Gone with the Wind

Gone with the Wind

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

On the eve of the American Civil War in 1861, Scarlett O’Hara lives at Tara, her family’s cotton plantation in Georgia, with her parents and two sisters. Her father reminds Scarlett of the importance of Tara and the heritage that comes with it. Scarlett learns that Ashley Wilkes—whom she secretly loves—is to be married to his cousin, Melanie Hamilton, and the engagement is to be announced the next day at a barbecue at Ashley’s home, the nearby plantation Twelve Oaks.

At the Twelve Oaks party, Scarlett notices that she is being admired by Rhett Butler, who has been disowned by his family. Rhett finds himself in further disfavor among the male guests when, during a discussion of the probability of war, he states that the South has no chance against the superior numbers and industrial might of the North. Scarlett secretly confesses to Ashley that she loves him, but he rebuffs her by responding that he and the sweet Melanie are more compatible. Afterwards, Rhett reveals to Scarlett he has overheard their conversation, but promises to keep her secret. The barbecue is disrupted by the declaration of war and the men rush to enlist. As Scarlett watches Ashley kiss Melanie goodbye from the upstairs window, Melanie’s shy younger brother Charles asks for her hand in marriage before he goes. Though she does not love him, Scarlett consents, and they are married before he leaves to fight.

Scarlett is quickly widowed when Charles dies from a bout of pneumonia and measles while serving in the Confederate Army. Scarlett’s mother sends her to the Hamilton home in Atlanta to cheer her up, although the O’Haras’ outspoken housemaid Mammy tells Scarlett she knows she is going there only to wait for Ashley’s return. Scarlett, who should not attend a party while in deep mourning, attends a charity bazaar in Atlanta with Melanie. There, Scarlett is the object of shocked comments on the part of the elderly women who represent proper Atlanta society. Rhett, now a blockade runner for the Confederacy, makes a surprise appearance. To raise money for the Confederate war effort, gentlemen are invited to offer bids for ladies to dance with them. Rhett makes an inordinately large bid for Scarlett and, to the disapproval of the guests, Scarlett agrees to dance with him. As they dance, Rhett tells her he intends to win her, which she says will never happen.

The tide of war turns against the Confederacy after the Battle of Gettysburg in which many of the men of Scarlett’s town are killed. Scarlett makes another unsuccessful appeal to Ashley while he is visiting on Christmas furlough, although they do share a private and passionate kiss in the parlor on Christmas Day, just before he returns to war.

Eight months later, as the city is besieged by the Union Army in the Atlanta Campaign, Melanie goes into premature and difficult labor. Keeping her promise to Ashley to take care of Melanie, Scarlett and her young house servant Prissy must deliver the child without medical assistance. Scarlett calls upon Rhett to bring her home to Tara immediately with Melanie, Prissy, and the baby. He appears with a horse and wagon and takes them out of the city through the burning depot and warehouse district. Instead of accompanying her all the way to Tara, he sends her on her way with a nearly dead horse, helplessly frail Melanie, her baby, and tearful Prissy, and with a passionate kiss as he goes off to fight. On her journey home, Scarlett finds Twelve Oaks burned, ruined and deserted. She is relieved to find Tara still standing but deserted by all except her parents, her sisters, and two servants: Mammy and Pork. Scarlett learns that her mother has just died of typhoid fever and her father’s mind has begun to fail under the strain. With Tara pillaged by Union troops and the fields untended, Scarlett vows she will do anything for the survival of her family and herself.

Scarlett sets her family and servants to picking the cotton fields, facing many hardships along the way, including the killing of a Union deserter who attempts to rape her during a burglary. With the defeat of the Confederacy and war’s end, Ashley returns, but finds he is of little help at Tara. When Scarlett begs him to run away with her, he confesses his desire for her and kisses her passionately, but says he cannot leave Melanie. Meanwhile, Scarlett’s father dies after he is thrown from his horse in an attempt to chase away a scalawag from his property.

