than more noble people. I'd redefine them more cynically and less romantically against a background of tragedy. They're a couple of attractive opportunists of the kind we all know - more agreeable when things are going well than when they are not. As for their love relationship, Scarlett might be the more complete scoundrel and in a position to turn Rhett down.

Isaac Asimov: During the Gilded Age, Rhett learns about the Black Friday attempt by Fisk and Gould to corner the gold market. In the very teeth of their conniving, Rhett makes off with some money for himself and then warns President Grant to release gold and end the bubble. Scarlett becomes a political hostess and helps quiet the uproar that follows the crooked Hayes-Tilden election of 1876. She suggests to Hayes that if he removes federal troops from the South, people will forget how he won office. With Hayes in the White House, Scarlett becomes an even more popular hostess, since Hayes's wife, Lemonade Lucy, is a strict prohibitionist, while Scarlett serves bourbon and branchwater.

James Jones: Assuming Scarlett gets Rhett back, she's got to lose him again, from what I know about Southern belles. He leaves her either because she remains a spoiled brat or because she turns into a proper middle-class aging Southern belle and he gets bored with her. 

Wallace Markfield: Weak, ineffectual Ashley Wilkes would make a fine academic, and Scarlett could turn up on campus to protest our Southeast Asia policy. She teams up with Alison Lurie [whose "The War between the States" was a bestseller in 1964] on a trip to East Amagansett, where Rhett has become a big landlord, with 20 acres of valuable beachfront propriety. He rents it to Polish groupies, recapitulating Sherman's march to the sea. The annoyed town council sets his propriety on fire, another burning of Atlanta. He and Scarlett get together for only one marvelous night on the beach, observed through binoculars by Truman Capote.

James Dickey: I think Rhett would become a very strong politician among the anti-Reconstruction forces. Although he’s an aristocrat from Charleston, he might champion yeoman farmers, much like Huey Long. Scarlett would be just as politically-minded as he, standing at his side. Although he is something of a bastard, let him mature a bit, take his responsibilities seriously, emerge as a man of courage and civic responsibility. But she kind of likes him to be a bad boy. “Where’s old Rhett?” she asks. “I remember when you drank a fifth of bourbon in one day.” And he says, “I can’t do that now. People are depending on me.”

Lois Gould: The character of Scarlett is so different, much more textured, than the spoiled Southern belle created in the popular image. Seeing the movie again, one becomes more aware of her strength, love of the land, and self reliance. I see her rebuilding Tara and growing into an abrasive and quite formidable woman. Rhett becomes a roving hero, of the 1970’s movie type, a rogue leading a wild, independent life. On the decline, or feeling himself to be, he decides to have one last fling at reconciliation with Scarlett,  but she has become a different person. I don’t see them working the side by side. They touch again and finally part.

Dan Greenberg: Rhett founds a magazine, “New South,” like “New York” and “New West,” and gets Belle Watling to do a gossip column. Scarlett becomes a big businesswoman, turning wood pulp into plastic resin for hula hoops, plastic skateboards and vinyl swimming pools. Since Rhett’s rape, she’s gotten into kinky stuff, and has a mail order business, too, in leather and rubber wear. She also comes out with a door-to-door line of women’s cosmetics called “Tara by Scarlett O’Hara.” Scarlett uses Rhett’s magazine for a classy ad campaign, featuring Belle Watling as the “Tara by Scarlett O’Hara Girl.” Rhett realizes this is ploy by Scarlett to get to him. He resists for a while, then agrees to meet her at a theme part—a reconstruction of the destruction of the South—called Civil War Land. In an almost lifesize plastic replica of their former home, she leads him into a room, chains him to the bed and rapes him. He realizes he loves her after all. The audience, going out, is heard to say: “Frankly, I don’t give a damn.”

Edward Albee: The producers would be extremely impolite not to ask Margaret Mitchell to write the sequel. I’m serious about this. And if they can’t get Margaret Mitchell (who died in 1949) get Thackery. And if they can’t get either, don’t do it all. They’re just after a buck anyway.

Ishmael Reed: It’s a reflection of the current political atmosphere that they’re making a sequel. Rhett should have stayed around till today, when they’re nominating plantation owners for president. I’d call the sequel “Back with the Wind.” There’s a big backlash against Reconstruction, Federal troops are withdrawn, the darkies are in their place, and Rhett and Scarlett get it all back. Rhett could become the post-reconstruction governor of Louisiana as a populist like Jimmy Carter, and Scarlett would become a suffragette and tell everybody how she and Topsy are both oppressed women. I think the blacks will still be out arguing over who gets to say “quitting time.”

Peter Benchley:  Scarlett has a Colonel Sanders franchise and, like a Tennessee Williams character, mismanages the hell out of it but thinks it’s wonderful. Rhett, while running for Senate, passes by her fried chicken establishment. They have a touching scene as she thinks with longing of how many MacDonalds she would have owned if they had stayed together.

Paul Theroux: I have received notions about “Gone with the Wind”,  like people know what Dickens was without having read him. Scarlett’s the one with the enormous cleavage above the marquee, with a slight trace of a moustache burn on her upper lip. The only possible sequel would be to have the South win the war, annexing most of Central America as a slaveholding entity. Scarlett and Rhett would go to Guatemala City, the new capital, and she would become an efficient little woman, running things.

Abe Burrows: You want a free plot from me?

Bel Kaufman: I've written this poem:
It isn't easy to surpass or equal
A classic's cherished ending with a sequel
Rhett Butler exits, cutting through the sham:
"Frankly, my dear, I do not give a damn."
Like Ibsen's Nora, walking through a door—
What can they ever do for an encore?


  1. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. I remember this when it first came out. Edward Albee's comment says it all.

  3. Nearly all the 'suggestions' are tongue-in-cheek and/or politically orientated. IMO Lois Gould's is the only serious 'sequel idea' there, and one I can realistically picture happening. I'd read that sequel :)


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