"There was a land of cavaliers and cotton fields called the Old South. Here in this pretty world gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of knights and their ladies fair, of master and slave. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered. A civilization gone with the wind."
I always have trouble beginning reviews, and it only makes it harder when the movie is one that I absolutely love. I want to do it justice and I want to cover everything, but it can be very hard to know where to start. Where do I begin? How do I begin to express how much I loved this movie? How best to describe the effect it had on me, and how enamored I was--and, truthfully, still am-- by it?
Every so often there comes along a movie that completely sweeps me off my feet, carrying me away into the story, with characters every bit as vivid as real people, and keeps me thinking about it for days, even weeks, after I've finished it. East of Eden is one of those, and so is The Adams Chronicles and Little Dorrit.....and so is Gone With the Wind.
I love long movies and miniseries. Chances are you probably already knew that. :-P I like long, sprawling, epic stories with lots and lots of characters that cover long periods of time, stories with good character development that show how the characters learn and change, and all that. I also like to really know a lot about the characters. That's one of the reasons why I love East of Eden so much-- it covers more than fifty years and it tells the story of three generations and has a lot of historical detail. Besides that, it's a form of awesomeness. And now I will stop talking about EofE and get back to the movie at hand, shall I?
I also love old movies. Sure, some of them are tacky, but there's something so charming about Hollywood in the 30s and 40s and 50s. Old movies make me so happy.
So, with that preamble, I suppose I should just dive right in.
I'm going to warn you right now that this is going to be very long. Also, it is bound to contain some major spoilage, as I am not very tactful in avoiding mentioning key events, so if you have not seen GWTW and you don't want to know what happens, read with care.
Naturally, we should start with the legendary Scarlett O'Hara. Because that's exactly what she is: legendary.
Scarlett, however, is just downright awful. She is selfish and spoiled and manipulative and just plain rotten most of the time. But even so, I didn't hate her. As dreadful as she can be, she fascinated me, and in fact she even reminded me of myself when I'm in a bad mood at times. (Although I flatter myself that I am not nearly as unkind as Scarlett-- at least, I certainly HOPE not!) I do admire some things about Scarlett. I admire her strength and her courage and determination, but it's also puzzling how she can be working so tirelessly one minute, and then switch to whining pathetically the next. But in a way I'm glad she was the way she was, because her strong personality makes the story even more dramatic and spell-binding.
Plus, it's not as though I was expecting her to be any different. In fact, I actually liked her more than I was prepared to, from all that I have heard about her from other people who've seen the movie and read the book. Sure, she was awful, but she wasn't completely without human kindness or compassion (unlike Cathy from East of Eden, who is just about the nastiest literary heroine you will ever find.) No, Scarlett has a heart. It may be made of stone, but she does have one, and I didn't dislike her so much that I was beyond hoping she would somehow get better by the end of the movie. And honestly, I think she had softened a bit by the end. She still has a long way to go, but there's hope, I think.
Vivien Leigh is an amazing actress, and even though I haven't read the book yet, I don't think anyone could have played Scarlett better. In the first line of the book Margaret Mitchell says that "Scarlett was not beautiful", but whoever cast GWTW obviously disagreed, because Vivien Leigh is one of the most beautiful actresses I've ever seen. She was gorgeous as Scarlett, and charming, and also horribly annoying. In short, I think she was perfect.
Then we have Rhett Butler. Some people think he's just the greatest hero ever. Some people can't stand him. While I most certainly do NOT think he's the greatest hero ever, I really don't hate him. In fact, for awhile, I actually...sort of liked him. *gasp!*
Rhett Butler is a rogue and a rake and a bunch of other not-exactly-flattering-adjectives, with basically no morals at all. Which is why I feel like somewhat of a traitor for actually sort of liking him. :-P *ducks head*
Alright. I admit, I can't help it. He's clever, cunning, dashing, intriguing, and terribly handsome. (Seriously, I almost fainted dead away the first time he appeared on screen. I was like, "THAT'S Rhett Butler?!") Even when he's wearing hideous polka-dot cravats, he's still handsome. As one character in a favorite book of mine says, "It sure do make it hard to hate a man when he's handsome." Well, I'm afraid that was true for Rhett. Another thing I liked about him was that even though he was roguish and cunning and naughty, he could also play the part of the perfect Southern gentleman seemingly effortlessly and was perfectly content to be exactly who he was. "With enough courage, you can do without a reputation." But besides being irresistibly charming and good-looking, I also thought he was pretty smart. He knew that the war was not going to be some piddly three-month skirmish, and he told all the other men how much damage the Yankees could do to the south and how unlikely it was they could actually win, when everyone one else was just so fired-up and excited about the war. Rhett is no fool, as much as some people dislike him.
