Sunday, November 3, 2013

Family Movie Night: Gone with the Wind

Title: Gone with the Wind
Director: Victor Fleming
Original Release: 1939
Choice: Mine
My Overall Rating: 3 stars out of 5
via Wikipedia

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.

Multi-generational considerations:
  • 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.

14 comments:

  1. My wife loves that movie. And I'm pretty sure she read the book, too. It's been a while since I watched it.
    I think it is no longer considered the highest grossing, though; I'm pretty sure A New Hope finally knocked it down to second. I'd have to go back and check that again...

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    1. I've never read the book and can't really say I care to do so. According to reliable sources (my wife), all of the problems I mentioned are only worse in the book.

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  2. awwww Daughter zoomed in on the important parts.
    I liked this movie well enough, I saw it when I was teen but I have never had the desire to re-watch it.
    I love your movie nights.
    Can I ask about how old daughter is so I can place her comments in an
    age context ?

    cheers, parsnip

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  3. Yeah,the movie and the book are just okay to me. I'd much prefer to wait three years until 1942 and see Casablanca. That movie never gets old, AND it's less than two hours long!

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    1. Stay tuned. We'll be getting to that one soon.

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  4. This is the very definition of a classic that has not aged well, and would absolutely benefit from being remade. As far as I'm concerned, the only element that still resonates today is Clark Gable's performance.

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    1. I am generally against remakes but I agree this one could use an update. Love her or hate her, I really do think that Scarlett is a fantastic character and updated cultural sensitivities would only enrich her story.

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  5. I still haven't seen this one. Go figure. I feel like it's seeped so much into the collective consciousness I already know the whole film. On another note, the Carroll Burnett parody is still the funniest thing on TV.

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    1. Yes, it is! I can't watch that sketch without laughing to the point of tears. Comic genius!

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  6. I saw this when I was a wee lad. I think people today forget how overwhelmingly popular this film once was, although I didn't like it personally.

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    1. The story is very seductive in its way, embracing a romantic vision of a lost America. You get pulled in multiple directions at once. You want the characters to be happy but you also want to see everyone get what they deserve and someone must answer for the crimes of society. I don't feel the need to every sit through all four hours again but I do see the appeal.

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  7. It's an amazing piece of film-making, that's for sure. They built and burned all those sets! I read the novel a long time ago. The biggest surprise, after knowing the movie, was that Scarlett had two other children -- one with each deceased husband.

    Carol Burnett's parody was awesome, but do you know the parody from the movie "Irreconcilable Differences?" A side plot is the making of a musical version of GWTW, with a tone-deaf Sharon Stone as Scarlett (!!). Halfway through filming it, they realized they couldn't get the rights, so they had to change all the names. It ended up bankrupting Ryan O'Neal's character.

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    1. I have never seen Irreconcilable Differences but it sounds like fun.

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