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Dramas > Gone With The Wind (Victor Fleming)

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message 1: by Alex DeLarge (last edited Feb 23, 2010 07:44PM) (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments After a good discussion in the INGLORIOUS BASTERDS thread, here's my review of the iconic film.

GONE WITH THE WIND (Victor Fleming, 1939, USA)
Scarlet is grown from the red clay of Tara, emotionally barren like the plundered estate, an empty vessel that echoes of existential despair. Director Victor Fleming (thanks to George Cukor’s exhaustive pre-production) captures the spirit of the Ante-Bellum South through a romanticized polemic where slavery is defined as “house servant” and entitlement is a truism.

Scarlet is a spoiled rich girl who marries out of spite and greed, her existence an egoistic vendetta against all her perceived enemies: problem is, she hurts those who love her despite this major character flaw, and she is strength without heart. This is her story but she is not the compassionate link in the complex chain of events: Melanie Hamilton and the housemaid Mammy are the heart and soul of the tale. Melanie is caring and good natured, self-sacrificing and committed, and she knows of Scarlet’s faults (and her obsession) but sticks by her side. Though she never expresses her insecurities, Melanie’s determination is more than familial responsibility or obligation: she hopes to help Scarlet change...but will love her nonetheless if she fails. Mammy is the voice of logic and reason, her intrepid wisdom speaking volumes to the inane gossips of her “employer”. But Mammy is more than duty bound also; she loves Scarlet and hopes to see her finally grow up. Rhett Butler is a scoundrel, but he is man who eventually changes through the vicious conflict…he develops a conscience. Scarlet fights her own Civil War and in her mind she is the winner; only there is no one else playing her game. By the film’s end, she gets exactly what she deserves.

The film is a Technicolor marvel as the beautiful visuals bleed from the screen, creating a heightened sense of reality. Flemings use of matte paintings for extreme long shots establish the bloody and burning battlefield littered with corpses, which make this egocentric melodrama attain epic proportions. The costumes and set designs are magnificent; from the wonderfully choreographed Gala in the first act to the crane shot of dying Confederates in the Atlanta rail yard. Max Steiner’s score is married to the narrative, its swelling strings and harmonies creating an emotional tsunami that punctuates the drama…and pulls the heartstrings.

Though GONE WITH THE WIND is not a political movie, Scarlet becomes a cipher for the flawed values and vanity of a civilization that has evaporated in a tempest. Final Grade: (A)

My review didn't touch upon the magnificent acting by the central cast, but somehow Vivien Leigh imbues Scarlet with a shade of intoxicating humanity.

message 2: by Phillip (last edited Feb 23, 2010 08:00PM) (new)

Phillip | 10366 comments an A...

i forgive you, alex.

message 3: by Geoffrey (new)

Geoffrey | 209 comments Couldn´t stand the movie. Did not give a damn about Scarlet. Loved Rhett Butler for his honesty and telling all the patricians that the South was going to lose the war. A realist who never stopped pulling punches.
This movie is a real tear-jerker of a sentimental bucket of slop. Rate it even lower than Terms of Endearment with a script that is highly manipulative.

message 4: by Steve (new)

Steve | 957 comments Man, this board is making me feel inadequate. GWTW is one of those movies that slipped through the cracks for me. I've just never sat down to watch it.

message 5: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments It's an interesting film that (for me) only works if you look beyond the protogonist. I dislike Scarlet and believe she is not worthy of our compassion or sympathy. It's Melanie who is the moral center of the story and that makes it interesting: the scene when Scarlet shows up in the red dress (because Rhett forced her too) after the gossip with Ashley, is fantastic. Melanie approaches and at first it seems like she's going to lash out, break character, and she gently welcomes Scarlet to the party...but you know she is struggling with her emotions.

GWTW is also a technical marvel, and the film can be enjoyed by just absorbing the visuals. But those who consider this a romance and feel sorry for the heroine...well, that confuses me because she is an awful person. I couldn't believe the scene when she whips a horse to death!

message 6: by Tom (last edited Feb 24, 2010 01:27PM) (new)

Tom | 5232 comments I'm going to have to disagree, Alex. It isn't like she flogs it to death. The poor horse is shown to be in pretty bad shape, and it just collapses when she gives it a couple of admittedly zealous swipes in an attempt to get the poor thing moving. You make it sound like she's Scarlett De Sade.

