1 Year, 100 Movies: #6 Gone With The Wind (1939)

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For 1 Year, 100 Movies, I will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and please pass the popcorn!

Gone with the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz” were directed by Victor Fleming- earning him the incredible stat of being the only director with two films in the top 10 of AFI’s list. “Gone with the Wind” is an interesting film. Because this film is set in the South during the Civil War and into the Reconstruction, and probably also because it was made in 1939, just 75 years from the end of the war, it shows many incidences of racial intolerance. Yet even in 1939, the filmmakers involved were creating myth and not reality. “Gone with the Wind” is a watercolor image of the South.

Both “Gone with the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz” are built around strong female protagonists. Just as “The Wizard of Oz” is about Dorothy coming to terms with her own strength, “Gone with the Wind” is Scarlett’s (Vivien Leigh) story about developing and flexing her own inner strength. The Civil War and Reconstruction just serve as backdrops for this compelling drama about a woman’s ability to adapt and survive through the radical changes taking place around her.

Scarlett O’Hare is a southern belle- a lady whose only worry is what to wear and whom she will marry. She lives comfortably with a loving mother and father on their plantation called Tara. After Scarlett’s ‘love’, Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) and her husband Charles Hamilton (Rand Brooks) go off to war, she moves to Atlanta to live with Melanie, Ashley’s wife. When Charles is killed in the war, Scarlett stays to help the war cause. Soon the Yankees are taking the city, and in a really spectacular shot, Scarlett escapes the flames with Melanie and her newborn, Prissy (Butterfly McQueen) the house servant, and her acquaintance Rhett Butler, (Clark Gable).

Rhett leaves them to join the Confederate army, and the women make it back to Tara, which has been ransacked, lived in by Yankee soldiers, and fallen into disrepair. Gripped by hunger, and unable to see how to help herself and those under her care, Scarlett reaches a turning point, and swears she will never be hungry again- no matter the cost. Once again we get a silhouette against a blazing sky- this time the sunset and not a burning Atlanta. Scarlett nurses the ailing Melanie, protects Tara from a Yankee deserter, and works the cotton fields alongside her sisters and their family’s servants. Soon the war ends, and the men return home. Before long, Ashley comes back, and as Melanie runs to him, the always-aware Mammy (Hattie McDaniel) holders Scarlett back from running to him as well. I feel like Mammy is the most aware and sensible character in the entire film. Hattie is an amazing actress- and her Academy Award- the first ever awarded to an African American was very much deserved.

With Twelve Oaks- Ashley’s family plantation destroyed, he and Melanie stay on at Tara to work the fields. The carpetbaggers are taking over the south, and their carpetbagger landlord soon distracts Scarlett from any thoughts of Ashley. He is demanding the $300 rent, which is much more than Scarlett can come up with in such a short amount of time. She hears that the wealthy Rhett has been captured, and is being held in Atlanta, so swallowing her pride she goes to see his aid, dressing again like a lady, having Mammy fashion the old window curtains into an acceptable outfit for her. Rhett is unable to get to his money, and as she prepares to return to Tara in defeat, Scarlett runs into Frank Kennedy (Carroll Nye), her sister’s boyfriend. Frank has been keeping a shop in Atlanta and is doing quite well for himself. Ever resourceful, Scarlett makes a quick play for his affections and finds herself newly married and able to pay off the carpetbaggers.

Scarlett turns Frank’s general store into a lumber mill. By employing questionable business practices, Scarlett quickly regains her fortune and status, but her arrogance leads her into trouble. Returning home one evening, Scarlett takes her carriage through the nearby shantytown. She is accosted by one of the squatters, but Big Sam, her father’s former field foreman, helps her get away. In retaliation for the assault, Frank, Ashley and a number of other men decide to go into the shantytown and rout out the people living there. Rhett comes to warn Scarlett, Melanie and the other women that the plot has been found out, and the local Union soldiers are looking for Ashley and Frank. Rhett is able to save Ashley, but Frank is shot and Scarlett is a widow once again.

Without waiting for Scarlett to enter in to another opportunistic marriage, Rhett gets her marry him, saying that they are equals- both ambitious bordering on unscrupulous. Scarlett goes along with it, seeing the marriage as a way to secure her fortune and home in Atlanta and Tara. Scarlett and Rhett struggle through the birth and accidental death of their child, all the while Scarlett harboring feelings for Ashley. It is not until Melanie falls ill, and on her deathbed tells Scarlett to take care of Rhett that she understands what Rhett means to her. She rushes home, but the built up abuse and damage has taken its toll. Rhett is leaving, and won’t listen to any of the words of apology.

To watch a three hour and 45 minute film with this ending is so unfulfilling. For the characters to go through everything they did, make mistakes and grow from them all for nothing is so annoying to me. I’ve never liked this film, and even though for all intents and purposes (besides the story line) it is an incredible film, I will probably never like it.

In my humble, non-professional, average movie-goer opinion this movie earns:

two_half-stars_0

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