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Gone With the Wind
Reviewer: Richard Tara
Director: Victor Fleming
CastL Clark Gable, Viven Leigh, Barbara O'Neil, Evelyn Keyes, Ann Rutherford, George Reeves

Most movie critics include “Gone with the Wind” in their perennial list of the best movies ever made by Hollywood. One is never sure if they have ever seen the movie and/or read the novel. It is just one of those things, critics, like other mortals, want to be considered part of the “in” crowd.

The Story

On the face of it, the story is as simple and mundane as it would be in any age. A rich landowner has several daughters. They fall in love and marry the wrong men. The main men in the story and the love objects of the heroine Scarlet O'Hara (Vivian Leigh) are diametrically opposite each other. One, Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) is a foppish cold fish aristocrat who lacks passionate feelings or maybe hides them too well. The other Rhett Butler (Clarke Gable) is an adventurer. However, much to the dismay of Scarlet, Ashley marries their cousin Melanie Hamilton (Olivia De Havilland) instead of Scarlet who is lusting after him.

Then there is the Civil War. In many countries in Europe, it is more accurately called “The War of Secession” for that was what it was. The South wanted to carry on trading and using slaves and when President Lincoln objected, they declared independence. The Southerners were numerically, financially and industrially inferior to the might of the Northern states. Their main source of income was the cotton plantations sustained by an inhuman structure based on slavery. To the citizens of United States, in the 19 th century, it seemed like the end of the World. It pitted brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor and even father against son. And, by the way, the South (that is the US Southern States) still suffers from the humiliation of defeat in that war.

The war goes on, Scarlet's father passes away and the younger sisters moves on. Rhett, who is contemptuous of the war, eventually joins the losing side, but manages to survive and come home. The plantation is in total ruins, save for Scarlet's dedication. She believes in “hope springs eternal.” To save their cherished plantation (Tara) Scarlet steals her sister's middle-aged but rich fiancé and marries him herself. After the death of her husband, she marries the rogue, Rhett, but it does not work out. The marriage is in shambles and Rhett leaves Scarlet in a huff. His parting words “frankly my dear, I don't give a damn” are one of the movie world's most memorable lines. But, for Scarlet, the eternal optimist, there is always hope of tomorrow!

Direction, Acting and Cinematography

The beauty of this picture is that is that it was made in 1939, 75 years after the Civil War. The memories of the war, which had ended in 1865, were still fresh. Many people had or remembered fathers, grandfathers or other relatives who had lived and/or had even served during that war. So, the acting, and the dialog were as authentic as they could be. Both grandparents of Margaret Mitchell, the author, had served in the Confederate Army (the losing side) during the Civil War.

David Selznick who produced this movie chose well. Clarke Gable as Rhett Butler was a foregone conclusion as the public and the media favored him over the next contender, Gary Cooper. Selznick was persuaded by his brother Myron, who owned a talent agency, to select Vivian Leigh as Scarlet. He took a big chance. Vivian Leigh was hardly known in the US and many other famous actresses of the time such as Paulette Goddard, Merle Oberon, Bette Davis and Ida Lupino were eager for the role. Margaret Mitchell's choice was Miriam Hopkins who was a Southerner from Georgia. The rest of characters were particularly well cast for that time. For example, you could never portray the black slaves the way the director did back in 1939 today. Yet, one should remember that the people who made the movie were much closer to the real time of events than we are today over 150 years later.

I read Margaret Mitchell's novel as a teen and saw the movie, on TV, years later. The cinematography, even by our digital fake standards of today, is marvelous. The burning of Atlanta sequence is even today a masterfully produced event in filmography. It is forever etched in one's mind.


Four Stars! Unlike many other so-called masterpieces chosen by the armchair critics and the American Film Institute (AFI), this is not a boring movie and we recommend it for all the family, lest we forget how we got here.