Director: Victor Fleming
Often, older movies are a bit naive and unthreatening, but this movie is surprisingly fierce and somber. At first sight, it’s a great historical drama, retelling the events surrounding the Civil War. But at its core, this is a film about a flawed but strong-willed young woman who’s not only caught in the middle of an horrible war but also torn between two very different men. Scarlett O’Hara convinces herself that she only loves Ashley Wilkes, a rich gentleman who tells her he cares for her but still marries another, the simple, heart-of-gold Melanie Hamilton. People say that it’s no surprise. Men love Scarlett’s independent mind and candor, but they won’t marry that kind of girl. You have to know that this is the Old South, during the last miles of the reign of the rich, distinguished slave masters. The Yankees of Abe Lincoln are about to attack the Confederates, mostly because of the disagreement between the North and the South about slavery, and the lives of the Georgia sirs and ladies won’t ever be the same. Forever humbled, they’ll have to experience the hard physical labor that they always left to the Blacks. But the film tells us that there’s still hope, cause they still have what’s most essential, the land…
The beautiful Vivien Leigh stars as O’Hara, a bitchy, confused, selfish, stubborn or maybe just strong and independent lady who doesn’t appreciate being resigned to being a quiet, devoted wife. Shades of the upcoming feminism? Maybe. She does marry a few times, but rarely for good reasons. Like when she marries an Atlanta storekeeper, it’s not by love but because she needs money to keep her family’s land after the war ruins most of the South. And through all this, there’s a man who keeps popping in her life, the seductive millionaire Rhett Butler. But Scarlett won’t admit to herself that she loves Butler, even though she intensely lusts for him. It might be because he reminds her of who she really is. Like her, he’s flawed and selfish. A macho scoundrel, arrogant yet charismatic, he’s the kind of guy you hate to love. He’s probably Scarlett’s match, but she prefers to convince herself that Ashley’s the one. Further proof that love is often about idealism: what Scarlett loves about Ashley is that he’s a gentleman and makes her feel like a lady, even though she’s not. Bon vivant Rhett is so much more like her. And they’ll end up together for a while, but their marriage sure will be rocky. Interpreted by the unique Clark Gable, Rhett Butler is one of the most unforgettable male characters Hollywood has ever given us. Every woman would want a date with Gable, and every guy would want to be as sharp and virile as him.
“Gone With the Wind” is one powerful love story, heightened even more by the context. The Civil War is one of the most defining events in American history, and it makes an amazing backdrop to the film. This is really an epic, arguably the biggest movie ever made. I love how it’s so huge, but at the same time it’s really about this one girl who doesn’t really know what she wants. This might not be the most revolutionary, thought-provoking, intense film ever made, but as far as Hollywood entertainment goes, it doesn’t get any better than this. Leigh and Grant are impeccable, the story is gripping and memorable, and the production is superb. I just adore the Technicolor photography, which makes every shot extremely gorgeous, even when what we’re seeing is tragic. What about seeing the street covered with thousands of dying men, or watching Atlanta on fire? And then there’s Max Steiner’s glorious score, and so much more. “Gone With the Wind” deserves its place as the most popular film ever made.