“Scarlett”, by François-Guillaume Lorrain: the novel of a miraculous film

“Scarlett”, by François-Guillaume Lorrain, Flammarion, 336 p., €20, digital €15.

So much has been written and said about the history of the film Gone with the wind, by Victor Fleming (1939), this feature film that almost turned into a disaster, a great work of two hundred and forty-three minutes in Technicolor, crowned with eight Oscars. Cinematographic analyses, accounts of an exceptional filming by the debauchery of the costumes and the excess of the sets, multiple biographies of the protagonists – eight for Vivien Leigh (1913-1967), the interpreter of Scarlett O’Hara, three for Hattie McDaniel (1895 -1952), that of his nanny… It must be said that this adaptation of the first novel, published in 1936, by Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949), a saga distinguished by the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, was the most profitable in history. from 7and art. Although subject to recurring controversy due to his description of slavery as a happy institution (a large family bound by affection and not by servitude), Gone With the Wind is still, according to several recent polls, America’s favorite movie. How, then, to dig your own furrow in this field plowed many times? For writing Scarlett, his new novel, François-Guillaume Lorrain has chosen to collect, in the form of sketches, the decisive moments that have marked this story. It thus forms an original, powerfully evocative puzzle.

“Rage and Passion”

“What first hooked me, explains to the “World of books” the author of Scarlett, journalist at the weekly Point and film historian it was fury and passion that gripped the United States for three years”, from the publication of the book until the premiere of the film, in Atlanta, on December 15, 1939. A conflagration attributable, according to him, to the Great Depression, in which the country is looking for figures of hope and tenacity (“After all, tomorrow is another day!” », exclaims Scarlett), but also to the very first figure of a modern woman in American literature, or even to the advertising genius of the producer, David O. Selznick (1902-1965), struggling so that “the soufflé does not fall”

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At the heart of François-Guillaume Lorrain’s novel is Selznick’s tireless quest for the lead actress, both fundamentally irresolute and radically interventionist. “This extraordinary demiurge is the backbone of my book which, starting from him, was then built in concentric circles”, sums up the author, who had already mentioned the Hollywood magnate in The Year of Volcanoes (Flammarion, 2015). He traced there the neighboring and concurrent shootings of Vulcano, by William Dieterle, with Anna Magnani, and Stromboli, by Rossellini, with Ingrid Bergman.

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“Scarlett”, by François-Guillaume Lorrain: the novel of a miraculous film