Monday, November 7, 2016

"Gone With the Wind" in Russia (1990s/2014)

ELIZABETH CHRISTIE and CAREY GOLDBERG (1990); note Putin mentioning GWTW in this 2014 interview ...; see also "Timelessly elegant at 100: Gone With The Wind's Olivia de Havilland celebrates milestone birthday," Daily Mail (July 1, 2016); Russian translation of GWTW.

image from

MOSCOW — In the Russian translation of "Gone With the Wind," Rhett Butler turns to Scarlett O'Hara and says: "Frankly, my dear, I spit on all that." [JB note: am no linguist, but the use of the verb "plevat'"  -- which has connotations far stronger than just getting rid of mucous -- (if that is indeed the word used -- I don't have access to the Russian text) is, in my unprofessional opinion, a subtle element in the translation of "I don't give a damn." The "retranslation" -- "spit" -- offered by the author of this article is (again, in my unprofessional opinion) off the mark.]

The translation may not have quite the same ring as the memorable original--"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn"--but the 1939 American classic, which made its long-awaited Soviet premiere on Friday, still had a special resonance for thrilled viewers.

"Scarlett definitely has a Russian character; she is a real Russian woman," Nelli Bersineva, a construction engineer, said after the lights came up. "Look at all that can happen to her, but in the end she has her land."

Leningrad mayor Anatoly A. Sobchak, who attended the gala premiere along with about 2,500 Muscovites in unaccustomed evening finery, said he thought the film had special relevance for Russians amid current turmoil.

"We see how American people lived through their war and changed their lives," Sobchak said. "The old system dies and the new system is born. This is a very contemporary film for our Russia today, because we are going through some of the same."

Media mogul Ted Turner, who co-sponsored the film's indefinite engagement in Moscow, told the Soviet audience that "Gone With the Wind" resembled the Leo Tolstoy classic "War and Peace," with its portraits of lives disrupted by war.

"The message of the film is appropriate to the difficult time of change here," he said.

Turner and actress Jane Fonda, in Moscow for a visit that included a meeting with President Mikhail S. Gorbachev and a Fonda-led jog around the Kremlin for 700 Soviet women, were the main focus of a premiere gala that lent the utilitarian October Theater a touch of Hollywood glitter for a night.

Outside on Kalinin Street, the broad avenue leading up to the Kremlin, a Red Army band played and revelers danced on the sidewalk near a giant billboard showing the classic scene--Scarlett and Rhett in a clinch with Atlanta in flames in the background.

Desperate would-be viewers offered up to four times the 15-ruble ticket price--or about $25 dollars at the official rate--to get in. Before the film began, a copy of Rhett Butler's tie was auctioned off for 150 rubles, and movie quiz-show contestants tried to answer toughies such as the age of Mickey Mouse and the first film to star Barbra Streisand. (The answers are, respectively, 51 and "Funny Girl.")

Flash bulbs flared, sequined dresses sparkled and champagne flowed in a display of public gaiety exceedingly rare in these times of political instability and economic collapse.

Proceeds were earmarked for an anti-AIDS fund sponsored by the progressive weekly Ogonyok.

Attendees included Nanuli Shevardnadze, wife of the popular Soviet foreign minister, who greeted Fonda with a complimentary "Are you the legendary Jane Fonda?"

Her husband was nowhere to be seen, but Mrs. Shevardnadze's presence reflected organizers' attempts to play up the connection between the American state and the Soviet republic of Georgia, the Shevardnadzes' home. The film also was screened in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, on Saturday.

For its premiere, "Gone With the Wind" was subtitled and retained its original soundtrack, but future showings will be dubbed--leaving loyal viewers to wonder just how Russian translators will manage to get across Prissy's complaints about "birfin' babies" and Scarlett's sighing drawl.

Whatever the potential dubbing problems, initial audience reaction indicates that "Gone With the Wind" will be a guaranteed hit. Upcoming runs are expected to reach most of the country throughout 1991.

