72. Gone With the Wind

As a kid wandering around The Video Store (that’s what it was actually called!) I would often stare at the gigantic box for Gone With the Wind, reading the description and wonder why anyone in their right mind would spend 4 hours watching one movie.  Anyway, I decided I should knock this film off my “to watch” list and share with y’all my thoughts.

Gone With the Wind stars Vivien Leigh as Scarlet O’Hara, a shallow and selfish southern belle who is set to inherit Tara, her family’s plantation in rural Georgia.  All she’s missing is a husband.  While she is infatuated with Ashley (Leslie Howard), he is set to marry his own love Melanie (Olivia de Havilland) defying Scarlet’s advances.  While attending a massive party at Ashley’s plantation known as Twelve Oaks, Scarlet is pursued by nearly a dozen potential suitors, but after unsuccessfully pleading with Ashley to change is mind, she is humiliated by an eavesdropping Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), an independently wealthy man from Charleston who flunked out of West Point.  With the Civil War about to break out, Rhett declares to everyone that the South will fight a losing battle because all they have is “cotton and slaves”-while everyone else angrily disagrees with their stubborn southern pride.

As the war breaks out, Scarlet marries one of her countless admirers who is quickly dispatched during battle due to pneumonia.  Scarlet relocates to Atlanta to help out in a Confederate hospital, until Yankee forces march into the city and burn it down to the ground.  Scarlet and a pregnant Melanie fruitlessly attempt to escape the battle until Rhett appears and rescues them, transporting them back to their home.  While Twelve Oaks was completely destroyed, Tara was still intact but completely looted by the Yankees.  As Rhett decides to finally join the Southern cause in battle, Scarlet returns home to absolutely nothing but loneliness and starvation, as she vows “as God as my witness, I will never go hungry again!!” as the first half of the film fades to black.

Part 2 begins as Scarlet and her family begin to restore Tara to its past glory.  While Scarlet’s father has lost his mind, she must manage the plantation and even kills a Yankee intruder.  As the Southern forces concede the Civil War, the carpetbaggers invade the south and threaten to take Tara from Scarlet’s family due to taxes.  Scarlet decides to approach Rhett for money, a meeting which begins to unravel their biting flirtations into blossoming romance.  As their tumultuous courtship leads to a rollercoaster of tragedy, deception, and heartbreak-Gone With the Wind manages to push the definition of “epic” to a whole ‘notha level.

above: Scarlet and Mammy

Vivien Leigh is absolutely fantastic as Scarlet-even though she is overwhelmingly beautiful, her performance stands for itself as a timeless interpretation of greed and egomania.  Clark Gable is also magically funny and regal with his character that at times feels like Pepe Le Pew meets Han Solo .  My personal favorite character was Scarlet’s housekeeper Mammy (constantly calling people “poor white trash”-my God it had me in stitches), perfectly executed by Hattie McDaniel who was actually the first African American woman to win an Oscar in her role.

Everything about this film is grandiose and indulgent from its sweeping orchestral score, elaborate sets and costumes, as well as its countless wonderful acting performances.  I thought the first 3 hours of the film were captivating, but the final hour made me a bit restless.  Regardless, any movie fan owes it to them self to atleast view Gone With the Wind once in their lifetime.

4.5 stars out of 5

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Categories: 100 Films

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