|Admit it, ladies. Rhett is handsome.|
Seriously, though, Clark Gable really is extremely good-looking. And he's a brilliant actor (although apparently he wasn't the easiest person to get along with...go figure.) Sink me, but Hollywood had some handsome actors back in those days! Clark Gable, Tyrone Power, Jimmy Stewart......now who do we have? No, don't answer that. :-P
Rhett: "Would you satifsy my curiosity on a point which has bothered me for some time?"
Scarlett: "Well, what is it? Be quick!"
Rhett: "Tell me, Scarlett, do you never shrink from marrying men you don't love?"
Scarlett: "How did you ever get out of jail? Why didn't they hang you?"
See what I mean??? But then again, even though Rhett and Scarlett are always at odds, on the other hand they do seem to understand each other. They really know each other, and they're not afraid of each other. Rhett isn't fooled one bit by Scarlett. He can see right through her like a lace curtain. He knows exactly what she is, and that's why he makes her so nervous at first. But Scarlett can also see right through Rhett. Really, Rhett deserves Scarlett and Scarlett deserves Rhett.
I did truly feel sorry for Scarlett at the end of the movie when Rhett left (although I admit his famous "Frankly, my dear" line did send shivers down my spine). Even though they never got along and they were not happy together, I still wish he would have stayed and maybe they could have been happy someday. But it didn't happen. *sigh*
Ashley was just maddening. It wasn't that I really disliked him; I didn't. Pathetic as he is, I actually do like Ashley Wilkes. He's just so.....stupid! Argh! He annoyed me excessively, mostly because he kept letting Scarlett go on with her obsession even after he was married to Melanie, and in many ways he even encouraged her! He was constantly bringing up the past and dredging up old memories, which only fanned the flames of her obsession and made the situation worse. "Scarlett, remember that day at Twelve Oaks? Where have the years gone?" SHUT UP. Why he could not simply say, "I'm married, Scarlett, so just don't bother me anymore", I can't say.
Ashley Wilkes has about as much backbone as a jellyfish. However, he was very gentle and kind, even if he was stupid. And I couldn't help feeling sorry for him, especially when *SPOILER* Melanie died and he was so sad. He was a good man and it wasn't his fault Scarlett caused so much trouble, he just unintentionally made it worse. Stupid Ashley.
However, even though Ashley was pathetic, Lesley Howard is a really great actor and I would love to see him in another movie, preferably playing a character with a bit more spunk. I'm not sure, though, if I'm quite up to seeing him play Sir Percy. And to be honest, I'm really not sure he is either. :-P
The rocky relationship between Scarlett, Ashley, and Melanie is very complicated, so instead of me trying to explain it, here's a paragraph from a book about the making of GWTW that aptly describes the whole muddle of Scarlett's relationships with Ashley and Melanie:
The intertwining and complex relationships among Scarlett, Ashley, and Melanie described in the novel were not changed at all in the film. Scarlett loves Ashley, who loves Melanie, who loves Scarlett, who despises Melanie. Scarlett's attitude toward Melanie softens later, for she stays through the siege of Atlantaa to help Melanie have Ashley's child and then nurses her back to health at Tara. Scarlett's reluctant admiration for Melanie grows after Melanie helps Scarlett bury the marauding Yankee soldier Scarlett has killed, and on Melanie's deathbed, Scarlett finally sees that Melanie has always been her best friend-- and the kind of great lady Scarlett had wanted to be. Scarlett also realizes that she never really loved Ashley and that she in facy loves Rhett. But it's too late: Melanie dies, Rhett leaves, and Scarlett is left with nothing but Tara and a helpless Ashley, clinging to her skirts and sobbing.