When Scarlett realizes she cannot pay the rising taxes on Tara implemented by Reconstructionists, she pays a visit to Rhett in Atlanta. However, upon her visit, Rhett, now in jail, tells her his foreign bank accounts have been blocked, and that her attempt to get his money has been in vain. As Scarlett departs, she encounters her sister’s fiancé, the middle-aged Frank Kennedy, who now owns a successful general store and lumber mill. Scarlett lies to Frank by saying Suellen got tired of waiting and married another beau, and after becoming Mrs. Frank Kennedy, Scarlett takes over his business and becomes wealthy. When Ashley is offered a job with a bank in the north, Scarlett uses emotional blackmail to persuade him to take over managing the mill.

Frank, Ashley, Rhett and several other accomplices make a night raid on a shanty town after Scarlett narrowly escapes an attempted gang rape while driving through it alone, resulting in Frank’s death. With Frank’s funeral barely over, Rhett visits Scarlett and proposes marriage, and she accepts. They have a daughter whom Rhett names Bonnie Blue, but Scarlett, still pining for Ashley and chagrined at the perceived ruin of her figure, lets Rhett know that she wants no more children and that they will no longer share a bed.

When visiting the mill one day, Scarlett and Ashley are spied in an embrace by two gossips, including Ashley’s sister, India (who dislikes Scarlett). They eagerly spread the rumor, and Scarlett’s reputation is again sullied. Later that evening, Rhett, having heard the rumors, forces Scarlett to attend a birthday party for Ashley. Incapable of believing anything bad of her beloved sister-in-law, Melanie stands by Scarlett’s side so that all know that she believes the gossip to be false. After returning home from the party, Scarlett finds Rhett downstairs drunk, and they argue about Ashley. Seething with jealousy, Rhett grabs Scarlett’s head and threatens to smash in her skull. When she taunts him that he has no honor Rhett retaliates by forcing himself onto her, kissing Scarlett against her will, and states his intent to have sex with her that night. Frightened, she attempts to physically resist him, but Rhett overpowers her and carries the struggling Scarlett to the bedroom. The next day, Rhett apologizes for his behavior and offers Scarlett a divorce, which she rejects, saying that it would be a disgrace.

After Rhett returns from an extended trip to London, Scarlett’s attempts at reconciliation are rebuffed. She informs him that she is pregnant, but an argument ensues which results in Scarlett falling down a flight of stairs and suffering a miscarriage. As Scarlett is recovering, tragedy strikes when Bonnie dies while attempting to jump a fence with her pony. Melanie visits their home to comfort them, but then collapses during a second pregnancy she was warned could kill her.

On her deathbed, Melanie asks Scarlett to look after Ashley for her and to be kind to Rhett. As Scarlett consoles Ashley, Rhett quickly leaves and returns home. Realizing that Ashley only ever truly loved Melanie, Scarlett dashes after Rhett to find him preparing to leave for good. She pleads with him, telling him she realizes now that she had loved him all along, and that she never really loved Ashley. However, he refuses, saying that with Bonnie’s death went any chance of reconciliation. As Rhett is about to walk out the door, Scarlett begs him to stay but to no avail, and he walks away into the early morning fog leaving Scarlett weeping on the staircase and vowing to one day win back his love.

REVIEW:

Last month, Gone with the Wind returned to theaters for a couple of days. Unfortunately, these were days that were filled with other work-related activities for me. Thank goodness for AMC and their Thanksgiving marathons. Last year, they did all of the Hitchcock films, tomorrow will showcase the Jurassic Park trilogy, and another showing of this film was starting up and I changed the channel. So, let’s have a little look-see at this all-time great classic drama, shall we?

What is this about?

The epic tale of a woman’s life during one of the most tumultuous periods in America’s history. From her young, innocent days on a feudalistic plantation to the war-torn streets of Atlanta; from her first love whom she has always desired to three husbands; from the utmost luxury to absolute starvation and poverty; from her innocence to her understanding and comprehension of life.

