Gone with the Wind (G)
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This 1939 movie is based on the 1936 novel of the same name, by Margaret Mitchell (which I haven't read). I probably first saw it in 1994; I believe I rented it on VHS in anticipation of the miniseries "Scarlett," which was a sequel to this. Now I don't remember that miniseries at all, but I'd like to see it again someday. I also didn't really remember anything specific about this movie, aside from the bits that most people probably know without ever even seeing the movie. I bought it on DVD in 2012, and got around to watching it in April 2013, one day when the internet stopped working for awhile. (I was all, "what movie shall I watch to pass the time?" and then "hmmm, the internet is gone with the wind- I should watch that, then.") I should mention that the novel is insanely long, and even leaving out or changing a ton of stuff from the book, the movie itself is over three and a half hours. So it was on two tapes when I first watched it on VHS, and now it's on two DVDs. (By the end of the first disc, my internet had returned, so I took a break to begin writing this review.)
Before I get into the plot, I want to mention that some people, over the decades, have been offended by the way slaves were depicted in the movie. When I first wrote this review, I had a longish paragraph that was meant to basically agree with that, but also sort of dismiss it as irrelevant to the plot. Re-reading my review a couple years later, I found the paragraph itself rather offensive, so I deleted it. But I still need to mention that the movie is problematic. And... I'll leave it at that. (Though I do still want to say that I thought one of the slaves, Mammy, was the most sensible character in the film. And Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for portraying her.)
The protagonist is Katie Scarlett O'Hara (though everyone except her father just calls her Scarlett). At the start of the movie (in 1861), she is 16 (though Vivien Leigh, who played her, was in her mid 20s). Scarlett's definitely a very self-centered girl. Every guy she meets thinks he's in love with her, because she's so beautiful, and she's an expert at making them believe she's interested in them, even though she's not. The only man who truly interests her is Ashley Wilkes. I'm not sure exactly what their relationship was, but she becomes terribly distraught when she finds out he's going to marry his cousin, Melanie Hamilton (apparently it's a tradition among the Wilkeses to marry their cousins). Ashley clearly cares about Scarlett, but I don't know if he loved her. I do think he loves Melanie, but more importantly, he's pragmatic; he realizes he and Melanie are just more like-minded and compatible than he and Scarlett.
Meanwhile, the Civil War is about to begin, and just about every young Southern man is eager to go fight the Yankees. There is, however, a man named Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), who has a somewhat bad reputation (and I guess he's even been disowned by his family). He believes the South will lose the war, because the North has more resources. His opinion (or rather, his statement of facts) is of course very unpopular. But anyway, he meets Scarlett, and I'm sure he appreciates her beauty as much as anyone, though he likes her more because of her attitude. Unfortunately, that attitude makes her hate him. Still, he seems convinced that she'll eventually get over her childish infatuation with Ashley, and realize that she's more compatible with him. But before that can happen, she marries Melanie's brother, Charles, to spite Ashley. (Charles was supposed to marry Ashley's sister, India, so Scarlett stealing him caused India to hate her.) And then, everyone goes off to war. (I have no idea whether Scarlett and Charles even consummated their marriage first, but I tend to doubt it.)
It's not long before Charles dies, but Scarlett doesn't really care about that. She's just frustrated at having to act like a grieving widow, which basically ruins her social life. She goes to Atlanta to stay with Melanie, who is very nice to her (apparently having no idea of Scarlett's feelings for Ashley). They're both concerned about Ashley, who is also off fighting in the war, though Melanie seems to think Scarlett's concern is more empathy for her concern about her husband, when in fact Scarlett's concern for Ashley's safety is more personal. Anyway, Scarlett again meets Rhett, who has been making a good profit as a blockade runner, which also makes Southerners see him as a hero. Rhett acts quite friendly toward Scarlett, though her own attitude toward him tends to vacillate between friendship and hatred (she's still a very fickle child). Um... it's hard for me to keep track of when things happen, because years definitely pass between scenes. Eventually the Battle of Gettysburg happens, which would be 1863, and it seems that's when the war starts going decidedly against the South. Later, Atlanta itself is besieged by the Northern forces. Scarlett has been helping as a nurse, but gets sick of being surrounded by death. Meanwhile, Melanie has a baby, and there are no doctors to help with the birth. And then Scarlett decides she and Melanie and the baby and Prissy (one of her family's slaves) should flee back to her family's plantation, Tara. They get some help from Rhett, though he warns Scarlett that things are probably just as bad there. He gets them close to Tara before leaving them, to join the Confederate Army himself.
