Gone With the Wind

Another English project that can double as a post....joy! This month, instead of a book report, we had to write a film review. We were required to write about 3 things we liked and 3 things we disliked about the film. Finding 3 things I like was simple. Finding 3 I didn't was more of a challenge. You'll easily come to find that this is my favorite movie. Also (CAUTION: Pun ahead!), if you didn't like the movie, frankly, my reader, I don't give a damn. You should keep reading this and reconsider it. If you haven't seen it, you better go watch it. So, without further adieu....

Scarlett O’Hara’s universality was the first thing that grabbed my attention about Gone With the Wind. Roger Ebert says, “Scarlett O’Hara is not a creature of the 1860s but of the 1930s: a free-spirited, willful modern woman. The way was prepared for her by the flappers of Fitzgerald’s jazz age, by the bold movie actresses of the period, and by the economic reality of the Depression, which for the first time put lots of women to work outside their homes.” Scarlett’s drive and attitude are timeless and placeless. She could be the woman in London or Tokyo. She could be the woman from 1531 or 2010. Her struggles are real and were felt before her and are still felt today—she is universal. I admired her for that reason.

While I admired Scarlett for her gumption and universality, I was also relieved to see justice played out. Some may call it karma. I like to say she got every bit of nothingness she deserved. Roger Ebert, again, says, “Of course, she could not quite be allowed to get away with marrying three times, coveting sweet Melanie’s husband Ashley, shooting a plundering Yankee, and banning her third husband from the marital bed in order to protect her petite waistline from the toll of childbearing. It fascinated audiences (it fascinates us still) to see her high-wire defiance in a male chauvinist world, but eventually such behavior had to be punished, and that is what ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn’ is all about.” Before the war, Scarlett schemed to get the man of her dreams to marry her. After that failed, she schemed to steal him from his wife (and her sister-in-law). After the war, when she vowed she would never be hungry again, (even if she had to “lie, steal, cheat, or kill,” every word of which she meant) she did everything in her power, no matter how scandalous, to have money. Because she stole, lied, cheated, and schemed, the fact that she ended up with nothing at the end made me happy in a way because it really gave a “what goes around comes around” feel.

Frank S. Nugent, a writer for the New York Times, said of the casting, “...casting [was done] so brilliantly one would have to know the history of the production not to suspect that Miss Mitchell had written her story just to provide a vehicle of the stars already assembled there....If there are faults, they do not extend to the cast.” Vivien Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara, Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler, Olivia de Havilland’s Melanie Hamilton, Leslie Howard’s Ashely Wilkes, and Hattie McDaniel’s Mammy were, in my opinion, utterly flawless. I recall the first time I saw this movie a few years ago, and instantly fell in love with Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable. Their performances led to my viewing of It Happened One Night starring Gable and Anna Karenina starring Leigh. The acting in a movie, to me, is the most important aspect. The movie won’t sell without good acting, but this movie did not have that problem.

While the movie is captivating throughout the duration, I frequently caught myself looking at the clock, wondering, “When is this going to be over?” The running time (just minutes short of four hours) was quite lengthy. James Berardinelli states, “Gone With the Wind is a very good movie, perhaps bordering on being great, but its subject matter and running time (which is easily 60 minutes too long) argue against its status as a masterpiece.” While I agree with Berardinelli, I also disagree with him. Because the movie is divided into two complete parts, separated by the Intermission and Entr’acte, I felt as if I was watching one movie and its sequel rather than one continuous film.

A second thing that bothered me about the film was its lack of deeper meaning. Its philosophies of “what goes around comes around” and “there’s no place like home” (while not thought in those words when the film was made, seeing as those words belonged to the script of another 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz) were not subtle. They were bluntly shown and wrapped up at the end with the lines, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” and “Tara! Home. I'll go home. And I'll think of some way to get him back. After all...tomorrow is another day.” Frank Nugent stated, “By that we would imply you will leave it, not with the feeling you have undergone a profound emotional experience, but with the warm and grateful remembrance of an interesting story beautifully told. Is it the greatest motion picture ever made? Probably not, although it is the greatest motion mural we have seen and the most ambitious film-making venture in Hollywood’s spectacular history.”

The final thing that mildly bothered me about the film was a piece of the plot—in fact, it’s the drive behind the majority of Scarlett’s actions: her infatuation, or even obsession, of Ashley. What did she see in him? Personally, I didn’t find him very attractive. He was, as Nugent states, “a pallid character.” I would have taken Rhett over Ashley any day taking into account just how boring Ashley was, no matter how kind-hearted or honorable. Conceited of me? I wouldn't doubt it. Berardinelli writes, “When Scarlett confesses her love to Ashley, he admits his feelings for her, but notes that Melanie will make a much better wife.” Does this mean he is ignoring his love for Scarlett but is going to marry another despite? Does this mean he’s telling Scarlett, “I love you, but I won’t marry you.”? That won’t make it easier for Scarlett to get over him, which is precisely why she schemes, sabotages, and tries to seduce in order to receive Ashley’s affections, and that drove me crazy.

Would I recommend this movie to further viewers? Of course I would! The things I loved about the movie far outweighed the things that annoyed me. While it had a somber ending, the movie was phenomenally told, the characters were charming, and the plot was enthralling. Do I believe this movie belongs on AFI’s “100 Years...100 Movies” list? Again, yes, I do. I know for a fact that many people are dissuaded to view the film because of its length; however, I think the film--the story--is so legendary, that it is a film that needs to be seen. If I were to give it a rating in stars, I would give it five out of five; in thumbs, two straight up; in a percentage, 100. Gone With the Wind easily ranks among my top five favorite films—if not the number one.

Review Citations:
Berardinelli, James. "Gone With the Wind." Top All-Time 100. N.p., 1998. Web. 21 Feb. 2011.
Ebert, Roger. "Gone With the Wind." Roger Ebert. Chicago Sun Times, 21 June 1998. Web. 21 Feb. 2011.
Nugent, Frank S. "The Screen in Review: David Selznick's 'Gone With the Wind'." The New York Times 20 Dec. 1939. Web. 21 Feb. 2011.

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