This review is dedicated to Amy Norton Braun who chose this review as the one to be featured this week!
Gone With The Wind (1939)
Starring: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland and Hattie McDaniel
Directed by: Victor Fleming
Released by: MGM
Synopsis: Gone With The Wind tells the epic story of the O'Hara family as they struggle to cope with the consequences of the Civil War. During this era full of turmoil their values of love, family and hard work will be put to the test in one of the most enthralling pictures ever created.
Review: "…They don't make 'em like that anymore". That's what I said to myself when Gone With The Wind was over. The film does more than define the epic film genre as it set the standards for future films of its caliber.
Scarlett O' Hara (Vivien Leigh) may be one of the best written female leads in film history. During the journey she grows as a character, exploring all sides of the human mind while at it. She starts as a naïve and innocent Southern belle and ends as a hardened and desperate woman. During her journey we get to experience what she has to go through in order to surpass many obstacles. This creates a compelling character driven experience that makes the film one of the best ever. Clark Gable as Rhett Buttler is also a fascinating character, playing the devilish Southern gentleman, but with hints of complexity that make him more than just a stock character for the lead character to fall in love with.
And that's the word that defines this movie: complexity. At first it may seem like it's just a period romance movie, but it tells more than just the relationships between Scarlett and her many men. Being set during the Civil War we get to see the consequences this brings on the southern folk, which include the death of many innocent soldiers and the destruction of cities and towns. This makes the threats very real and the obstacles very large for the characters to overcome.
All of this is accomplished by very professional filmmaking. Gone with the Wind demands its story to be told in a grand scale and it delivers magnificently. Everything feels real and authentic, from the costumes and the lavish mansions to the chaos of war and the defeat of its soldiers. It makes for an unforgettable picture that is truly one of a kind.
With this in mind, it should be mentioned that Gone with the Wind should never be seen as an accurate representation of the Civil War. The film (as well as the original story) takes many liberties in its portrayal of characters and events, almost presenting us a highly romanticized view of the events that shaped American history forever. One other flaw is that with the story being a love caught in the clutches of war the acting tends to get very melodramatic. Though, these melodramatic scenes are minor and can be forgiven since it adds substance the film.
Then there's it gargantuan running time. At over four hours, impatient audiences may grow weary. But in my honest opinion, the long running time is what makes the film what it is. Because of the benefits of a long running time we get to experience a lot of important character development. If the film was at half the length it wouldn't have been as effective, especially since Gone with the Wind is a character driven drama.
Best of all, the film has perfect pace despite its running time. Never does it feel like it drags on and on. In the four hours you will spend watching this film all the events will be appropriately developed and clearly explained. In other words, Gone with the Wind knows how to get the most out of its running time.
Finally, there's the portrayal of blacks as slaves. This being a Civil War film it brings along how the slaves were affected by the historic events, and many a time it isn't a pretty picture. The African American characters are portrayed as stereotypical, uneducated peasants at the mercy of the rich white folk. Modern audiences bent on political characters will take offense to this. But if you consider when this film was made and the historic period the movie takes place in you should be able to realize that things have progressed since then.
To call Gone with the Wind one of the best films ever made would be a big understatement. It is one of the most important accomplishments ever in the field of filmmaking, creating along the way an incredible story about love and the persistence of the human soul during the worst of times.
Rating: 5 filmstrips out of 5