Saturday, October 27, 2012

Gone With The Wind (1939) - Clark Gable Manages the Impossible

The Classic Civil War Drama

Original poster Gone with the Wind
"Gone With The Wind" (1939).

No film has more prestige than "Gone with the Wind" (1939), the classic soaper from David O. Selznick'sSelznick International Pictures and MGM.  This romance has put more people in seats in theaters and watching on the various video formats over the years than any other film.  Period.  There is absolutely no debate about that.  Yes, Titanic (1997) and many other mediocre films have grossed more money due to higher ticket prices, but this film was still being revived thirty and forty years after its release - to a good reception, without gimmicks, in its original format.

Vivien Leigh Scarlett costume test
Vivien Leigh costume test, 1939
Vivien Leigh Scarlett costume test
Front and back, both classics, of Vivien Leigh In "Gone With The Wind."

In constant Dollars, it will always be a champion, and making around $400 million on a 1939 investment of less than $2 million, well, that ain't too shabby. That, of course, would not count all the ancillary merchandising - the DVD box sets, the soundtrack sales, the spin-offs and remakes - that have accumulated over the years. I highly doubt that Avatar will experience similar reverence, though you never know for sure.

Gone With The Wind
Beaufort, South Carolina. So you think you know everything about "Gone With The Wind"? This is known as The Rhett House. The Rhett Family was the richest family in the South. The Butler Family was the richest northern family. And that is where Rhett Butler from "Gone With the Wind" got his name. And the secession papers that started the Civil War were signed in the basement of this house.

Maybe they'll start an actual religion to Star Wars and it will eclipse "Gone With The Wind," they might just as well given the hype that series gets. It will give all those little stormtroopers even more reason to go out and buy those Star Wars legos and action figures, so it would be good for business. "Gone With the Wind" just remains in people's hearts, not their toy chests.

Clark Gable as Rhett Butler and Vivien Leigh as Scarlet O'Hara walking outside Tara in Gone with the Wind
Tragedy is about to strike - again - in "Gone With The Wind."

This is a tale of the South during the Civil War, marching to its doom despite being forewarned that defeat is inevitable. Several things make this film stand out head and shoulders above the pack.  First, it has a classic anti-hero in Scarlet O'Hara, played to absolute perfection by English actress Viven Leigh.  She is scheming, vindictive, self-centered and controlling.  I think that, for a lot of people, her character is what makes the film special.

Vivien Leigh as Scarlet O'Hara in Gone with the Wind
The "Gone With The Wind" shoot was very taxing on all concerned. Here, it is 4:00 a.m., and we see an exhausted, tired, and muddy Vivien Leigh holding a small bouquet of flowers that had just been given to her by Arthur Arling, the Camera Operator for Gone With The Wind. During the production Miss Leigh and Arling became close friends and she would often confide/complain to him regarding daily script changes, Gable's bad breath, and the never ending retakes. Arlings advice to her was; "Don't worry, when you get the Academy Award for this, it will all be worth it!"

She hits home to many women (the lengthy book, of course, was written by a woman,

Gone With The Wind Scarlett O'Hara Vivien Leigh
One definitely gets the impression that it was not a particularly happy set on "Gone With The Wind." It was dirty, there were late hours, and it lasted a long time.

Clark Gable as Rhett Butler embracing Vivien Leigh as Scarlet O'Hara in Gone with the Wind
One of the couple's happier moments in "Gone With The Wind."

A confederate ball in Gone with the Wind
A Civil War Confederate ball in "Gone With The Wind."

Vivien Leigh as Scarlet O'Hara running outside Tara in Gone with the Wind
Scarlett at Tara in "Gone With The Wind."

Hattie McDaniel in Gone with the Wind
Mammy, played by Hattie McDaniel, in "Gone With The Wind."

Clark Gable as Rhett Butler driving Scarlet O'Hara played by Vivien Leigh through burning Atlanta in Gone with the Wind
The drive through burning Atlanta remains a cinema classic in "Gone With The Wind."

Clark Gable Gone with the Wind 1940 premiere
Clark Gable at the "Gone With The Wind" premiere, January 17, 1940
I've never heard of any of the African-American actors in this film ever saying a negative word about it, and I don't know why they would, given their characters' extremely sympathetic portrayal. Here's a thought: name another mainstream release from that period that employed that many Black actors, and to good effect. Tick tock, tick tock....

Confederate casualties in Gone with the Wind
One of the most famous scenes in film history, of Confederate dead and wounded in "Gone With The Wind."

Vivien Leigh as Scarlet O'Hara with the sun behind her in Gone with the Wind
Scarlett always gets in the last word in "Gone With The Wind."

I don't have to recommend this film, it recommends itself. Below is the original trailer.


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