And I agree about that wonderful scene at Ashley's party, where Scarlett arrives wearing that incredible red dress. Melanie's reaction is interesting, in that she embraces Scarlett like the sister she is (they're inlaws, after all) and forces everyone to welcome her. Melanie knows full well that there is nothing to the rumors about Scarlett and Ashley (nothing substantial, anyway) and she'll always be grateful to Scarlett for, let's not forget, delivering her child, saving her own life and the life of her child by getting them out of Atlanta, and bullying a living out of the remains of Tara. If Melanie and her child are above ground, it is because of Scarlett O'Hara, and Melanie never once forgets it.

Scarlett is nobody's choice for Humanitarian of the Year, but I think she's an interesting and complicated character. She does do some good, even if not always for the right reasons. It must never be forgotten that she puts herself in mortal danger by staying in Atlanta when the Yankess have it surrounded, all for the sake of that promise she made to Ashley. If she'd really been as dreadful as she's often made out, she'd have split at the first sign of trouble, the promise, the wooden-headed Mr. Wilkes and that two faced mealy mouthed ninnie Melanie be damned.

Gandhi she ain't. But Dick Cheney she ain't either.

message 7: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10366 comments the scene in crime and punishment where the horse is repeatedly flogged is one of the more horrifying scenes in 19th century lit. that scene haunts me from time to time...

message 8: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments Like the scenes in the novel ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT when the horses are being torn apart by artillery: somehow that's more horrific than the trenches filled with dead men.

But Dick Cheney she ain't either.'re right Tom, very few human beings are that evil.

TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez (Madly77) GWTW didn't slip through the cracks for me, but I'm one of those who doesn't like it. I love Rhett Butler and even like Scarlet well enough, but I just don't like the film.

message 10: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5232 comments Gabrielle, that's interesting. Can you put into words what you don't like about the film? Is it the political/racist elements, or something else?

Not laying a trap, not looking to pounce, truly, just looking for some other folks' takes on the film. It has really inspired some intense dislike round here.

TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez (Madly77) No, it's nothing political or racist. I just don't find it interesting. I don't really care what happens to the characters, with the exception of Rhett.

St[♥]r Pr!nc:$$ N[♥]wsheen pictures, pictures, pictures ||| ♥ Zin Uru ♥ |||| | 482 comments I love this movie, every part of the movie was worked down to perfect tiny perfect detail. The horse collapsing was really sad and almost pathetic,I wonder why the author wanted to sacrifice Scarlet's daughter!!!

I have been wanting to watch it again soon.

TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez (Madly77) It seems people either really love it or are indifferent to it.

message 14: by Geoffrey (new)

Geoffrey | 209 comments I can´t agree with you more. I just didn´t give a d--- about the characters so I was not particularly interested in the film, and considering I had to stick it out and watch the whole thing as it was a family affair, I ended up resenting it and hating it.

TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez (Madly77) I felt the same way. Every time I hear about it, I think, "Oh, no, not that again!"

message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Tom wrote: "I'm going to have to disagree, Alex. It isn't like she flogs it to death. The poor horse is shown to be in pretty bad shape, and it just collapses when she gives it a couple of admittedly zealous..."

i completely agree with you tom. no one is saying that she is the best person ever, but you can't help but like her and respect how tough and persevering she is. i really have some crazy respect for ms. scarlett o'hara

message 17: by Manuel (last edited Mar 13, 2010 10:51PM) (new)

Manuel | 469 comments I am surprised no one had done a thread on GWTW, but I have enjoyed reading everyone's take on this movie.

The first half of the movie, is way more interesting to me, than the second half. Once the war ends, it gets kind of boring for me.

Could someone PLEASE tell me why anyone would go after Ashley Wilkes instead of the handsome scoundrel Rhett Butler?
I first saw this movie in 7th grade, and even then Ashley seemed very decent but BORING. Ive never understood why anyone as passionate as Scarlet would be attracted to him.

I have the feeling that if they had actually ever gotten married, they would BOTH eventually have been utterly miserable. I've never read the book, but the infatuation Scarlet has in the movie, doesn;t seem believable to me. I like Leslie Howard, but if I had been the director or producer, I would have gotten a different actor for Ashley.

