In 1935, David O. Selznick leases RKO Radio Pictures’ 40 Acres backlot for his new production company, Selznick International Pictures.
Soon afterward, preparations begin for the filming of what is to become Selznick’s landmark achievement, “Gone With The Wind.”
The burning of Atlanta is the first scene to shot. Rather than risk damaging the dozens of set built for the movie, Selznick sets many of the standing 40 Acres sets ablaze. Old sets from “King Kong,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” and more are set alight.
But to get the fire really raging, Selznick uses a secret ingredient – old nitrate film negatives and prints. He had done the rounds of all the studios wanting to dispose of reels of old film prints. Paramount paid him to take theirs away.
Once ignited, nitrate film burns with such ferocity that not even water can douse it. It burns at a higher temperature than even gasoline.
What you see in the opening scene of “Gone In The Wind” burning out of control is not Atlanta.
But Hollywood itself.