Wednesday, September 13, 2006

1939 Gone with the Wind

Stars: Clark Gable, Viven Leigh and Olivia de Havilland

What can be said about this movie that hasn’t been said already? To many it is the greatest film ever made. To others it is striking and colourful, but lumbering and beastly. The Academy certainly had their work cut out for them in this year’s selection of movies. The wonder of Gone with the Wind was in competition with the perennial classic “The Wizard of Oz”, Olivier’s version of “Wuthering Heights”, “Goodbye Mr Chips”, which never ceases to make me cry, “Mr Smith goes to Washington”, yet another Frank Capra, to name a few. What made this particular year in movie making so outstanding to have so much good competition, and movies that have lasted through the decades? Was it the spectre of war in Europe that Hollywood worked twice as hard to distract the US audiences from problems abroad?

No matter what the reasons, the film itself is a marvel of movie-making. It attempted to show the pure scale of war, and achieved it admirably with one single and memorable scene. Should anyone ever forget the increasing panorama of the wounded?

Vivien Leigh deservedly won her Oscar for Best Actress. Annoying as her character was (although Prissy aggravates me to the bone!), her determination to come through the war and her constant manipulations and contrivances, is always a marvel. Such a strong female character, whilst retaining her inherent femininity is a quality rarely seen in movies these days. And who else could have been Rhett? Clark Gable personifies the shifty arrogance, masculine hero and debonair playboy, all in one. How Scarlett is able to resist him defies my imagination. I would have easily have been swept off my feet by him at first sight.

And maybe that is why it persists in memory. Women want to be beautiful like Scarlett, and earn the attentions of their own Rhett, and men want to project such confidence that Rhett carries with such an air of grace.

It is not a movie that I desire to see repeatedly, purely on the basis of time. To be transported somewhere else in time and place for over three and a half hours is certainly wonderful. But it can feel like you are living the whole of the civil war in one’s lounge room.


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