Entertainment

Carol Burnett's 1976 'Gone With the Wind' Parody is a Timeless Comedy Classic

From 1967 to 1978, comedian, actress, writer and singer Carol Burnett kept audiences laughing with her immensely popular variety show The Carol Burnett ShowThe CBS show was a cultural juggernaut, racking up 25 primetime Emmy Awards. In 2007, Time listed the series as one of its 100 Best TV Shows of All Time. Whether you grew up watching the show during its original run or re-lived its magic watching it on TV Land with your parents, you know there's no shortage of classic skits from the long-running series. But one that will forever live on in comedy history is the 1976 sketch 'Went With the Wind."

"Went With the Wind," a hilarious spoof of the 1939 southern saga Gone With the Wind, features Burnett as the Scarlett O'Hara parody "Starlet O'Hara," Vicki Lawrence as Sissy (Prissy), Harvey Korman as Captain Ratt Butler (Capt. Rhett Butler), Tim Conway as Brashly (Ashley Wilkes) and Dinah Shore as Melody (Melanie Hamilton).

The timing of the sketch was no accident. As Burnett explains in the introduction, Gone With the Wind has just aired on television for the first time and Burnett and company managed to condense the five hour epic into about 20 minutes of absolute hilarity.

"Recently, nearly the entire nation spent a total of five hours watching Gone with the Wind make its TV debut," Burnett says. "So for those of you who ran out of Kleenex and were unable to watch it, we put together our own mini-version to let you know what you've missed."

Carol Burnett, televison host, on the set during taping of her final show of "The Carol Burnett Show" for CBS-TV in Los Angeles, March 17, 1978. The comedy show series has been on the air for 11 years. (AP Photo/ George Brich)

The clip opens with Burnett as Starlet O'Hara descending the spiral staircase at the Terra Plantation, greeting guests and making a reference to Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billy Joe." She soon learns that her unrequited love Brashly is engaged to his cousin Melody and he's headed off to war. She's left to stay at Terra with Sissy and Melody and somehow come up with $300 for the back taxes on the plantation.

By far, the most iconic moment from the sketch is when Burnett appears in her curtain rod dress to woo Captain Ratt Butler and convince him to give her the $300.

"I saw it in a window and just couldn't resist it," Burnett quips, and the audience roars.

In 1999, TV Guide named the moment the second-funniest in television history.

The dress, created by prolific designer Bob Mackie, is on permanent display at the Smithsonian.

The show ends with a switch-up of one of the film's iconic lines that's too good to be spoiled here. Grab your popcorn and your best drapery and re-watch this sketch comedy classic with the whole family.

Read More: Dolly Parton, Carol Burnett Trade Jokes and Sing During '70s TV Special at the Grand Ole Opry

In 2016, in honor of the sketch's 40th anniversary, Burnett reflected on the making of "Went With the Wind."

Burnett was born in San Antonio, Texas, but moved to Hollywood with her grandmother as a young girl. After studying theatre and musical comedy, Burnett went on to perform in New York City, appearing on Broadway in 1959 in Once Upon a Mattress. 

Carol Burnett, televison host, on the set during taping of her final show of "The Carol Burnett Show" for CBS-TV in Los Angeles, March 17, 1978. The comedy show series has been on the air for 11 years. (AP Photo/ George Brich)
Dolly Parton Carol Burnett
Carol Burnett and Dolly Parton sing a duet during a television special made at Nashville?s Grand Ole Opry House for broadcast, Feb. 14, 1979. The CBS program marks the first joint appearance of comedienne Burnett and country-western music star Parton. (AP Photo)

Burnett made her television debut on The Garry Moore Show, for which she won an Emmy. A few years later, she launched The Carol Burnett Show, featuring co-stars Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner, Vicki Lawrence and Tim Conway. (Dick Van Dyke even appeared in a handful of episodes.) Several member's of the cast went on to star in Mama's Family, lead by Vicki Lawrence as Thelma Harper (or "Mama"). The series was based off the popular series of sketches "The Family" from The Carol Burnett Show and the made-for-TV movie Eunice.

In 2005, Burnett was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for "enhancing the lives of millions of Americans and for her extraordinary contributions to American entertainment."

If you want to re-watch the best of the best from The Carol Burnett Show, the DVD collection The Carol Burnett Show: Carol's Favorites is available for purchase here

This article was originally published in March of 2020.

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Carol Burnett's 1976 'Gone With the Wind' Parody is a Timeless Comedy Classic