[Film Review] Gone with the Wind (1939)

Gone with the Wind poster

Title: Gone with the Wind
Year: 1939
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Romance, War
Director: Victor Fleming
Sidney Howard
Margaret Mitchell
Music: Max Steiner
Cinematography: Ernest Haller
Vivien Leigh
Clark Gable
Olivia de Havilland
Leslie Howard
Hattie McDaniel
Butterfly McQueen
Thomas Mitchell
Evelyn Keyes
Ann Rutherford
Barbara O’Neil
Carroll Nye
Harry Davenport
Rand Brooks
Jane Darwell
Ona Munson
Leona Roberts
Ward Bond
Laura Hope Crews
Mary Anderson
Isabel Jewell
Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson
George Reeves
Came King Conlon
Victor Jory
Rating: 8.4/10

Gone with the Wind 1939

Some movies you always know you will watch and you must watch, simply because it is a must-see and GONE WITH THE WIND is definitely one of them, hailed as “the greatest film of all time”, how can I hold it up until now? Personally I can never find a right time to watch it not just because of its nearly 4-hour running time, also subjectively I am not a fan of Clark Gable, as he perpetually reeks of bad breath (thanks to the IMDB trivia section to ruin his silver-screen charisma for me), and feel daunted by the melodramatic nature of its source novel from Margaret Mitchell, but the moment has finally arrived and I have watched it for the very first time, and it is as good as I could ever anticipated, although with an epithet like “the greatest of all time”, how can any film hold out on that supreme crown unscathed?

The movie is an American civil war saga entirely enters on Scarlett O’Hara (Leigh), a crafty Southern belle whose comfortable life has been ravaged by the war, oscillates between the man of her dream Ashley Wilkes (Howard), who marries Melanie (de Havilland), a girl with all the virtues of that bygone era, and her similar kind, the rich pursuer Rhett Butler (Gable), it takes her three marriages, two dead husbands, one miscarriage, a devastating loss of her young child to finally realise her deepest love for Rhett, only in the end, she is unable to mend her fence with the overdue repentance, she has been a fool to chase her ideal yet unrealistic passion for Ashley, which is merely an illusion for her to grasp in troubled times. So she is the only one to blame for all the misfortunes? Almost eighty years later, my take is that Ashley and Rhett are equally accountable for the love triangle tug-of-war, it is the battle of sexes, Ashley is too weak-minded to disclose the wrong facade of his true feelings towards Scarlett, or, even worse, he gloats in the admiration of a woman who adores him as the specimen of a perfect man, either ways, he cannot be exonerated for acquiescing Scarlett’s unrequited ardor. As for Rhett, his frivolous manner firstly establishes a wrong impression that he is a philanderer, charming but never the marry kind, and when he realizes his feelings for her, his devotion is markedly undermined by jealousy, which only pushes Scarlett farther away, so why on earth he can act as all the justice is on his side and desert her when she eventually wakes up from her protracted mirage? On the other hand, it is all their imperfections make them a perfect match for each other, for sure their life together will not be perfect, but they cannot stand one without each other, that’s the essence of monogamy.

One sure thing is that the film’s epic production scope and grandiose settings signal the hallmark of Hollywood’s cutting-edge creativity and capability at then, its vividly expressive cinematography alone can captivate the utter veneration from even the fiercest dissenter. It is so incredible, how come Victor Fleming can master two cinematic juggernauts (this and THE WIZARD OF OZ, George Cukor is the poor guy uncredited with both pictures) in one calendar year, 1939 is really the high tide of the world cinema, symbols the celluloid industry enters its full-grown era.

An iconic performance from Vivien Leigh, her Scarlett is never a damsel-in-distress, she is a spoiled and wilful brat at first, life is too easy for her to get what she wants, but her iron-willed personality has been mold after the baptism of the civil war, nothing can pull her back into poverty, she has a cunning mind of manipulation, mostly towards men who are too upright to run away from her smug calculations, only Rhett is her match to fence back, but she saves her most precious and vulnerable part for Ashley, and involuntarily grows close with Melanie too. As a Briton, Ms. Leigh brilliantly nails the southern accent, wholeheartedly teases out Scarlett’s rite-of-passage and culminates a timeless performance allows generations to idolise. The same cannot be said to Clark Garble and Leslie Howard, male characters are uniformly given less range to leave the same impression as Scarlett, or even Olivia de Havilland’s Melanie, who undertakes the burden of being an immaculate saint, fully embodies all the good virtues of humanity, but must face the cruelty of destiny, it is a tremendous blessing Ms. de Havilland is still with us today, and from the bottom of my heart, I wish she will safely pass her centenary 1st July next year.

One cannot review this film without mentioning Hattie McDaniel’s historic Oscar win as the faithful servant Mammy, in retrospect it is exactly what one would expect from under that social current, sans the horror one might trigger from 12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013). Despite that her view towards the war has never been explored on the screen, anyhow it is a war under the name of abolishing slavery, yet she never leave O’Hara family even in the worst times, maybe her side of story can more accurately point out the sinister nitty-gritty of war, any kind of war, no matter under what name men are fighting their lives for, it is always a go-to manoeuvre to openly sacrifice innocent lives in exchange of benefits for the few ones, and it is a crime at any rate.

Sorry for the digression, all in all, the film is a worthy classic, a bit too mushy in its second half for my taste, but one cannot hold too much grudge against it for all the genius involved and the first-rate end-product it hatches, an 8.4 out of 10 is my verdict.

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