*** Taken from the book David Selznick's 'Gone With the Wind', which is a fascinating and interesting and thoroughly engrossing book about the the making of the movie.
I liked both Gerald and Ellen O'Hara, although I was a bit disappointed that we didn't get to see more of Ellen before she *SPOILER* died halfway through the movie. They seemed like very kind and loving parents, so I really don't know what they did or failed to do that made Scarlett grow up the way she did. I don't think they were to blame for her behavior; I think that's just the way Scarlett is. And plus, that was just the way of things back then in their society: rich southern girls were pampered and indulged. It was their lifestyle. Obviously, all girls didn't turn out to be as spoiled as Scarlett. Melanie was probably just as pampered and indulged as Scarlett, and she and Scarlett are like night and day.
But anyway, back to the O'Haras. I liked them both immensely. Gerald O'Hara for some reason really reminded me of Buster Killroy from Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, probably because they're both Irish, but I think they really look a lot alike too. I loved the scene at the beginning with Scarlett and her father, when he tells her that "land is the only thing that lasts". It's a very significant and touching part of the movie, and I love the famous scene of Scarlett and her father standing under the big tree and looking out over the fields of Tara. *sigh*
Mammy is just plain-down awesome. I love Mammy. She's hardworking, shrewd, has a sense of humor, and isn't the least bit fooled by Scarlett's charms and wily ways. She is also a very authorative figure in the O'Hara household, which is made clear in the scene near the beginning where Mammy is going around the house telling everyone what to do and muttering to herself about "poor white trash". Mammy seems to be disgusted with the world at large and men in general, and she has a very definite opinion of what's fittin' and what ain't. She's always frank and tells it like it is, scolding and reprimanding people and trying to keep Scarlett in line, and yet she is nice to everybody. Yep, I love Mammy. :-)
Prissy, on the other hand, was quite simply nuts. She could be so aggrivating sometimes that I didn't blame Scarlett at all for getting angry with her, especially when Prissy told Scarlett she knew everything about babies and then later said she'd never delivered one in her life. However, she was also a riot, and in fact Margaret Mitchell said that Prissy was the character she would have most liked to play herself. I think it would be fun to run around the entire movie, shrieking and wailing "The Yankees are coming!" :-P I love the part when Scarlett and Melanie and Prissy are getting ready to escape Atlanta and Prissy is running around the house, screaming, frantically packing and breaking things. "I's packin', Missy Scarlett!"
The slaves at Tara were all very likable, especially Mammy, Pork, and Big Sam. Another thing I did like about Scarlett was the way she treated the Tara slaves. She wasn't cruel to them at all, surprisingly. No, she didn't quite treat them like equals, but most of the time she was fairly polite and civil to them. After the Yankees had all but destroyed Tara, she really didn't make any of the servants do anything she wasn't doing herself. It was almost uncharacteristic how decently she treated them.
Field Hand: "Quittin' time! Quittin' time!"
Big Sam: "Who says it's quittin' time?"
Field Hand: "I says it's quittin' time!"
Big Sam: "I's the foreman. I's the one who says when it's quittin' time at Tara. Quittin' time!"
I was quite happy that they used so many Civil War tunes in this movie. I recognized pretty much every song played, which pleased me excessively. :-) I especially loved the scene at the Christmas bazaar, because (besides all the gorgeous balll gowns and RHETT), it was fun to hear all the familiar songs and be able to name them. I was practically squealing with delight when they played "Lorena"!
I loved the scene where Atlanta burned. I just loved it. I know that may sound kind of morbid, but it was absolutely thrilling and amazing and exciting and I loved every bit of it. It may be my favorite scene in the movie, along with the Christmas bazaar and the barbeque at Twelve Oaks. Rhett is driving the wagon through the burning buildings, Prissy is screaming, men are trying to steal the horse (the same horse that Rhett himself stole, but for a good cause :-P), Rhett is fighting them off while buildings collapse all around them-- this is classic DRAMA, people. I was simply revelling in all the cimenatic glory of it.
