Saturday, April 16, 2011

Gone With the Wind (1939)


It is one of my favorite films, although I can no longer bring myself to watch the sad ending. Many today criticize GWTW for being racist or for showing too flowery a picture of the Old South. However, the story is told from Scarlett's point of view; there would be many things about the dark side of life that as a sheltered young lady she would not know about. As far as racism goes, what we now call racist is just how it was back then. If the film had not shown it that way, then it would have been too sanitized and completely unrealistic. I do think the character of Mammy is one of the strongest female film personalities of all time. Even though Mammy has no civil rights for most of the film, she is a person of impeachable character and dignity, a pillar of strength for Scarlett and for the rest of the family. While she herself is a woman of honor, maintaining very high standards for herself (and for those whom she loves), she is nevertheless the only person besides Rhett who sees Scarlett for what she really is but loves her anyway. Mammy is the last word in class as far as I am concerned. Women like her held everything together after the War or at least tried to. At any rate, Gareth Russell has a spot on review. To quote:
For me, Gone with the Wind is really a story about survival. There are moments in the movie which are heart-breakingly beautiful to look at, the casting of every part is near-perfect, especially the four leads - Scarlett O'Hara, smuggler and ladies' man Rhett Butler (played by Clark Gable), book-loving Southern aristocrat Ashley Wilkes (another British actor, Leslie Howard) and the demure, gentle and devout Melanie Hamilton, Ashley's wife (Olivia de Havilland.) Gone with the Wind is a wonderful, epic movie about a  lead character whose actions are often thoroughly worthy of condemnation, but who somehow always manages to be admirable. Even, weirdly, likeable. It is a fantastic love story, a great war movie, one of the most magnificent costume dramas of all time, a flawless adaptation of a bestselling novel and a moment of cinema history. I can still remember the first time I saw it, by accident, on TCM late one night, whilst channel hopping. I knew it had been my late grandmother's favourite movie but I was definitely under the impression it was campy, melodramatic, long and boring. Not that they're words that usually leave my mouth - but, I was wrong. Take an afternoon and a massive amount of popcorn and it's unlikely that Gone with the Wind will disappoint.
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10 comments:

Svea said...

I just purchased this movie the other day, and am so excited to finally watch it once again... hmmm, this weekend, maybe? I completely agree with you about Mammy, and the review quote is indeed "spot on". Thanks for sharing!

alaine@éclectique said...

One of my favourites that I've watched many times but now I'll have to find a DVD!

MadMonarchist said...

When my grandparents were courting my grandpa took my grandma to the city to see GWTW, the first movie either of them had ever seen, and he had no idea how long it was going to be. By the time they got home he had a very irate future father-in-law to deal with.

Julygirl said...

A lasting film like GWTW is also interesting when viewed at various ages and stages in one's life. When I first saw it as a young person it was hard to believe that the character of Scarlett would be capable of reaching such heroic heights. I, too, was spoiled and pampered, but was surprised to discover an innate ability to 'rise to the occassion' when forced by dire circumstances. So, to me as an older viewer, her character became more believable.

SF said...

I just watched this again this week. Love your expressed sentiments. This time I noticed the Catholic home in which Scarlett was raised, the goodness of her mother, beautiful.

regertz said...

The film remains powerful. I read the book many times including with my fiancee, an African-American girl who took it as a curious romance with some racist overtones, far more pronounced as one might expect in the book, but she could take it in stride and appreciate the characters. Still even many years later I am haunted by my dear friend, her young sister's reaction on reading a chapter with us, "Am I a black ape out of the jungle?" and can't quite fully ever forgive Margaret Mitchell for writing that line and a couple of others. I never buy "context of the times" arguments, sorry. But it remains a fine romantic story.

elena maria vidal said...

Thanks, everyone for your thoughts. Regertz, I was shocked at some of the racist turns of phrase when I first read the book, since in our family no one was aloud to speak that way. I don't remember the particular quote you mentioned, though. Do you recall who said it?

MadMonarchist said...

Just to add one more thing that impressed the history-lover in me, when the movie had its debut in Atlanta the guest of honor was not actually Margaret Mitchell but rather the surviving Confederate veterans who showed up for the occasion. That really puts in perspective how little time has passed in the big scheme of things. I wonder how many of the old gentlemen made it through the whole movie?

Elena said...

I just watched this with my children last week while we were studying the Civil War. I too was surprised that Scarlett's family was Catholic! Don't know how I missed that the other times.

It truly is a wonderful movie and perfectly cast. Who else could have played Scarlet, Rhett, Ashley and Melanie!

elena maria vidal said...

MM, I wonder the same.

Elena, not only was Scarlett's family Catholic but in the novel one of her sisters becomes a Carmelite nun.