Carol Burnett ‘Went With the Wind’ and ran down the stairs 9 times for Hilarious Sketch
Emmy-winning comedian and actress Carol Burnett is known to fans of classic television for her long-running comedy variety show, The Carol Burnett Show. And there’s no doubt that Burnett was a master who went above and beyond in his comedic craft.
For example, a memorable sketch called “Went With the Wind” had Burnett tumbling down a flight of stairs. But to get the scene right when taped, she rolled down the stairs nine different times in one day.
Carol Burnett did her own stunts for ‘Went With the Wind’
According to Burnett, the idea of a carried away by the wind the parody came when the film aired on television. The Carol Burnett Show The 1976 version of the story was intended for people who could not “attend” the relatively long film (for Associated Press.)
In “Went With the Wind,” the beloved comedian perfectly plays an exasperated, quintessential belle named Starlet O’Hara. She’s in love with young Brashley, who married another – not that the union means anything to Starlet. While pursuing Brashley, she thwarts the unwanted advances of a charmer named Ratt Butler.
Starlet lives on the Terra Plantation somewhere in Georgia, and of course the house has a grand staircase. And because of some physical mishaps, she ends up tumbling down those stairs a few times in the story.
In the end, Burnett practiced and performed his own stunts to get those comedic scenes just right. Between rehearsals and the actual performance, she ended up tumbling down the stairs more than the audience saw.
“I actually fell down the stairs nine times that day,” Burnett explained. Luckily for her, the sketch wasn’t literal and she apparently wasn’t hurt.
Audiences laughed for over 30 minutes as Carol Burnett made her curtain dress debut for ‘Went With the Wind’
According to interviews with the American Television Archive, one scene was an instant hit with studio audiences. In Carried away by the wind, Scarlett O’Hara uses curtains as material for a dress in a pinch. In a stroke of comic genius, costume designer Bob Mackie left the rod and rested it on Burnett’s shoulders for the “Went With the Wind” skit.
According to Burnett, she knew the costume was perfect when she saw it on the mannequin. As she recalled, she fell to the floor and said, “This is, I think, the most brilliant sight gag ever.”
For its sketch debut, the legendary curtain dress was paired with the line, “I saw it in the window and just couldn’t resist it.”
The moment prompted thunderous laughs that eventually became too much to broadcast. In fact, 30 minutes had to be cut from the tape after Burnett walked down the stairs in front of an audience. Editor Tucker Wiard said: “[It was] one of the few times in my career where we had to edit to cut a laugh short.
Carol Burnett and “Went With the Wind” became an iconic moment in television history
The skit ended up becoming one of classic television’s most memorable. In 1999, TV Guide ranked “Went With the Wind” as the second funniest TV moment of all time, by MeTV.
Now the dress is on display at the Smithsonian Institute. And while the costume has become an emblem of sketch brilliance, it also represents Burnett’s dedication to showmanship and his talent for the hilarious absurd.
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