gone with the wind
dir. victor fleming
Hey! It’s everyone’s grandma’s favorite movie!
Upon its initial release in December of 1939, the general consensus of the film was that it was, summed up here by Franz Hoellering of The Nation, “a film which is a major event in the history of the industry but only a minor achievement in motion-picture art,” and I’m inclined to agree. Others have marked it as a “forgettable” film; not in the sense that culture has forgotten it (because, honestly, how could we?) but that it’s hard to provide vivid recollections of specific moments–which I can totally understand, having spent literally two weeks watching this film and only having that one “damn” quote in my head to show for it.
But, I digress.
Clocking in at just under four hours, shot in BEAUTIFUL TECHNICOLOR, and sprawled across several years in the old South during the Civil War and Reconstruction, Gone With the Wind chronicles Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh, beating out 1400 contenders in a famous open-casting call) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable, forever cool and creepy) as they fall in and out of love again and again and again. I’m not sure if you were supposed to like them or rejoice when they were together or cry when they fell apart, but I honestly, just, like, didn’t care. I didn’t. It might be the cynic in me, sure, but it could also be that they were both kind of terrible people. Who knows.
Likeable characters or not, the film itself is a slice of visual life. It’s the first Rosebud entry shot in color, and it’s a pretty remarkable one at that. The gif above doesn’t do the scene justice; the colors pop, people, like you wouldn’t believe. The clouds, the fire, the blood of all of Scarlett’s family…
I digress again.
Sure, I’m sure it’s had retouching here and there over its 75+ year lifespan, because who hasn’t, but the fact remains that the stock has to start somewhere. Victor Fleming (who directed the equally poppy technicolor Wizard of Oz the same year) had a hell of an eye, and if the movie itself doesn’t do anything for you, it’s worth putting on in the background to catch a glimpse of its visuals.
“Dreams, dreams… always dreams with you; never common sense.”
Wind is just one of those movies, you know? It won ten Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress, the latter being awarded to Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Academy Award. It’s sprawling, it’s long, but it makes good use of the medium, and that itself earns its place in film history.