The Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Tennessee, will no longer screen Gone With the Wind after the theater’s board said it had received “numerous comments” from viewers who called the 1939 film “insensitive” and “racist.”
A statement from The Orpheum Theatre Group reads:
While title selections for the series are typically made in the spring of each year, the Orpheum has made this determination early in response to specific inquiries from patrons. The Orpheum appreciates feedback on its programming from all members of the mid-south community. The recent screening of Gone With the Wind at the Orpheum on Friday, August 11, 2017, generated numerous comments. The Orpheum carefully reviewed all of them.
The group said the film was ultimately pulled because it was “insensitive” to local patrons.
“As an organization whose stated mission is to ‘entertain, educate and enlighten the communities it serves,’ the Orpheum cannot show a film that is insensitive to a large segment of its local population,” the group said.
The theater’s decision to pull the film ends a 34-year tradition at the Orpheum. The removal apparently stemmed from a post on the Orpheum’s Facebook page from an early August screening, in which someone deemed the eight-time Academy Award-winning film “racist.” Another Memphis resident said of the news that “slowly but surely, we will rid this community of all tributes to white supremacy.”
The iconic film, set around a southern plantation during the Civil War and Reconstruction periods, follows the lives of several black and white characters of the historic era. Actress Hattie McDaniel, who played a house servant named Mammy, became the first African American to win an Academy Award for her role in the film.
What’s more, the film’s producer David O. Selznick went out of his way to avoid offending black audiences and consulted with black leaders at the time to insure the film would not be insensitive to blacks — in the way that, for example, Birth of a Nation was.
Selznick had refused to allow the N-word in the film. He wrote a letter to the NAACP president explaining that as a Jew he was painfully aware of what was happening in Europe (at that time, in the 1930s) to Jews and would not do anything to increase racial tensions in America. The NAACP wrote a corresponding letter to Selznick, thanking him for taking care not to include objectively insensitive material in the film.
Alas, the Orpheum said it will soon be “announcing an exciting movie series in the spring of 2018 that will, as always, contain both classic films and more recent blockbusters.”