Gone with the Wind (1939)

gone with the wind poster 1939 movie
10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

A classic of Hollywood

Problematic portrayals in today's standards

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Gone with the Wind

Studio:  Selznick International Pictures/MGM

Genre(s):  Drama/Romance

Release Date(s):  December 15, 1939 (Premiere)/January 17, 1940 (US)

MPAA Rating:  G

gone with the wind tara plantation

Nothing matters…except Tara

Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) is a spoiled, entitled Southern belle who has always had her sights set on Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) despite his love for his cousin Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland).  When the war breaks out between the North and the South, Scarlett finds her perfect life turned upside down, but still hangs on the hope that she will someday find her way into Ashley’s arms.  As Charleston scoundrel and profiteer Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) continues to try to woo Scarlett, she finds that the fall of the South could bring Ashley closer to her…but Scarlett learns that what she wasn’t isn’t always something she can have.

Directed by Victor Fleming, Gone with the Wind is a Southern romantic drama.  The film is an adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 best-selling novel.  It became one of the biggest moneymakers of all time and won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Vivian Leigh), Best Supporting Actress (Hattie McDaniel), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, and Best Cinematography—Color with nominations for Best Actor (Clark Gable), Best Supporting Actress (Olivia de Havilland), Best Original Score, Best Sound Recording, and Best Visual Effects.  It was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Archives in 1989.  It frequently makes near the top of multiple “Best of” lists.

gone with the wind scarlett ohara vivien leigh

Everyone wants a piece of Scarlett

Gone with the Wind was one of those movies that frequently aired yearly, but due to its length, seeing all of Gone with the Wind was one of those things that rarely happened…you just saw parts of Gone with the Wind rather than the whole film.  With the advent of VCRs and other devices, Gone with the Wind became more “watchable”.

There is no way to get around that the film is long.  It has an intentional epic scale, and I can’t imagine watching the almost four hour film in the theater (even with an intermission).  The film is loaded with melodrama, and the over-the-top obsession of Scarlett with Ashley (especially considering the perfectly accepting Melanie) is anger inducing.  You also get the strange and abusive relationship between Rhett (who truly does love Scarlett) and Scarlett who truly does love Rhett…but neither seem to understand it at the right times.

gone with the wind hattie mcdaniel vivien leigh

Oh, Mammie…you’re like a mother to me…until I must remind you that we actually own you

While Gone with the Wind was always held up as one of the great cinematic triumphs, modern takes of it are not as kind.  The trickiness of slavery’s portrayal on screen in a movie which raises the pride and “glory” of the South leads to some questionable portrayals of slaves and their lives…which still echoed in Hollywood when the film was made with a lack of inequality for the Black actors and actresses in the film.  I try to watch the film in the context of the story and also when the film was made, but it still is tough.

Vivien Leigh is perfect in that she can get the truly cruel nature of Scarlett but still pull off scenes where she shows compassion and kindness.  Clark Gable is also good as the scoundrel type character because he can show true hurt when he is rejected by Scarlett over and over again.  Leslie Howard is the wishy-washy Ashley who I wish was more traditionally handsome since Scarlett is in love with the idea of Ashley more than the character.  Olivia de Havilland is sickening as the perfect Melanie who is willing to forgive and “ignore” Scarlett’s lusting over and over again.  Both Hattie McDaniel as the caring Mammy and Butterfly McQueen as the maddening Prissy give solid performances, but were treated differently by the Academy and Hollywood due to their race (but there were so few roles available to actors that had any meat to them…it feels like they did the best they possibly could have with what was provided).  McDaniel turned her performance into an Academy Award to become the first Black winner in any category.

gone with the wind clark gable vivien leigh

No…I’m not like Ashley. Thanks for reminding me every 3 or 4 seconds

The movie still looks fantastic.  It is easy to forget when watching older movies that all of the effects are real and if they need hundreds of extras (like for the hospital scene during the Civil War) that they had to get hundreds of extras.  In addition to big sets and the big scenery, the film is shot is a very glorious Technicolor that gives a richness to the movie that feels timeless.

Gone with the Wind might have strikes against it today, but it is still is very worth seeing simply due to its importance in cinema (it is also amazing to think that the director Fleming also released The Wizard of Oz the same year).  It is a movie that shaped and sculpted how movies were made and how they looked.  The movie surprisingly has a cynical and strong ending which doesn’t necessarily fit Hollywood standards…and would beg for a sequel today.  Eventually a story was written in Alexandra Ripley’s 1991 novel Scarlett to wrap up the story (and was turned into a mini-series in 1994), but for fans of the film…they frankly didn’t give a damn.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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