Friday, August 17

Gone with the Wind: Favorite Movie #30

1939 Drama
From Selznick International
Directed by Victor Fleming

Clark Gable
Vivien Leigh
Leslie Howard
Olivia DeHavilland
Thomas Mitchell
Hattie McDaniel
Barbara O'Neill
Ann Rutherford
Evelyn Keyes
Ona Munson
Butterfly McQueen
Ward Bond
Victor Jory
George Reeves

Oh come on, there are some of you who knew Gone With the Wind would be on my 50 Favorites list.  I think it would or perhaps should be on most people's 50 favorites list.  You might be surprised that I have it at a measly number 30 though.  Yes, there are 29 films I like more than GWTW.  If my list were comprised of only films that were truly well-made, classics really, it would certainly make a favorites list, but let it be known, many of my favorites are not classics.  Have we already forgotten Forbidden and Jubilee Trail?  What they are are my favorites.  And as such, this film makes the cut. 

It is a story I loved.  I have always loved Civil War movies and films about southerners in general.  Again, if that's the case, GWTW would have to be there as the granddaddy of those types of films.

So much has been written about this film over the past 73 years that I will not venture down that path here.  Not that I couldn't go there (this mind is a steel trap on movie trivia) but why?  When I write of my favorite films, I like to think that I serve up some stuff you don't know about some of them.  It's unlikely that would happen on this one.

Vivien Leigh never worked enough in American films for me to even think of her as a favorite but I cannot imagine anyone playing Scarlett O'Hara any better.  Emotionally damaged in real life, Leigh invested that and all she had in Scarlett.  The actress brought the character into full bloom, I feel in large part, due to her own emotional misfires.  Additionally, Leigh was rather blasé
about Clark Gable which surely served her well in the Scarlett-Rhett skirmishes.

I think I have seen Leslie Howard (Ashley Wilkes) in two other films, 1934's Of Human Bondage and 1936's The Petrified Forest, both with Bette Davis.  She was a helluva lot of woman for the wussy Howard, as was, of course, Leigh.  While I really have never known much about Howard (he died a few years after making GWTW in WWII), what I did know I didn't care for.  I was not impressed by his acting (was he always weak?) or his looks.  I always wanted to snicker when Scarlett professed such deep and abiding love for Ashley.  A woman like that would have that kind of love for that kind of man?  I never got it and always have to overlook it (as much as that's possible) when I see the film.

Trivia hounds certainly know Olivia DeHavilland is the only living big name cast member still alive.  She, of course, was Melanie, who also had such a thing for Ashley.  Migawd, he has TWO women after him?  One of the things I always loved about this film is the richly-written portrayals of the four leads.  Scarlett and Melanie are gorgeously written and couldn't be more opposite.  The same, of course, could be said of Rhett and Ashley.  I loved that.

I loved Hattie McDaniel as Mammy as much as I did Rhett and Scarlett.  Her Oscar was well-deserved.  Despite the Oscar, her treatment by Hollywood was not deserved and it's certainly too bad that she was destined to be the maid forever more.  For those who want to pick at her role and the film in general, say what you will but I thought both were radiant.

All the supporting players were simply splendid as well.  They all brought an integrity to their roles.  They all knew they had to bring their A Game, too, and they did.

Knowing a bit about Clark Gable, I found it interesting to a degree that he accepted this role because it wasn't the lead.   He would take a secondary part to a foreign actress he'd probably only barely heard of?   He did know that contractually he would be top-billed in the film that all knew was destined to be the biggest thing Hollywood ever produced.   And  I'm glad as hell he was Rhett.

Two people who wanted very much to be Scarlett O'Hara were Paulette Goddard and Susan Hayward, both immensely capable of displaying the fiery charms of the untamed southern beauty.  It was a gift from the gods that Vivien Leigh crossed the pond and then the country and onto a movie set where a serious fire was in progress.  This actress and this character became one and magical movie history was written. 

To think she was called Pansy when Margaret Mitchell wrote her great novel is just a hoot.  Of all the things one could call Scarlett, pansy would not be one of them.  This character is so transparent and multi-dimensional, brimming over with love and hate; she is wilful, maddening, lusty, driven, capable, incorrigible, proud.  Leigh's Oscar for Scarlett is one of the most deserved in all of Oscar's long history.

It's likely I'd make a go of discussing this film scene-by-scene... even with as many scenes as there are... so many of which are jewels.  But starting at the long dining room table, in the home they occupied after they married, I sit up in my seat knowing I am watching the remainder of the film transfixed.  I always get goosebumps when Rhett charges after Scarlett on the staircase, swooping her up in his arms and knowing he is going to have his way with her.  Rhett finally standing up to this southern belle control freak.  Pretty hot stuff.

Until The Sound of Music gave it a tumble in 1965, Gone With the Wind was the top money-making film of alltime.  Imagine... for 26 years and all the films that were released in those years... nothing beat this movie on box office receipts.  And for good reason.  It is a stunning piece of film-making, one of Hollywood's crowning achievements, that still stands up to this day.

NEXT POSTING:  An Afternoon at the Movies

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