As a young, slightly cynical film lover, I approached the four hours of epic Southern drama that Gone with the Wind would bring with caution. A big part of me was afraid that I would hate it, and that would make for a long and miserable afternoon. But when that huge title scrolled across the screen with a swell of sweeping music, I smiled and relaxed into my couch. Somehow, I just knew immediately that I was in good hands.
The story follows Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), a spoiled and manipulative Southern belle. As talks of secession and war are on the rise, so is Scarlett’s love for Ashley (Leslie Howard), who has just married her cousin, Melanie (Olivia de Havilland). The fact that he is taken makes no difference to Scarlett, who pursues him even further, confessing her love, only to be turned down and overheard by a charming but rebellious man who opposes war and has a with a scandalous reputation with women, Rhett Butler (Clark Gable). As the Civil War breaks out, with the men celebrating and rushing off to join the army, there’s a rush for quick marriages as well. Out of haste and jealousy, Scarlett marries and stays home with Melanie, as they pine over the same man. They endure a string of hardships and tragedies throughout the Civil War, the destruction of the South and its recovery, with Rhett aiding and becoming part of their lives along the way.
Long movies about the drama of a conniving woman do not usually go over well with me, but I loved every minute of Gone with the Wind. I loved how I hated Scarlett, yet felt so concerned with everything going on with her. I loved how Rhett was so cool, coy and helpful, but I dreaded his eventual life with Scarlett. I loved how the south was portrayed in it’s height of elegance and arrogance, and then how I completely sympathized with them as the war ended. I hardly expected to feel so pushed and then pulled over and over again throughout this film, but it was wonderful.
The visual aspects of this film play perfectly off all the drama, and even help to enhance it. Over and over again I was taken-aback by the lovely colors and lighting used. At the most appropriate times it looks like the richest sunsets are lighting the entire scene. This really gives the film the feeling of a hot, southern summer, everything looks so warm and humid. During the infamous burning of Atlanta scene, the amount of fire everywhere is so good and real, it’s frightening. And the scene is topped off flawlessly with the greatest explosion you’ll ever find in 1930’s cinema. Later in the film, when things become more somber, so does the color pallet with dark reds, grays and purples.
If you’re one of those people who have put off seeing Gone with the Wind simply because of it’s intimidating length and greatness, my best advice is to just dive in. Any classic film buff will be blown away, artistic and visual-minded people will soak in the beauty of this film and anyone who enjoys a good story will be hooked within minutes. The acting is superb, with multiple Oscar wins (Leigh and Hattie McDaniel) and nominations (Havilland and Gable). I would call this Clark Gable at his best. Best of all, it’s streaming on Netflix instant right now, so most people only need four hours free and it is completely worth the time. And let’s not forget about one of the greatest lines in the history of cinema:
“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Your thoughts about the film in the first paragraph mirror that of my own. I was worried that the movie would end up being four hours of my life wasted. I was wrong. Scarlett O’Hara is one of cinemas greatest characters.
Thanks Ian, I was wondering if more people from our generation have that worry about Gone with the Wind. It can seem intimidating, both in length and greatness.
I’ve seen this twice and it maybe an appreciation thing, or the fact that epics aren’t my genre but the one thing that prevents me from truly liking this film is the length. I’m not denying it’s quality but for me it is a bit long