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Frankly, my dear, you should give a damn!
by Asa Butcher
2008-12-16 10:03:48
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Gone With the Wind
Directed by Victor Fleming
1939, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

We are on the threshold of Gone With the Wind's 70th anniversary and I am going to tell you why you should sit down and watch this great Hollywood epic, either for the first time or again. Ranked by the American Film Institute as the sixth Greatest Movie of All Time, Gone With the Wind scooped a record ten Oscars from 13 nominations, plus became the first colour film to win the Best Picture award, and, if box office receipts are adjusted for inflation, it would be the top grossing movie of all time. But, hey, you don't give a damn about numbers and statistics - as impressive as they are.

Gone With the Wind not only lives up to its reputation as Empire magazine's 31st Greatest Movie of All Time, but in terms of production values, acting, direction, cinematography, costumes, music and narrative content it has survived the passage of time remarkably well compared to other films produced during Hollywood's golden age. While many may balk at the 238 minute running time, which includes an Overture, Entr'acte, and Exit Music, the film never bores and keeps your attention thoroughly absorbed.

It is thanks to the outstanding performances by each of the cast that drags you inside the film and become emotionally involved with the events that affect their lives. However, I must begin with Vivien Leigh's Katie Scarlett O'Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler, Scarlett O'Hara to you and me, is phenomenal and I think you'll find that is the first time I have described that word in any of my reviews. She won the first of her two Best Actress awards for her role as one of the most ruthless characters in movie history - Scarlett is basically a bitch.

Leigh's portrayal of Scarlett from affluent beginnings to poverty and back again is mesmerising and there are times when you just can't decide whether you want her to succeed or fail. Scarlet is extremely selfish and spoilt, so when Clark Gable's Rhett Butler finally appears you get the excited feeling that an unstoppable force is about to hit the immovable object. During one of the first of many electric exchanges between the two lead characters, O'Hara says, "Sir, you are no gentleman!" to which Rhett replies, "And you, Miss, are no lady!" which perfectly suns up their relationship.

Sadly Clark Gable was beaten to the Best Actor award by Robert Donat for Goodbye, Mr. Chips, but he did benefit from the inequality of the Hollywood pay system - Leigh worked for 125 days and received about $25,000, while Gable worked for 71 days and received over $120,000. While on the subject of inequality, Gable was also furious that co-star Hattie McDaniel, who is sublime as O'Hara's house servant Mammy, was not permitted to attend the Atlanta premiere - McDaniel did get the last laugh by becoming the first African American to be nominated for and win an Oscar.

In a film full of excellent performances it was unfortunate that Hattie McDaniel and Olivia de Havilland were both nominated in the same category because de Havilland was easily my favourite character in the whole film. She is a breath of fresh air compared to O'Hara and it truly is a sad moment when her character dies - ironically, of the main characters de Havilland's Melanie Hamilton is the only one to die in the film, but in real life de Havilland is the only one still alive.

Usually I would discuss how good the direction was on the film, but here I have to comment on the producer David O. Selznick, who was the driving force behind the whole film. Selznick bought the rights to Margaret Mitchell's novel for $50,000, a record amount at the time, and chopped and changed directors as fast as he went through writers. George Cukor and Sam Wood are uncredited a s directors on the film, while the final credit went to Victor Fleming, who also directed The Wizard of Oz in the same year - both films were nominated for Best Picture.

Gone With the Wind is a testament to the creativity and ingenuity of Hollywood's film makers and shows just what could be achieved before CGI and Green Screen took over. The scenes where Atlanta burns and Scarlett walks among over a thousand injured Confederate soldiers are both masterpieces in execution. It had been over ten years since I first sat down to watch Gone With the Wind and I regret leaving such a long gap between my second viewing because it truly is a testament to Hollywood's abilities and is the ideal way to spend a evening.

By the way, my article's title, for those unfamiliar with Gone With the Wind, is a play on Rhett Butler's famous last line "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" which was voted the number one movie quote by the American Film Institute.

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Emanuel Paparella2008-12-16 13:56:40
If there is an icon of the golden years of American film it is indeed "Gone with the Wind." A classic such as Gone with the Wind will never be gone with the Wind. Therein lies the staying power of art.

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