Sunday, 14 February 2010


“We used to root for the Indians against the cavalry, because we didn't think it was fair in the history books that when the cavalry won it was a great victory, and when the Indians won it was a massacre.” - Dick Gregory

Yesterday we got a lot done around the house and garden, so when it was time to sit down and watch a movie, we decided to watch a “golden oldie” that we hadn’t seen for years (no, make that decades!). It was the Victor Fleming 1939 grand old epic “Gone with the Wind”. This legendary film that won 8 Oscars and another 6 prizes, has dominated motion picture history for decades after it was made in the first half of the last century (doesn’t that make it sound even older!).

Epic describes the film not only in subject matter and production values, but also in duration. We watched the 238 minute version complete with Overture, Entr’acte and Exit music. The restored Blu Ray version is quite stunning in its colour cinematography and the film looks crisp and new, as though it has just left the cutting room. It is an old pot-boiler of a movie that pulls all the right punches and follows all the tried and true formulas. This explains its success, of course.

Given its melodramatic origin in Margaret Mitchell’s sprawling novel, the film follows the trials and tribulations of the love-life of spoilt rich girl/poor girl/rich girl Scarlett O’Hara quite well, while at the same time attempting to bring to life a few pages of American history. Romanticised it may be, but nevertheless, the essence of the times has been recreated quite well (with a 30s slant). The nostalgic ante-bellum grandeur and inequity is contrasted with the horror of the civil war and the last part of the film that deals with “America the Land of Opportunity” and the rebirth of the South from its ashes is a grand acknowledgement of American culture.

Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh make for a formidable pair and they both do a fine job of acting in this movie. Nevertheless, this is not a two-lead movie. Equally convincing are Leslie Howard and Olivia de Havilland as the other pair of lovers and the rest of the cast have been chosen with equal appropriateness. There is caricature and over-acting, surely, but remember this is a 1939 film! Criticisms have also been levelled at the film regarding its portrayal of race relations, however, in any social document – especially be it a newspaper article, a novel or a film – there will be points of view and personal prejudices that must be taken into account when one reviews it and interprets it.

The music of the film is perhaps another indicator of its age. Max Steiner’s melodramatic and saccharine sweet score that underpins most of the movie is punctuated by pieces of local colour (no pun intended), which nevertheless prove to be more effective. I mentioned previously the Overture, Entr’acte and Exit music, which is a great indicator of film-makers’ self-congratulatory pats on the back. If you remember, Ben Hur used a similar device, as did many other epics that Hollywood judged to be grand enough to have this type of treatment.

Considering when the film was made, its cinematic impact was immense and the influence it exerted on subsequent movies is quite considerable. And rightly so. This is Hollywood in its heyday, showcasing what can be done with talent and money. A film to watch and learn from, not only cinematically, but also socially, politically and allegorically.

1 comment:

  1. I LOOOOOOOOOOVE this movie!!!!
    Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable are a gorgeous couple and there is so much chmistry between them!!!
    Must watch it again too.