How Did They Shoot the "Burning Atlanta" Scene in "Gone With The Wind"?

This is the scene that always stayed in my memory-Rhett and Scarlett escaping the burning city. Did they actually burn a big set down? Or was the scene done n miniature?
Whatever technique was used, it is still one of the most impressive feats in film history.

The general belief is that they burned old sets from King Kong, The Last of the Mohicans, and Little Lord Fauntleroy. The Burning of Atlanta was the first scene shot…the Tara set was built on the lot after the ashes were removed.

The fire was real, but Scarlett wasn’t. Vivien Leigh had not yet been cast in the role, so the stunt double for Scarlett isn’t seen very clearly.

“The location for the filming was to be the Pathé lot in Culver City, not far from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. To clear this lot of some old standing sets in order to make way for the construction of the plantation mansions of Tara and Twelve Oaks and the Atlanta buildings and streets, the art director, William Cameron Menzies, proposed that the old sets be brought down in a monstrous nighttime conflagration which could be photographed to constitute the big scene of the burning of Atlanta, a climax in the film. This heroic suggestion was enthusiastically embraced. Two stunt men were engaged to ride in an old wagon in front of the burning sets to represent in long shot the flight of Rhett and Scarlett (and Melanie Wilkes and her newborn child) out of the defeated city.”

(found here.)

I am without cite, but thought they burned the set to The Thief of Baghdad.

I taped a documentary about the making of GWTW and it did say they burned part of the King Kong set(the big wall on the island).

On the extras DVD there’s a making of that goes into detail. Many of the scenes with Rhett/Scarlett/etc in front of the burning buildings (including the famous scene where the wagon goes by the imploding building) had nobody there at all- they were added in later using whatever passed for the 1939 equivalent of bluescreen. The Kong and other backlot sets were filmed/burned without actors present and the fire was artificially “spread” with a 1939 equivalent of a cut&paste. You can tell in these scenes there are slight proportion problems.

The film was actually a breakthrough in special effects in many ways. Most of Twelve Oaks didn’t exist, for example- just the staircase (left over from a musical) and library and bedrooms. The (unrealistically) vast hallways and the facade were painted glass laid over the film, and if you’ll watch the guests arriving for the barbecue you’ll notice that the wagons pass under huge trees that cast shadows on the entry way but the wagons themselves are never in shadow.

I’ve wondered how they’re doing the burning in the GWTW Musical that’s supposed to open in London this month. The vlogs on YouTube say the sets are incredible- much like Les Mis and Miss Saigon in the huge moving parts.

Trivia: the same sets (meaning the street facades, not just the land) used for Atlanta in Gone With the Wind later became Mayberry in Andy Griffith, NYC in The Untouchables, Gotham in Batman (the Adam West version) and various Earth or Earthlike planet scenes on Star Trek, most notably during the City on the Edge of Forever episode. They’re gone now, though Tara (the movie facade) is supposedly somewhere in Georgia in storage.
Cool photos (scroll down for GWTW).