There are many little gems in the movie I adore. Where else in the the 1930's would a black woman have gotten away with calling the leading man and woman "MULES"? And where else, would the leading man have expressed his respect and admiration for (a black supporting actress) his wife's former slave and nanny?
I can almost feel the resentment in Southern whites when they saw that scene.

Even though Im no fan of the Confederacy, I too get a lump in my throat when I see the long shot at the train depot, the camera pulls up higher and higher and Scarlet's pink dress is lost among the crowed wounded soldiers, until finally we see the battered flag of the dying Confederacy.

There are one or two plot holes that have always bothered me.
After the drunken Rhett has swept the reluctant Scarlet up the stairs (Presumably for a night of animal passion) We see Scarlet wake up the next day with the sweet smile of SATISFACTION. As the camera pulls back, we see a fully laid out silver tray with Scarlet's breakfast ON the bed. How did this tray get on her bed?
Did a guilty or thankful Rhett, bring up her breakfast?
Did Mammie bring up breakfast and seeing the exhausted Scarlet, leave the breakfast tray on the bed and sneak out?
Did Prissy bring up breakfast and find no where to put the tray, settle it ON the bed?

Also, when Melanie is in labor in the hot miserable bedroom in Atlanta, we see Scarlet and Prissy in profile over Melanie's bed, yet their shadows on the wall dont match their position on screen.

On an unrelated side note.
I still remember Carol Burnett's version of GWTW shortly after the movie had its network premier in 1977. I laughed so hard, I almost wet my pants.

I know this doesn't sound kind, but I have never liked that spoiled Bonnie Blue Butler. I wasn't very sad at the almost theatrical and comic way she dies. To me, her death scene should have been shot and edited differently.

Ive always thought the background of the making of this movie, would have made an interesting movie in itself. David O'Selznick went through a lot of hoops to get this movie made, not to mention 4 different directors and countless auditions to find the right Scarlet O'Hara.

TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez (Madly77) Manuel wrote: "I am surprised no one had done a thread on GWTW, but I have enjoyed reading everyone's take on this movie.

The first half of the movie, is way more interesting to me, than the second half. Once th..."

Regarding Ashley and Rhett, I feel the same way about Brad Pitt. Who would...?

message 19: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5232 comments I think that Scarlette is attracted to Ashley at least partly because he represents that Southern dream that they're all on about so much, he's one of the few men who says "No" to her in no uncertain terms, and he's unobtainable -- Scarlett seems to dearly love a challenge.

Poor old Ashley, he never gets any love from anyone any more. His weakness can be frustrating, but he's no fool: he's the only person in the film to be aware of what the coming War will mean. That little grin he wears after Rhett Butler shocks the Confederacy is very interestng, I always thought.

Yeah, I'd imagine that someone (Mammy or Prissy or one of the other servants, there must have been a small army keeping that ginormous house going) left the breakfast tray on the bed.

The little bit about Rhett and Scarlett being mules is interesting, and carries a tiny forewarning: mules can't reproduce.

Agreed about that vile Bonnie Blue Butler, possibly the least appealing child in Hollywood movies.

Lol...Naruto Rocks! (Katelyn, Haku.) I sort of liked it....

message 21: by Jo (new)

Jo (jolelak) | 32 comments I have read the book and seen the movie more times than I can count. Love them both. The main attraction for Scarlett to Ashley, was that she was 16, he had come back from Europe and was suddenly this dashing gentleman. And he leads her on the entire movie. He never once says that he doesn't love her or want to be with her, so her crush persists. The fact that Ashley asks her to look after Melanie is the only reason she stays in Atlanta after everyone else leaves. It is only at the end, when Melanie has died that she sees how weak Ashley is alone. The one thing that Scarlett can't stand is weakness.

My favorite character has to be Mammy. She sees Scarlett for the selfish creature she is, but still loves and protects her. She is Scarlett's Jiminy Cricket.

message 22: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 469 comments Did anyone ever see the dismal TV sequel from a few years ago? At the end of the 1939 movie version...
Scarlett says...."Tomorrow is another day" and we see her approaching Tara. This situation was the perfect set up for a sequel........

