12. Gone With The Wind (1940)

Title: Gone With The Wind

Release Date: 15 December, 1939

Oscar Ceremony: 29 February, 1940

Director: Victor Fleming

Starring: Vivian Leigh, Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland & Leslie Howard

Finally, a masterpiece. I can’t believe I waited this long to watch this movie. Bonus: it’s in colour! The first movie in colour to win Best Picture. Oh how I’ve yearned for this moment. I don’t know what more I could have asked for… the story is gripping, the characters are extremely developed, the costumes are to die for, the acting is top-notch and everything still feels relatable nearly 78 years later.

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For those of you who have often heard about the movie but still don’t really know what’s up, Gone With The Wind is a 4 hour epic tale about love, aspirations, perseverance, society, and class during the American Civil War. If you’re anything like me, you might be discouraged by the exuberant length, but I promise it’s worth every second. In fact, the movie happens in two parts, so you can consider it as a movie and its sequel if it helps. The story is centered around a southern belle named Scarlett O’Hara (Vivian Leigh), who lives with her wealthy family at Tara, a cotton plantation in Georgia. Scarlett is a rather spoiled young woman who is very determined to get what she wants. Every man is crazy about her, but she has her eyes set on Ashley (Leslie Howard), the son of a family who lives at Twelve Oaks, a nearby plantation. Unfortunately, Ashley is about to marry his cousin Melanie (Olivia de Havilland) no matter how hard Scarlett tries to get in the way. We all want what we can’t have, right? When she decides to confess her feelings to Ashley at a party, he pretty much rejects her. Even worse, a mysterious guest, Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) hears the whole thing, which is quite embarrassing for Scarlett. He thinks her feelings are silly, but he promises to keep the secret nonetheless. In a few minutes, the Civil War is declared and all the men at the party rush to enlist. In an attempt to hurt Ashely, Scarlett agrees to marry Melanie’s brother Charles even if she doesn’t love him. It doesn’t take too long before Charles dies and Scarlett is left a widow. Scarlett’s mom offers to send her to Atlanta to visit Melanie so she can cheer up. Mammy, the family’s maid (one of the best characters in my opinion) immediately catches on that the only reason Scarlett wants to go is to wait for Ashley to return. Low and behold, Ashley does not return quite yet, but Rhett Butler shows up again and asks Scarlett to dance. If you want to know what’s going to happen in the next 3 hours and a half, go watch.

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The first thing I need to talk about is Scarlett O’Hara and the brilliant actress who plays her, Vivian Leigh. It’s so refreshing to finally witness such a complex and nuanced heroine portrayed so realistically. On the one hand, Scarlett is narcissistic and naive, but on the other hand, she’s one of the strongest and most motivated women you’ll ever meet. There’s nothing simple about her. One moment you hate her and the other moment you sympathize with her. That’s what real people are like; they’re flawed. Either way, there’s something about Vivian Leigh that makes you unable to keep your eyes off of her.

In a way, you could say that Scarlett’s character mirrors the American South at the time; they both did everything they could to stay alive and held on to their beloved traditions. Some people are reluctant to praise the film because of its misleading portrayal of slavery and its glorification of the South. While that makes for an interesting conversation, I still think that it’s worth watching for its love story and characterization alone, which sometimes hits closer to home than we might realize. Love is timeless. There’s a reason why audiences are still so passionate about stories like Romeo and Juliet 400 years later. Circumstances in different periods of history may differ but emotions stay the same. Gone With the Wind is extremely modern and relevant while managing to push the boundaries of traditional love stories to the extreme, which is something that was rarely attempted in Hollywood at the time.

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The other recurring theme throughout the movie is best expressed in the words of its Best Picture competitor, The Wizard of Oz. As Dorothy would say, “there’s no place like home.” Scarlett’s father tells her early on that land is the only thing worth fighting for because it’s the only thing that lasts. We probably all have different interpretations of this remark. For some people it might be a country, for other people it might be their apartment, but for Scarlett, it’s Tara, her family’s estate. At the end of the day, we all want a place to cherish our memories, a place to call home.

I could go on and on about so many things in this outstanding motion picture, but for now, I will leave you with a love letter to Gone With The Wind, written by one of the smartest people I know. As her pseudonym points out, she is indeed a rare bird who also happens to be one of my dearest friends:

My Love Letter to Gone With The Wind

From the gowns to the dialogues, Gone with the Wind is enticing. A film worthy of a love letter.

The beauty of love is that it is blind; the faults are hidden as if non-existent, or even one may dare to say it’s beauty.

Gone with the Wind‘s fatal flaw is also its greatest quality; it is compassionate to racist white supremacist southern ideologies. Yet, we fall in love with this compassion – this woman – and feel it ourselves.

But why?

Relatability.

This film turns Scarlett into a victim. She suffers unrequited love, poverty, loss… She is the victim… and the slaves’ struggle becomes a background setting.

Scarlett touches liberal strings by offering modern feminist ideals. Scarlett is a strong and independent woman taking the world by storm like everyone wishes they could. Breaking everyone’s rules like no one could. Loving Tara like everyone’s heart yearns to love. Being loved by Rhett like every heart yearns to be loved.

We are seduced. We are enticed. We are in love. We let the rest fall to rubble, and we admire Scarlett. An emblem of hope and courage to everyone struggling. She assures us there’s a way. That whatever our struggle is we will be fine. She whispers in our ears to go to sleep. She says do not worry, “after all tomorrow is another day.”

– Rara Avis

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