What did I like?

Southern belle. Say what you will about the south, its traditions, etc., you cannot deny that there was a way of life that was almost regal during Civil War times. This point is emphasized with one of the written interludes and, if that wasn’t enough, just use you ears and eyes. The way these people dress, especially Scarlett and Captain Butler is the equal in extravagance to royalty and well-to-doers during medieval times.

Aunt Jemima. One of the great moments in African-American history happened when Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress…in 1939!!! As Mammy, she initially seems like just a nagging house slave who raised the O’Hara children. As time passes on, she becomes more of a character, albeit one that still nags, but also provides some moments of levity, inadvertently. That award was well-deserved.

Cinema! Great acting, extremely well-written story, sweeping cinematography, and lush scoring. When these elements come together, more often than not, we are treated to one of the best films of all time. No exception to that rule here. There isn’t a weak link in the cast, there are very few films that have been written better, and the music and visuals work in concert with each other for the ultimate experience.

What didn’t I like?

Strong and spoiled. Scarlett O’Hara goes through a tremendous transformation throughout the film, which I applaud. She starts out as your typical attractive heiress, for lack of a better term, who can get any man she wants. After some life-shaking events, she becomes a hardened, determined woman who “…will never go hungry again!” Then, in her final transformation, she suddenly gets everything she wants, but isn’t happy, for reasons I won’t spoil. Now, and this may just be my male brain talking, why is it that she can’t be happy with a man who is giving her everything? It isn’t like Rhett Butler is fat and ugly, either. I just don’t get it!

Race card. Apparently, there was some race issues with this film upon its release, focusing on the portrayals of the slaves/servants. The controversy around them is that they were too subservient. I hadn’t really noticed, but now that I think about it, I can see the issues. The afore-mentioned Mammy is a nag. Squirrel-voiced Prissy seems a bit air-headed. Pork is dim-witted and Big Sam is just happy to be serving. Maybe I’m a little jaded after watching 12 Years a Slave, but I highly doubt these people would have felt this way had this been real. Do I think the film was covering up some hidden racism? No, but one has to wonder if there was a reason to not have any of these slaves act as, well, slaves. I don’t think this came out the way I meant.

Length. So, I started watching this at 7 and here it is a little past midnight and the film ended a few minutes ago. That’s 5 hours on television, with commercial breaks coming more often and longer as the film neared its conclusion. I think the actual runtime is nearly or just over 4 hours. I’m not one to sit down and watch long flicks unless they keep my attention all the through. Amadeus and Titanic are a couple of examples that manage to do that for me. Close, but no cigar would be the best way to explain the experience I had with this film, though.

Gone with the Wind is on many lists as one of the top 5 films of all time, and it isn’t very hard to see why. Truth be told, it isn’t very hard to see why. If you can’t, well, to quote Rhett Butler, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” With all the crap and schlock that we are subject to today, it was refreshing to watch a film that is a true accomplishment in cinematic glory. I have little to say on the negative side and highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend you carve out a few hours to bask in the glory of the classic epic drama.

5 out of 5 stars

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5 Responses to “Gone with the Wind”

  1. […] My reviews of movies I catch via Netflix, in theaters, TV, or my own DVD collection. « Gone with the Wind […]

  2. […] few to no actual Thanksgiving films (Free Birds doesn’t count, sorry). Thanks to AMC showing Gone with the Wind last week and my usual tradition of watching The Magnificent Seven every Turkey day, this film […]

  3. […] played by Louis Beavers, seems like she is a clone of Hattie McDaniel’s character from Gone with the Wind. However, whereas Scarlett O’Hara seems to have little to no respect for her maid, Crosby […]

  4. Mystery Man Says:

    Reblogged this on Mr Movie Fiend's Movie Blog.

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