Today is the day that I look forward to all year long. HAPPY OSCARS DAY!! To commemorate this special day, I have chosen to write about the 1939 classic, Gone with the Wind. I couldn’t be more excited to finally write about this film. I was first introduced to this movie by my Aunt Joanie when I was around 8 or 9 years old and it has remained my favorite movie ever since (my other favorite movie but in no way a comparison to GWTW is the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap). I must acknowledge the significant role my Aunt Joanie has played in my burgeoning love for movies. Not only did she take me to see movies at the theater more times than I can count, she also opened my eyes to many of the classics, like Gone with the Wind. Although it has been 77 years since its first release, Gone with the Wind, is still considered a crown jewel in cinematic history. At the 1939 Academy Awards, it took home 8 Oscars and was nominated for 13—a record number of nominations for many years.
- Best Actress in a Leading Role: Vivien Leigh
- Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Hattie McDaniel
- Best Director: Victor Fleming
- Best Writing, Screenplay: Sidney Howard
- Best Cinematography, Color: Ernest Haller, Ray Rennahan
- Best Art Direction: Lyle R. Wheeler
- Best Film Editing: Hal C. Kern, James E. Newcom
- Best Picture: David O. Selznick
Set among the backdrop of the Civil War, Gone with the Wind can best be described as a historical romance centered on the life of dramatic Southern Belle, Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh). The epic tale begins in 1861, on the Southern plantation of Tara, when Scarlett learns that the man she loves, Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard), is planning to marry his cousin, Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland). It must be noted that this is the 1800s in the South, and I guess marrying your cousins was a thing then. Almost immediately after being crushed by the news that Ashley is marrying Melanie instead of her, Scarlett is introduced to the suave, yet rogue Rhett Butler (Clark Gable). Although Butler makes an impression on Scarlett, she is not willing to let Ashley go. To make matters worse for Scarlett, on the very same day, war is declared and her idyllic Southern life is turned upside down. The film follows her life as she attempts to survive war in the South and then its reconstruction, all while creating a web of love affairs with Ashley, Rhett, and a few others.
The relationship between Scarlett, Rhett, Ashley and Melanie is the driving force that keeps the movie progressing. Scarlett O’Hara is the drama queen that all drama queens hope to become. She is manipulative and often selfish, yet so charming that you cannot help but love her. And she was probably the first one to truly master the bitch slap. Scarlett’s ‘frenemy,’ Melanie Hamilton is her exact opposite. She is the eternal optimist and the girl you want to hate but can’t because she’s too damn nice! Also she is married to Ashley, who Scarlett loves and will not get over. In all the times I have seen this movie, I’ve never been able to see why Scarlett loved Ashley so much. He is so bland compared to Rhett Butler, who is unbelievably debonair, handsome, and says things like, “You should be kissed and often, by someone who knows what he’s doing.” *Swoon*
Although just a supporting character, Mammy has become one of Gone with the Wind’s most beloved characters. Mammy is a slave of the O’Hara family and is the main caretaker of the O’Hara children throughout the film. She is never short of sass and wisdom, which is what I have always found loveable about her. The memorable portrayal of Mammy, famously delivered by Hattie McDaniel, has often been cited by both white and African-American critics as extraordinary. McDaniel forever holds a place in cinematic history for becoming the first African-American to be nominated for, and win, an Academy Award.
Part of Gone with the Wind’s lasting charm are the costumes—most notably Scarlett’s ball gowns. My personal favorite is the green and white gown she wears to the Wilkes’ barbecue; however the most notorious costume to come from this film is without a doubt the green velvet curtain dress! This dress has become so iconic that even if you have never seen the actual movie, you have probably seen a parody of it somewhere else—like the hilariously unforgettable sketch on The Carol Burnett Show. While the fashion is iconic, the things the characters did to achieve those fashionable looks is horrifying. To be specific, I am talking about corsets. In one cringe-worthy scene, Mammy ties Scarlett into her corset, giving her a tiny 17-inch waist, then forces her to eat, as it was considered unladylike to eat anything in front of the men. (“As God as my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!”) Watching this scene today, makes all the Kardashians look beyond insane (or more so than usual) for all their “waist training” promotions.
It was most likely the lack of food and bone-crushing corsets that exhausted women to the point that they had to rest in the middle of parties. Some of the very first scenes of the film happen at a barbecue held at the Wilkes’ plantation. It is in these scenes that we first become acquainted with Ashley Wilkes and Rhett Butler, among many other key characters. About halfway through the party, Mammy is helping Scarlett out of her Southern Belle party dress, so that she can take a nap and being the stubborn girl she is, Scarlett complains about having to take a nap during the party. To which Mammy replies, “Well brought-up girls take naps at parties.” In my opinion, this should be a standard party practice for everyone. Maybe I would enjoy going to parties if I knew that about halfway through I’d get to take a nap. All in favor of bringing this party napping tradition back say aye!!
Each time I watch this movie, it teaches me a little something else about life. Or perhaps the lessons I take with me are contingent upon what stage of life I am currently in? Anyway, right now I cannot stop thinking about Scarlett’s perseverance throughout the film. No matter how many obstacles she was faced with, she continuously found new ways to beat them. The Civil War couldn’t even stop her-slow her down, maybe, but never stopped her. While she was ruthless most of the time, her resilience is what I am trying to carry with me. Scarlett went after what she wanted in life. It wasn’t ever easy but that did not stop her and it shouldn’t stop us! Nothing in life is ever easy, and when you are young and new to the “real world” it can be especially difficult to find out what you want. Mistakes will be made and problems will arise, but we must always persevere because “After all, tomorrow is another day.”
My Rating: ★★★★★