Director: Victor Fleming
Original Release: 1939
My Overall Rating: 3 stars out of 5
In my Wizard of Oz post, I first presented 1939 as Hollywood's golden year. The crown jewel of that year was Gone with the Wind, American cinema's great tale of opulence and misery. In this year of years, Gone with the Wind dominated the Oscars with 13 nominations and ten wins, including Best Picutre. When adjusted for inflation, the movie is still the highest grossing box office draw of all time.
From a strictly artistic perspective, Gone with the Wind is a stunning achievement, winning Academy Awards for both cinematography and art direction. For those unfamiliar with the narrative, Scarlett O'Hara is the belle of antebellum Atlanta. The movie (and the Margaret Mitchell novel upon which it is based) follows Scarlett's adventures through the Civil War and reconstruction as her plantation home is destroyed, then her fortune rebuilt through wit and guile. Of course, the real fun is in her marital adventures.
The social politics of the story, however, are highly problematic to say the least. The movie comes across as practically a propaganda film in favor of the Old South with cringe-inducing racial stereotypes of the slaves and freedmen. The institution of slavery is never exactly condemned, nor acknowledged as the foundation of the carefree, aristocratic lifestyle which had been lost in the war. Also, a marital rape occurs in the film's second act (included in the trailer above) and is forgiven far too quickly. One could easily dismiss such charges as a product of the time but Gone with the Wind came under plenty of fire for them in its own era as well. Watching in 2013, parts of the movie are downright painful.
The film's score, composed by Max Steiner, is one of the classics of the genre. Steiner drew heavily upon the work of Stephen Foster among others. The most immediately recognizable piece is "Tara's Theme":
Despite the music's lasting legacy, Original Score was the only Oscar category in which Gone with the Wind lost out to The Wizard of Oz.
- The movie is definitely long, clocking in at nearly four hours. We spread it out over two days.
- After we finished, we asked Our Girl what she thought. Her response: "I liked it but it was very sad... I wonder what happened to the cat." Bonnie (Scarlett's daughter) comes back from London with a kitten, you see, never to be seen again.