Gone with the Wind (1939)

I swear this moment never happened in the film 

So, this is one of those classic films that you think you know because you’ve seen so many parodies and heard catchphrases (“Fiddle-dee-dee!” and “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”), but when you actually sit down and watch all four hours of it, you realize that you never had a clue what it was about. But the weirdest thing about it? The whole movie is this nostalgic paean to the Old South, i.e., antebellum South. Which is to say it’s about the good ol’ days of slavery.

Not that they say this in so many words, of course. Sure, there are a number of black characters – more than I might have expected, to be honest. The fact of their being slaves is practically ignored. Those that we see in greater detail, like Mammy, are portrayed as loyal to the O’Hara family, before and after the war. It’s entirely unclear how or whether they made the transition from “house servant” to “paid staff,” but then, there’s certainly not time enough in this epic to answer a little question like that.

Granted, I viewed this in the context of having recently watched 12 Years a Slave, so I was highly skeptical of the general attitude of Gone’s characters, who seem convinced that they treated their slaves fairly. There’s even an awkward moment where somebody objects to employing white convicts because they’re treated worse than they’d treated slaves before the war. Huh?

Slavery aside, this movie is all about Scarlett and Rhett. Romance of the century, right? At least, that’s what I thought. If this is a romantic movie, it’s the most depressing one I’ve ever seen. Rhett’s kind of a terrible person, which maybe isn’t as bad as it sounds since Scarlett is about as bad. Never once do they seem more than vaguely fond of each other, usually alternating between apathy or hatred or boredom. Maybe you can’t expect much when they met at a barbecue unlike any I’ve ever been to. Not a damn rib in sight.

Even as Scarlett was often unlikeable, she did hold her own in a male-dominated world, which is kind of admirable for a movie from 1939. She navigated a post-slavery economy with skill, starting her own lumber business and rebuilding that enormous staircase (though they had to cut corners when it came to safety railing). But still, Dorothy Gale she is not.

I don’t know if this is an artifact of the era, but this movie ended up like a friggin’ Shakespearean tragedy what with the death count – and I’m talking about after the war. For a movie this long, I wish they could have come up with a better setup besides this:

“Oh, I hope [something bad] doesn’t happen.”

*Everybody stands around and waits*

[Something bad] happens.

I’d feared before I started this project that I would quickly grow to regret the hours lost to movies I wasn’t sure I’d wanted to see. This is just the type of movie I was thinking of.

 

Theme: Plantation

First time watching? Yes

Loved It/Liked It/Hated It – Don’t Give a Damn

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