"The actors are wonderful, especially Mammy," computer programmer Galine Cherkova said. "After watching this movie, I want to live, to do something."

Valery Shorunov, director of a language academy, said he had read Margaret Mitchell's novel30 years ago and his long wait to see the movie was worth it. "Artistically, it is great," he said. "It clearly shows that in all the world, we must most depend on ourselves."

Bersineva, who saw Scarlett as a real Russian woman, expanded on her view. "To love and be honest like Melanie is easy. To love passionately and violently like Scarlett is harder. I think Scarlett is a higher figure. I see by this film that there is a great connection between Russians and Americans--our souls are close."

Many Soviet viewers had already seen "Gone With the Wind" on underground videocassettes, and the novel came out officially in Moscow in 1982.

Turner, whose MGM library owns the rights to the film, is already well known in the Soviet Union for his sponsorship of the 1986 Goodwill Games in Moscow and Cable News Network, which is beamed to many Soviet televisions by satellite.


Frankly My Dear, Russians Do Give a Damn - ALESSANDRA STANLEY, (1994)

MOSCOW, Aug. 28— American fans of Margaret Mitchell's classic novel, "Gone With the Wind," had to content themselves with one authorized sequel, Alexandra Ripley's 1991 best seller, "Scarlett." But at almost any Moscow bookstand, Russian readers can buy such tantalizing offerings as "We Call Her Scarlett," "The Secret of Scarlett O'Hara," "Rhett Butler," "The Secret of Rhett Butler" and "The Last Love of Scarlett."

Most of these sequels are attributed to a writer named Yuliya Hilpatrik, but there is something singularly gloomy and Slavic about many of the plot lines. In "The Last Love of Scarlett," for example, almost everybody dies, including Scarlett and Rhett.

That may be because Yuliya Hilpatrik is a pseudonym with an Irish flavor of some 30 Russian and Belarussian writers in Minsk who jointly crank out story after story based on the setting and characters in "Gone With the Wind," as well as dozens of other unauthorized sequels and novelizations. Most of the writers are men, and they are unsentimental about the enduring romance of Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler.

"We are just doing it to make extra money," said Vladimir Adamchik, a Belarussian writer who with his brother Miroslav created the sequel cottage industry in Minsk. "I don't have a favorite. I like them all as long as they are making money." No. 2 Best Seller

And they are. In the first two weeks of August, "We Call Her Scarlett," by Yuliya Hilpatrik, was No. 2 on the best-seller list compiled by Book Business, a Russian weekly magazine on publishing. All over Moscow, likenesses of Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, in varying states of rapture, gaze up from vendors' tables. Wholesale copies sell for about $2 to $3 -- almost twice the price of a copy of Ms. Ripley's "Scarlett" -- and for that matter, Dostoyevsky's "Brothers Karamazov."

"I've never heard of anything like this," said Marcie Posner, a vice president and director of international rights at the William Morris Agency, which represents the Margaret Mitchell estate. "It's unbelievable." She added that the sequels are illegal because under American law characters are copyrighted.

American readers might not immediately recognize Mitchell's devilishly debonair hero in the tormented incarnation wrought by Mr. Adamchik's team of writers. On page 182 of "The Last Love of Scarlett," Rhett Butler sounds more like Raskolnikov in "Crime and Punishment" as he is overtaken by self-loathing after yet another fight with Scarlett:

"Rhett, not even glancing at his wife, silently pulled a revolver from his writing desk and forced it into Scarlett's hand.

" 'Do what I tell you.'

" 'But Rhett, I . . .'

" 'Just do it, shoot, Scarlett! I don't want to live any longer, I'm fed up with it all!' he said in a horribly despondent voice."

He lives, but Scarlett dies on page 202.