"Take a good look, my dear. It's an historic moment you can tell your grandchildren about-- how you watched the old south fall one night."
The sheer scope and utter epicness of this movie is stunning. I'll admit that I had no idea a movie from 1939 could be so good. Well, they sure knew how to make a good movie back then, let me tell you! Seriously, we could use some help now. This movie is filmed on such a grand scale that it's almost overwhelming. I loved the scenes in Atlanta when it was under siege (there I go with the morbid again!), and one of my favorite parts is when Scarlett is walking through the streets of the city looking for Dr. Meade, and the streets are filled with hundreds of thousands of wounded soldiers. It's amazing, and it completely took my breath away. Of course, by that point in the movie I hardly had any breath left anyway.
Speaking of Dr. Meade.....
And while we're on the subject of favorite scenes....the scene where the Yankees come to Ashley and Melanie's house in Atlanta looking for Ashley and Frank is one of the best in the movie, I think. It's Melanie at her best, and, if I may say, Rhett at his best too. "Come on, Major. I've seen him drunker. I've seen you drunker. And you've seen me....!" (After we watched the movie, my sisters and I kept quoting that line. Face it, people. You've got to love Rhett in that scene. :-P)
The Yankees aren't portrayed in a very positive light in this story. Well, duh. The Yankees did this, the Yankees did that, the Yankees are the source of all evil, we all hate the Yankees. Which is accurate to how most Southerners felt, I suppose, although it's not terribly flattering. Since the whole story is from strictly a Southern viewpoint, we don't get to see any of the Yankees' perspective. Another thing was that we never got to see any army generals or any actual combat (well, not much at least-- I think maybe there was one scene shown from afar but I can't remember exactly.) In all the other civil war movies I've seen, even the ones based on average citizens and not on 'the war' alone, there have been army generals and combat, so I was rather surprised that there wasn't a single general who made an appearance in GWTW. Although General Sherman did get a nice little tribute at the start of the second half, but that was all.
And speaking of the start of the second half....
Actually, I should probably stop restating myself and just say that this entire movie was pure epicness. I was completely swept away from the beginning credits to the very end when Scarlett stood alone under the old tree looking out over Tara plantation. I love the way in old movies the credits always come first (and they're actually big enough so you can read them, thank goodness). The opening was so spectacular and the music is SO gorgeous, and when the the words GONE WITH THE WIND rolled by, well......I was gone. Literally. With the wind.
|Have you noticed how the sky is always orange?|
|"Frankly, my dear...." well, I think you know the rest.|
Even though the end was tragic, I am glad that Scarlett went back to Tara. After all, it was her home, and the only place she really loved so I think it was the best place for her to go. Like I said, I like Scarlett just enough to care about what happens to her, even though I know some people will think me mad for saying so. :-)
The costumes in GWTW are simply gorgeous. Sure, some of them are inaccurate--almost laughably so (like the dark red gown Rhett makes Scarlett wear to Ashley's birthday party, which looks exactly like a Barbie doll dress from the 1930s--go figure), but most of them are stunning. Scarlett has some of my favorite period dresses ever. I am still obsessed with hoopskirts after seeing this movie. :-)
The men's costumes are also very attractive. Rhett is a very sharp dresser, and I loved his outfits. He seems to wear light colors a lot, like white and tan, which contrast with the darker colors that everyone else is wearing. But then, that's Rhett for you: being different. :-P
|I want a dress like this one!!!!|
I really do love this movie. Everything about it was well-done. The costumes are lovely, the acting is superb, the music is absolutely gorgeous, and the cinematography is simply stunning. I was completely drawn in the entire time, and by the time we finished watching it I would have gladly started watching it all over again. I know a lot of people don't like it, and I suppose I can kind of understand why. It is frustrating, and if you don't like old movies with lots of melodrama then I can understand how it might not be your thing. But if you haven't watched it, I really think you should. It truly is a masterpiece, and one of the best movies I've ever seen. It's not my favorite, no, but it's a classic that I would love to watch again.
And that's the end. :-)