HBO Max pulls 'Gone With the Wind,' says it will return with statement on race

HBO Max said the film with racist depictions will return as created but "with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions."
British actor Vivien Leigh holds on to a pillar as American actor Hattie McDaniel tightens her corset in a still from the film, 'Gone with the Wind,' directed by Victor Fleming.
British actor Vivien Leigh holds on to a pillar as American actor Hattie McDaniel tightens her corset in a still from the film, 'Gone with the Wind,' directed by Victor Fleming. MGM Studios / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

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By Phil Helsel and Kurt Chirbas

Recently launched streaming service HBO Max on Tuesday confirmed it removed the 1939 epic "Gone With the Wind" over racist depictions but said the movie will return later with more context.

The original film will be brought back "with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions," a spokesperson for the service said in a statement.

The move comes amid furious calls against racism and for police reform after the death of George Floyd, a black man who died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.

The Oscar-winning Gone With the Wind, starring Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Hattie McDaniel, Leslie Howard and others, and set in the South during the Civil War, has been criticized for minimizing the horrors of slavery.

In a Monday op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, John Ridley, the Oscar-winning screenwriter for “12 Years a Slave," urged HBO Max to temporarily remove "Gone With the Wind."

"It is a film that, as part of the narrative of the 'Lost Cause,' romanticizes the Confederacy in a way that continues to give legitimacy to the notion that the secessionist movement was something more, or better, or more noble than what it was — a bloody insurrection to maintain the 'right' to own, sell and buy human beings," wrote Ridley, who is also a director.

Ridley, who said he does not believe in censorship, said the film shouldn't "be relegated to a vault in Burbank."

"I would just ask, after a respectful amount of time has passed, that the film be re-introduced to the HBO Max platform along with other films that give a more broad-based and complete picture of what slavery and the Confederacy truly were," Ridley wrote in part.

The HBO Max spokesperson said in a statement that "'Gone With The Wind’ is a product of its time and depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that have, unfortunately, been commonplace in American society."

"These racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today, and we felt that to keep this title up without an explanation and a denouncement of those depictions would be irresponsible," the HBO Max statement says.

When the film returns to the platform it "will be presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed," the statement said. "If we are to create a more just, equitable and inclusive future, we must first acknowledge and understand our history.”