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HBO Max temporarily removes 'Gone With the Wind,' says it shows 'racial prejudices'

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Vivien Leigh has her corset tightened by Hattie McDaniel in a publicity still issued for the movie 'Gone with the Wind', 1939. The drama starred Leigh as 'Scarlett O'Hara', and McDaniel as 'Mammy'.
Silver Screen Collection | Getty Images
Key Points
  • HBO's new streaming service said the movie showed "ethnic and racial prejudices."
  • It said "GWTW" will return with a "discussion of its historical context."

New streaming service HBO Max has removed the epic 1939 movie "Gone With the Wind" from its schedule, saying it showed "ethnic and racial prejudices."

The movie will return to the platform with a "discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions," an HBO Max spokesperson said in an email to CNBC on Wednesday.

The removal comes amid anti-racism protests ignited by the death of George Floyd. The unarmed black man died while a white police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck from more then eight minutes. Screenwriter and director John Ridley, in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times on Monday, urged HBO Max parent company WarnerMedia to temporarily take it down .

"Gone With the Wind" is set in Georgia during the Civil War, and has been previously criticized for its depiction of slavery. Its stars included Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Leslie Howard and Hattie McDaniel, who portrayed  the slave "Mammy" and became the first African American to win an Oscar.

Ridley, who wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for "12 Years A Slave," said of "GWTW: "It is a film that, when it is not ignoring the horrors of slavery, pauses only to perpetuate some of the most painful stereotypes of people of color."

HBO Max's spokesperson told CNBC: "'Gone With the Wind' is a product of its time and depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that have, unfortunately, been commonplace in American society. These racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today, and we felt that to keep this title up without an explanation and a denouncement of those depictions would be irresponsible."

The film will return, the spokesperson added, with a discussion of its context but will be shown in its original form "because to do so otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed."

Elsewhere, ViacomCBS has canceled the long-running reality TV show "Cops" in the wake of the protests against police brutality. A&E has pulled episodes of its reality police show "Live PD," and Discovery's "Body Cam" is off the network's broadcast schedule. 

In the U.K., comedy TV show "Little Britain" has been taken down from the BBC's iPlayer streaming service. Created by Matt Lucas and David Walliams, some episodes showed the men, who are both white, playing black characters. Lucas and Walliams have previously stated they would not make a similar show now. It aired on TV as a series from 2003 to 2007.

HBO Max launched on May 27 and a press release listed "Gone With the Wind" as a movie that would feature on the platform. HBO's parent company WarnerMedia (then TimeWarner) was bought by AT&T in 2018.

AT&T shares were down 1.3% in trading Wednesday morning.