Mr. Adamchik, a poet whose works have appeared in Russian literary magazines, declined to explain exactly how his team of writers collaborates on the books or devises plots, saying it was a "commercial secret." But business has been good enough to permit Mr. Adamchik to go to Barcelona, Spain, for 20 days to relax and write poetry.

He chose Spain, he said, because "I am continuing the tradition of Hemingway."

Mr Adamchik's group also publishes novelizations, including lurid renditions of the popular soap opera "Santa Barbara" and of countless Clint Eastwood movies.

Making sequels of literature and film is of course nothing new. Partly inspired by the vast success of "Scarlett," agents have signed up authors to write continuations of everything from "Star Trek" to the novels of Jane Austen.

But most authors and publishers zealously guard their copyrights to such sequels. When pastiches of "Gone With the Wind" began appearing in France and Italy, Ms. Posner said, the estate's lawyers took their authors to court and won.

The Russian interpretations are the most blatant to date. The Russian Government passed legislation in 1993 that seeks to protect intellectual property and authors' rights and stem the tidal wave of pirated books, cassettes and movies that began flooding the Russian market after Communism collapsed. But the laws are rarely enforced.

Taking Mr. Adamchik and his colleagues to court would be particularly difficult, Russian experts said, because the unauthorized sequels are not outright piracy since they can in some way be considered original creations, however derivative.

"We decided not to go after them because we realized it would go nowhere," said Gennadi Kusminov, a spokesman for Authors and Publishers Against Piracy, a society that represents 20 different Russian publishers.

And Mr. Adamchik, whose publishing company in Minsk is named Badppr did not appear worried. "I don't think I am doing anything criminal," he said. "There has been a lot of talk about it," he added, referring to the illlegality of his work, "but nobody has complained to me personally."

But his Moscow distributors spoke uneasily of the practice. "We had our suspicions," said Nikolai A. Naumenko, a senior editor at the AST publishing house in Moscow, which distributed several of the sequels. "They couldn't convince us it was a completely legitimate venture."

He complained that the books were poorly written and conceded that they were probably not entirely within the letter of Russian law. But, he added, they were very profitable. Apologetically, he added that the Russian publishing business was still "less civilized" than the West's. He promised to reform. "We now have the possibility to do some good books in a legal way," he said. "We have stopped working with those people."

An editor at a rival publishing house that also distributes "Gone With the Wind" sequels was even more disapproving of the serial writers. "I think these people should be thrown in jail," said Natalya, an editor of children's literature at the Erika publishing house, who spoke on the condition that her last name not be used. "They and others like them have lowered the literacy rate of this country."

But it seems that the Slavic appetite for tales of Tara, cotillions and Southern gentlemen cannot be slaked.

Olga, a saleswoman at the Olympic Stadium book market here, a vast emporium where street vendors and bookstore owners buy books wholesale, said Russians worship Margaret Mitchell. She sells the work of imitators, but with dismay. "In my view, there is only one 'Gone With the Wind,' " she said. "The rest is just about money."

Under Communism, ordinary Russians rarely had an opportunity to read "Gone With the Wind," because only books by state-approved Soviet writers were widely circulated. The 1939 classic film version was not shown in Russia until 1991 and became an instant sensation. It was shown at one Moscow movie theater for an entire year. So many pirated translations of Ms. Ripley's "Scarlett" appeared on the Russian market that when the official translation finally made it into bookstores, it sold poorly.

Russian intellectuals complain bitterly about the incessant infusion of lowbrow Western culture that such adaptations and novelizations represent. But there are signs that highbrow Russian publishers are also getting into the sequel market. Vagrius, one of Russia's most respectable publishing houses, recently signed an author to write a sequel to Tolstoy's "War and Peace."

Senior editors at Vagrius refused to divulge the identity of the author selected to prolong Tolstoy's greatest and longest novel. "War and Peace II," they say, will be published under a pseudonym. "We have to keep it secret," said a senior editor, Gleb Uspensky. "To Russians, Tolstoy is a god. People would burn the author's house down." 

GWTW image from

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