Scarlett in Ireland indeed!!!
Forgettable pulp melodrama.

message 23: by George (last edited Mar 18, 2010 08:19PM) (new)

George | 951 comments I actually enjoy the movie in spite of despising much of the sentiment it portrays. It's sort of the ultimate "Lost Cause" movie and helped shape America's views towards the Civil War, slavery and the Reconstruction period in some very unfortunate ways that continued to reverberate well into the 60s and beyond. Its portrayal of the Antebellum South, the great plantations and the system of slavery that made it possible is beyond hopelessly romantic and idealized, but it's an image that the South found quite comforting and wanted to share with the rest of the US and the world, even if less than 1% of its population lived in any way like that. and, of course, it's contrasted with the wanton destruction of that beautiful way of life by those nasty uncultured Yankees during the great Burning of Atlanta scene and the post war occupation. Ok, it's not quite Birth of a Nation, but its viewpoint isn't a great deal better, even if it's couched in more pleasant images.

Having said all that, Scarlett as portrayed by Vivian Leigh really is one of the great screen characters of all time. Here you have this totally pampered, self-centered, egotistical and exceedlingly shallow woman completely reforged by the horrors of war into an unstoppable force, a very courageous modern, self-sufficient and, remarkably successful if rather ruthless business woman. She really will do whatever it takes to succeed and nothing and no one will ever drive her back to her knees again. The ultimate Steel Magnolia.

As for Scarlett and the rather bloodless Ashley, you folks just don't understand the aristocratic societal structure. Scarlett's father is an immigrant, very well to do indeed, but not top drawer by any means. No doubt that had a lot to do with Ashley not really considering her. Ashley's family has been part of the social elite for generations, probably even before they arrived in America. Marriage to Ashley would be Scarlett's ultimate achievement, the absolute undeniable proof of her status at the very pinacle of society. Whether she really loves him or he is actually all that loveable isn't really the point. If he ever had been honest with her, she would have shifted targets and got on with her life, but he was too busy being gallant. with the destruction of the pre-war society, he just wouldn't do or provide anything she needed. so, she chose others to move forward in various ways.

well, I could drone on, but I'll stop at this point.

message 24: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5232 comments Nice post, George, thanks for that.

message 25: by George (new)

George | 951 comments thanks. I was afraid I'd just gotten a bit carried away. but the film reverberates with me in a variety of ways.

message 26: by Bess (last edited Mar 19, 2010 08:52AM) (new)

Bess (Neli) | 12 comments I love Gone With The Wind, and the length of the movie has never deterred me so I've seen it a number of times.

While Melanie (who I love) is the moral centre in the film, you have to admire Scarlett flaws and all for the absolute dogged determination to survive. She had no compunctions at all and dared to do what she wanted irrespective of the constraints on women in that period - obviously the consequences of some of those decisions are severe but it doesn't change the fact that she absolutely pioneered. This is a woman who let nothing get in her way, and that single minded ruthlessness might be why so many people disliked her character but she was a really interesting character because of those flaws.

And what can I say about Rhett aside from the fact that I absolutely love him - Ashley was a simpering idiot. I love the scene when Scarlett comes to her senses and berates him for not having the courage to tell her he didn't love her instead of leading her on. Even when she finally understands that the man she has loved for years isn't in love with her, his weakness is what is abhorrent to her, how could you not like someone who is that gutsy?

message 27: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10366 comments nice post, george. i saw it when i was a teenager and haven't seen it since - nor have i particularly wanted to. i appreciate the perspective you bring to the film, but nonetheless, the culture of this film just doesn't interest me. i don't feel a need to go back to it.

message 28: by Mary JL (last edited Mar 22, 2010 02:12AM) (new)

Mary JL (maryjl) | 16 comments Oh, so many points to discuss. I have seen the move several times and I read the book.

I strongly recommend reading the book of possible. It contains much that is not in the movie.

Regarding Scarlett, when I first saw the movie at 14 and Rhett left everyone around me is sobbing and I was muttering she got what she deserved. But as I got older and saw it again, I felt sympathy for Scarlett. Often, are we not our own worst enemies? Ashley would never have made her happy--he was a dreamer--but it took her too long to realize that.

I always like to re-empasize that Scarlett was only 16 at the beginning of the film. She had little higher education--it was discouraged for woment at the time. She bascially was "trained" to be a suitable Southern belle, and snag a husband, who would run everything.
The War causes her the life of her mother, the deterioration of her father, the loss of the entire family fortune, leaving facing a way of life she was not trained for.

When Scarlett returns to Tara, she has to be the strong one. Melanie has courage, but she is very ill. Everyone else--even if they help--relies on Scarlett to make the decisions. She is a flawed character--but believable.

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