They find that the Wilkes plantation, Twelve Oaks, had been burned down by the Union Army. Tara is still more or less intact, but Scarlett's mother is dead, her younger sisters, Suellen and Carreen, are ill, and their father seems to be losing his mind. The only two slaves who are still there are Mammy and Pork. And the Union Army had stolen pretty much everything of value, and they didn't even have any food left. I should say, throughout the war there were occasional moments that Scarlett showed fleeting signs of compassion for others, but I think it's not until now that she really grew up and began to care about anyone but herself. (She also utters one of the movie's most classic lines, "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again.") So ends part 1.
Oh yeah, I also meant to say that the movie actually begins with about two and a half minutes of music (the prelude) playing over a still image of a tree. After part 1 ends, there's a few minutes of intermission music. So, now would be a good time to go to the bathroom, or get a snack, or take a few hours off to start a review and take care of some other internet stuff, if your internet is working. But more importantly, I wanted to say that, while the movie definitely has some humor and romance (well, it sort of has romance), as well as beautiful cinematography and sets and clothes and whatnot, and the acting is superb, and of course the Southern belles are easy on the eyes, especially Scarlett... what I find most moving about it is the depiction of the horrors of war. We don't really see any battles, but we see their aftermath, and it's truly heartbreaking in any number of ways. From a historical standpoint, I'm glad the Union won, but still... in any war, I can't help thinking that the majority of casualties (and the loved ones they leave behind) on both sides of the conflict are tragic losses. The average soldier is fighting to defend their way of life and their values, and whether or not I agree with all those values, they may be basically good people. (And some of the victors may be bad people, even if the cause they were fighting for was just.) And of course, it's easy to sympathize with the defeated when they're the focus of the story we're watching. So... the movie definitely made me cry. And I think that's mostly what makes me love the movie. But enough about all that... it's time to put in the second disc and watch the rest of the movie.
...Which begins with some Entr'acte music. Now there's a term I don't recall ever having seen or heard before. Anyway, Scarlett and her sisters are now working their plantation themselves, and are struggling to survive. Then it turns out that taxes are going to be raised well beyond what they could pay, which means they could lose Tara. Scarlett goes to ask Rhett for financial help, but there's nothing he can do, for the moment. Then she finds out that her sister Suellen's fiancÚ, Frank Kennedy, has opened a store in Atlanta, and is doing well. So she tricks him into marrying her, to save Tara (I don't see how his marrying Suellen wouldn't have accomplished the same thing, but whatever). Also, Scarlett gets Frank and Ashley to help her buy and manage a lumber mill, so she starts making a lot of money. Meanwhile, Carpetbaggers have been moving to the South after the war, and um... there are all sorts of undesirables, who at one point attack Scarlett. So several men, including Ashley and Frank, go out to try and get rid of the bad guys. Frank ends up getting killed. Soon after that, Scarlett marries Rhett, though their relationship is based largely on money.
Well, Scarlett eventually has a baby, whom Rhett names Bonnie. And um... dammit, I feel like I've said way too much already, so I won't really say anything else specific about the plot. But I'll add that I was wrong at the end of part 1 to think Scarlett was becoming a better person. Perhaps her greed was based on fear, which is understandable. But she remained a conniving... child... for most of the movie, who still only occasionally seemed to truly care about anyone but herself. Honestly, it's hard for me to think of anything about the movie as romantic. There was plenty of humor and far too much tragedy. And it's not til the very end that Scarlett really comes to understand her own feelings about both Ashley and Rhett, and by then it's too late. Oddly enough, I couldn't help caring about Scarlett throughout the movie, even if I never quite liked her. And I certainly liked Rhett*, even if he wasn't a very good guy... he really was a lot like Scarlett, he was just more honest and jocular about it, except for the occasions when he was angry. And um... Ashley and especially Melanie were both really good people. And... there were other characters I haven't even mentioned, but probably should have. Like Dr. Meade, and Belle Watling, and Aunt Pittypat, and Big Sam....
Whatever. The movie is pretty much a roller coaster of changing fortunes, both financial and emotional. And just when it seems about as bad as it can get... it suddenly strikes a vaguely hopeful note. Then it ends, and there's a few minutes of Exit music. And I guess that's all I have to say.
*Edited a couple years later to add: There are some scenes in the movie that may be interpreted as Rhett forcing himself on Scarlett sexually. I don't really remember thinking of it that way when I watched it, but it's likely that if I watched it again, I'd notice it and be horrified and it would ruin the whole movie for me, and particularly change my opinion of Rhett for the worse.