Anthony's Film Review
Gone With the Wind (1939)
This 1939 epic romance drama film is undoubtedly one of Hollywood's greatest classics...
Gone With the Wind may be a four-hour movie that was adapted from Margaret Mitchell's epic novel of the same name (one paperback edition of the book I saw spanned 1,400+ pages), but every moment from start to finish is marvelous to the eye, heart, and mind. Any worries you have about a movie this long being incredibly boring should be tossed aside. If it makes you feel any better, there is an intermission halfway through the film, such that it feels like you're watching two movies back-to-back, not one continuous four-hour movie. I say all of this because the people behind this film used minute of running time wisely, always giving us something to admire.
Let's talk about the plot and characters first. The central character is Scarlett O'Hara (played by Vivien Leigh), a young woman living on a plantation. She is not exactly someone who follows all traditions related to her gender. In fact, she is so madly in love with a man named Ashley Wilkes (played by Leslie Howard), even as he is engaged to her cousin Melanie (played by Olivia de Havilland), married to her, and becomes a father to a child. Yes, throughout this four-hour epic, Scarlett has an infatuation, an obsession, with Ashley. This is clearly illustrated in moments where she can be alone with him and make advances towards him without regard to the consequences.
Enter the other main character of Gone With the Wind: the Southern gentleman from Charleston named Rhett Butler (played by Clark Gable). He can easily be described as a dashing and charismatic fellow, one who can perhaps woo any woman that catches his eye. Yet, when he falls for Scarlett upon seeing her at a ball, she has no feelings of affection in return. Throughout much of the movie, she resists the idea of being with him. Towards the end, they do get together (that's what the movie's poster shows, after all), though much drama takes place in their relationship.
While Gone With the Wind can be classified as a romance film, it can also be described as a soap opera. If you like modern stories about people falling in love with others who don't love them back in return, and anything else along those lines, you'll definitely like this one. The fact that this film was produced in the 1930s and its story is set in the Civil War doesn't really change this kind of dramatic story that people decades later can relate to. So besides the fact that Rhett loves Scarlett who loves Ashley, there is also the twist that Rhett actually knows Scarlett loves Ashley. Plus, Scarlett marries other men for reasons related to personal gain rather than true love. As you can see, you definitely have ingredients for a dramatic soap opera.
This story is the core component of Gone With the Wind. But there are plenty of other great things about it that are worth mentioning. For instance, the costume and production design are fantastic. You can tell that a lot of money went into making the film as epic and lavish as possible. There are ballroom scenes where you can see lots of people, including main characters and unnamed background extras, having a joyous time. Another scene that is striking is where Scarlett is walking down a street with hundreds of wounded Confederate soldiers lying on the ground. It's presented in a wide panoramic shot so that we can take in the epic scope of the Civil War's casualties.
Then there is the cast. All of the actors and actresses in Gone With the Wind deliver splendid performances. I am making this statement for both the principal cast and the supporting cast. Speaking of the supporting cast, I want to talk a bit about one particular supporting character who deserves to be mentioned: the black house servant named Mammy (played by Hattie McDaniel). While it is true that many black slaves in real life, particularly in Southern states, were mistreated severely and inhumanely, it's not so for Mammy who shows much more wisdom than Scarlett. I like the character of Mammy a lot because she is like a second mother to Scarlett and someone who actually cares about the person she is serving.
The last thing I want to talk about is the title of the movie. It's certainly a good one because it has multiple symbolic meanings. The way I interpret it is this. Based on the on-screen text narration in the middle of the film, the wind represents war, namely the Civil War. To be gone with the wind is to disappear as a result of that war. Therefore, things like the beauty of Scarlett's plantation home and the lives of many Southerners are gone with the wind because the war has taken them all away. Along the same lines, there is the one really important thing that unfortunately is gone with the wind: Scarlett's sense of humanity. As the film's second half illustrates, the trauma of the Civil War might motivate her to avoid poverty, but in the end shapes her into someone who is very self-centered.
All in all, Gone With the Wind is fantastic. You cannot be a true movie lover without experiencing this unique masterpiece at least once in your lifetime, especially as it's so unique compared to nearly every movie that has come before or after. From the beginning with Scarlett's introduction to the end with Rhett's famous line ("Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."), you are treated to a gorgeous movie. It's a pinnacle in the Golden Age of Hollywood.
For more information about Gone With the Wind, visit the Internet Movie Database.