Watching all the movies on the Warner Bros. 50-movie box set that I bought for cheap. The random generator this week picked a biggie: Gone With the Wind. What can I possibly say? The movie’s impact on film history cannot be denied, yet it is also troublesome in many ways.
Here’s what happens: It’s the life and times of Scarlett O’Hara in the Old South before, during, and after the Civil War. She loses everything during the war and rebuilds her life back up again, all while pining for the handsome and traditional Ashley Wilkes, with dashing troublemaker Rhett Butler always be hanging around.
Why it’s famous: Four hours of sweeping grandeur and weepy melodrama.
Get your film degree: Everything in this movie is BIG. Big vistas, big sets, big costumes, big sunsets. The giant fire that burned down Atlanta? That wasn’t a special effect, the filmmakers went and started a giant fire! (Allegedly, the destroyed part of the original set from King Kong as they did so. This movie is bigger than the almighty Kong!) Yes, the acting is big and broad, but it has to be to fill the bigness of the movie.
Movie geekishness: How does one approach this movie, with romanticism of the Old South being so very, very problematic? The opening text crawl helped me put it all in context. It talks about “knights” and “fair ladies” and “gallantry.” This tells the audience not to think of the movie as historical fiction, but as myth. This is not the real Civil War, this is the South’s equivalent of the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus.
Thoughts upon this viewing: I enjoyed the movie but, honestly, it loses steam after its first half. The first two hours see Scarlett on a journey, where she loses it all and is a changed woman by the end. After we come back from intermission, the movie has a different energy. It starts to feel like an endurance test getting to the famous line at the end. So, it’s good, but really long.
Next week: Scagnetti on Scagnetti.
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