The Classics: Gone With The Wind (1939)


Score: 5/5 (Classic)

“There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South. Here in this pretty world Gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave. Look for it only in books, for it is a dream remembered. A Civilization gone with the wind…”

“Gone with the Wind” is Hollywood at its finest. With a story that no one can hate and a character that everyone can relate to, it has earned its place in movie history. The story follows the ambitious Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), a woman who at first sight seems like the typical belle in the Antebellum South. However, she is a modern woman. She does not want to get married for the sake of getting married; she marries (three times) in order to get ahead. She’s an opportunist who uses her feminine wiles to her advantage. From the beginning, we see that every man in her life is madly in love with her. But she believes that her heart belongs to Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) of Twelve Oaks. She believes until the war (that was thought to be a quick and easy win) comes to Georgia. But that doesn’t effect her life as much as Ashley’s wife and Scarlett’s sister in law, Melanie (Olivia de Havilland) has a baby. There is no safe place for the mother or the child, and so Scarlett decides to take them out of the burning city back to Tara. When they arrive to Tara, Scarlett has lost a large chunk of her life. Looters have taken their possessions, her mother has died of illness, and everything that her father has built has been destroyed.

This is the moment that Scarlett transforms from a love struck girl to a woman who will do everything in her power to never go hungry again. This is followed by the image of the wind taking her old self with the rest of her life. Scarlett ends up running Tara by making everyone (including the family) pick the cotton. When Ashley returns, she disregards him because he is of no use. She marries her sister’s older fiancé Frank Kennedy (Carroll Nye) to take control of his businesses. And then she finally marries Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) the modern man from Charleston. What is interesting about the relationship between Rhett and Scarlett is that they are at times meant for each other and the most dysfunctional marriage of all of Scarlett’s marriages. He’s what every man wants to be, she’s what every man wants. But they do not fit.

The film ends with Melanie dying and telling Scarlett to look after Ashley. Scarlett quickly dumps Rhett and once again pursue Ashley’s love. When Scarlett finds out that Ashley never loved her, she runs down to get Rhett back. She ends up with nothing and decides to return to Tara, to an unknown fate. Her troubles, once again, gone with the wind.

There is not greater example of how film is a collaborative art form than this one. The film would not be complete without Sidney Howard’s screenplay, Victor Fleming’s (among others) direction, Max Steiner’s beautifully romantic score, or the striking visuals created by William Cameron Menzies which were captured with great justice by Ernest Haller. Many would like to think that a film’s soul author is its director, which is the case for many other great movies. But if one name had to be cited for this film, it would have to be its producer David O. Selznick. At the 12th Annual Academy Awards in 1940, “Gone with the Wind” won Best Picture (among others). It is tradition for the producer to accept the award on the film’s behalf, and of course Selznick took it

But why has “Gone with the Wind” been so beloved by its generation and succeeding ones? It’s because it’s timeless. It was set during the Civil War, but it is far from being a movie about it. It’s the story of a woman who has everything in the world before quickly losing it all, then gaining it back, losing it again, and realizing that she can have it again. The war and the Southern culture simply act as a backdrop for this great achievement in cinema.

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