Plot – A manipulative woman and a roguish man conduct a turbulent romance during the American Civil War and Reconstruction periods
Director – Victor Fleming
Released – 1939
A grand romantic epic set during the American Civil War Gone with the Wind remains one of the most well-known films and the highest-grossing film ever released when accounting for inflation.
Starring the timeless beauty Vivien Leigh as love-struck and petulant Scarlett O’Hara, the oldest daughter and heir to the Tara plantation and Clark Gable as roguish Rhett Butler, her off and on again mentor/romantic interest. The story details Scarlett’s life in Georgia during the time leading up to, during and the aftermath of the American Civil War and all the turbulence the south was going through during this time.
The aspect I found most intriguing about the film is just how jaded Scarlett is. She’s not a pleasant person, always scheming, manipulating and looking out for herself, never no for an answer. And yet she endears herself to the audience purely because of her force of will and her perseverance and loyalty to those she sees as friends, as seen in the last scene before the interlude when everything seems to go wrong for the O’Hara’s, but she swears to turn things around and never go hungry again. The film also beautifully contrasts Scarlet with her love rival for Ashely (Howard) the more kind and graceful Malanie (Olivia de Havilland), who throughout the film is seen as the ‘True Lady of the South’.
Now, although I fully understand that this is a product of its time, it is impossible to not touch on some more problematic aspects of the film when seen through modern eyes, namely, the way in which the slaves and various other black characters were portrayed. Although the film is told from the point of view of the landed gentry in the South, and the views of the time were most likely along these lines, they show the Black characters as simpler people and bystanders to the action. More often than not these characters are shown either as simple, mentally handicapped or happy living in servitude, which adds an uncomfortable element to the film when you know this wasn’t what life was like for most Black people in the South at that time. That being said, Hattie McDaniel’s Oscar-winning performance was a highlight of the film (The first African American to win an Oscar).
Though I would find it hard to recommend a movie, that’s almost four hours in length and may be seen as having racist elements. Over 80 years later, Gone With the Wind. remains one of the best acted, scripted and shot films of all time, which any fan of film should sit down and watch at least once in their life.