Review: Gone With The Wind (1939)

gone

I swear, if you cry about Ashley one more time I will reach into that screen and throttle you myself!

Screenplay By: Oliver H.P. Garrett, Ben Hecht, Sidney Howard, Jo Swerling & John Van Druten
Directed By: George Cukor, Victor Fleming & Sam Wood

In watching Gone With The Wind you are watching the epic to end all epics, and truly the best of all the classical epics. Whereas I found that other epics such as Lawrence Of Arabia and Ben-Hur were too long and most importantly felt too long, such is not the case when watching Gone With The Wind. It is extremely long, but it moves at a nice pace and never feels too long, an essential when making such a long film. Gone With The Wind ends up a rather flawed, although still iconic, picture, but its length is never an issue.

The character of Scarlett O’ Hara is both a great part of Gone With The Wind and something that works against the picture. Vivien Leigh turns in an all-time great performance as Scarlett, she is the driving force in Gone With The Wind. The story is about her character after all, don’t worry I know that is up for much debate. Her accent is great, her mannerisms are never out of tune, except for when slapping someone, and Leigh makes Scarlett inhabit every inch of the picture. Unfortunately the people behind the film didn’t do as great of a job with Scarlett as Ms. Leigh did.

Scarlett is an exceedingly irredeemable character, she is full of spite, completely self centered and at the center of countless wrong doings because of her selfish, childish ways. This in and of itself is not a bad thing, because life is full of self-centered people. Her character becomes a problem when triumphant music accompanies one of her deplorable actions or when the writing creates a scenario where despite Leigh playing up how wretched Scarlett is the film casts her in a positive light. Scarlett is a very uneven character, because Leigh plays her as the miserable being she is, but the rest of the film portrays her as a proud heroine of sorts. In this regard the film confuses resolve, of which Scarlett has plenty, with heart, something Scarlett lacks completely. The film tries to rectify this with Rhett’s parting words to Scarlett, but even then it caves in, opting to show Scarlett stoic in her resolve, almost triumphant.

The other areas where Gone With The Wind most suffers are obvious, the brush off given to the issues of race and slavery in the South. Gone With The Wind wants to create this whimsical world where every slave was loved and no one was racist. The character of Mammy should be and is an insult to African-Americans the world over, at least that is the NAACP’s stand. Every African-American character in Gone With The Wind exists in caricature form, and it is sad to see. By ignoring the racism of the South the film loses a lot of its emotional impact. Gone With The Wind creates a fantasy world I don’t want to be a part of and yearns for a world that was rightfully destroyed.

A bad message usually isn’t enough to take away from how well crafted a film is, and Gone With The Wind is no exception. No matter what issues I may have taken with Scarlett’s character or with the fantasy view of the South, Gone With The Wind is a well put together film. The colors are vibrant and beautiful, the set design remains some of the best ever seen in film, and the cinematography has moments that are pure bliss, such as when the camera pans away from Scarlett amidst a sea of injured Confederate soldiers to a shot of the Confederate flag wavering in the wind. In all of these areas Gone With The Wind is a film that truly shines. The film tells a captivating story, that is why any shortcomings the film may have are overcome by the rest of the material.

There are some other issues in Gone With The Wind, the last hour or so feels completely different, thanks to a change in direction, while the soap opera aspect and the score do get a tad overbearing at times. Despite these, and the other problems, Gone With The Wind was an enjoyable and well crafted film. It deserves to be considered a classic, and I have no doubt that while I enjoyed it there are far more people who loved it. The type of epic movie that was Gone With The Wind has been gone from film for some time. The new school of epic are very different in every way. Gone With The Wind remains the best of the classical epics and a film that will stand the test of time.

Rating:

***

Cheers,
Bill

8 responses to “Review: Gone With The Wind (1939)

  1. Such a great movie. Epic and well written for it’s time. I just found a site that has the actual Gone With The Wind Script for sale as a collectible. and the link to the script is: http://www.hollywoodscriptshop.com/gone_with_the_wind_script.html if anyone wants to check it out. I just bought one and it’s very cool.

  2. Sam – Thanks for the link.

    Meade – My issue wasn’t that she was a slave, slavery obviously exists, it’s that the actress played her so over the top that it was laughable and that in turn created a racist portrayal. I wish the film had shown a more honest portrayal of slavery, of the times in general, instead of the sugar coated Hollywood presentation we were given.

  3. Mammy is not at all a deplorable character. She was smarter than Scarlett. I disagree that its racist. Back then people had slaves, darn it. That is the time period that the piece was set. If anything, I think the Negroes are portrayed much better than the whining whites in the film. I could cry racism because the film makes white people looked spoiled and impish. But I don’t. Great film, by the way. Vivien Leigh was a babe.

  4. I actually, disagree. Hattie McDaniel was an actress playing a part, and that was the character . Her being a slave or black had nothing more to do, than Scarlett being white. As I said, I feel that Mammy was given a strong air of diginity and intelligence compared to Scarlett. No one else could see through Scarlett the way Mammy could. All the white people in the movie were dumb. Thats pretty racist to me. Most slaves were treated well. My ancestors had slaves, and they freed most of them before they died. Also they usually stayed on to live with the family. If you were expecting something like “Roots”, that might have been the case for some, but largely to say, it was somehwere in the middle.

  5. I’m sorry, but history, and the memoirs of former slaves, have shown that slaves were not treated well for the most part. They were whipped, raped, impregnated against their will, forced to leave their families, and to work for no wages. That’s not being treated well, and that is how the majority, if not all, were treated.

  6. Pingback: Retro Week In Cinema: September 05-11, 2013 | Bill's Movie Emporium

  7. I love niggers

  8. Awe, look at the cute widdle racist.

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