Gone with the Wind (1939)
Gone But Never Forgotten
Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn - Rhett Butler
I honestly can't think of many movies that are nearly 4 hours long which once you've finished watching you want to watch again straight away. But that is what you get with "Gone with the Wind" a movie which is spectacular in every way possible and 100% captivating. As such it is no surprise that it won award after award and at the time of writing still sits at the top of the Box Office records (inflation adjusted).
Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) could have any man she desired, unfortunately she wants Ashley (Leslie Howard), the one man she can't have as he is married to Melanie (Olivia de Havilland). But that is just one of the problems facing Scarlett as Civil War takes hold and the Yankees march across Atlanta destroying everything in their wake, leaving the South a shadow of itself. But Scarlett is a strong woman and despite the fall of the South sets about clawing herself to the top of the social ladder whilst also getting her claws into the handsome Rhett Butler (Clark Gable - It Happened One Night) who has always loved her but struggles with the manipulative greedy woman she has become.
Probably the easiest way to describe "Gone with the Wind" is that it is a soap opera, with the character of Scarlett O'Hara at the centre of the storyline. We follow Scarlett as the story takes us through the Civil War and the period afterwards as she struggles to watch her true love Ashley Wilkes in the arms of another woman turning her into a manipulative woman who will do anything to get what she wants. Getting what she wants includes using men, marrying them if needs be and basically doing things her way. At the same time we watch Rhett Butler who is in love with Scarlett but knows that she is a woman possessed not only by her love for Ashley but her need to get what she wants what ever the cost. All of which means is that at it's heart "Gone with the Wind" is a sweeping romance, a tale of love, lust and war which spans years.
But whilst "Gone with the Wind" is a stunning romantic movie which builds to a glorious ending it is also a gritty drama set during the Civil War. It captures what life was like during the period as the Yankee's and Sherman marched across Atlanta ruining the Deep South for ever. And it is all very powerful with great scene after scene as we see how war affects people, from young men excited to fight, those who believe the war is wrong and the consequences of it all such as line after line of injured men. As such you have to say that the storyline to "Gone with the Wind" is magnificent and utterly captivating as whilst it centres on the love life of the manipulative Scarlett it's not a soppy romance, but a dramatic one which also encapsulates the effect of the Civil War.
The actual storyline, and it's hard to do it justice with out giving far too much away, is just one of the reasons that "Gone with the Wind" is such a great movie. And you have to applaud Victor Fleming's direction for delivering a movie which despite being almost 4 hours long never once feels dull. His pacing is spectacular and the fact that the storyline is split into two with the first half of the movie being about the war years, the second half about the decade after works brilliantly and the intermission in the middle although nice can actually be skipped over because of how captivating the story is.
What also makes "Gone with the Wind" such a staggeringly great movie is just the whole look of it, the vibrant colours, the powerful skylines, the use of silhouettes, the legion of extras, the amazing costumes and the list goes on and on. I've never seen "Gone with the Wind" on the big screen, only the small but it is visually stunning and I can only imagine that watching it on a huge cinema screen is only better. But it's not just about the visuals being impressive; they also help deliver the emotion of the story. A scene where Scarlett rushes to get the Doctor and finds herself standing in the middle of hundreds of injured soldiers, all screaming in agony is breathtaking and highlights how hard the war hit. And that is just one scene in a movie of hundreds of scenes which look great but really tell the story.
But whilst all of this makes "Gone with the Wind" a brilliant movie it is the performances which help take it to another level and there is not a single performance which feels wrong. Clark Gable, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, Ann Rutherford, Thomas Mitchell and Hattie McDaniel amongst many others all deliver first rate performances creating interesting characters which draw us into them even if their character such as McDaniel's Mammy is a supporting one. But it is Vivien Leigh as Scarlett which just blows you away and not just because Leigh is stunningly beautiful and seductively sexy. Nope you watch Leigh and she is living the part delivering every emotion possible through her face so you understand her jealousy, her anger, her love and her fear whilst also understanding how scheming and manipulative she is without ever once resorting to over acting. As such you find yourself drawn to this woman because deep down all her conniving ways are down to one thing her love.
What this all boils down to is that "Gone with the Wind" is an exceptional movie and rightly appears near the top of so many top movie lists. Everything about it, from storyline, cinematography, costumes, sets and acting is captivating and is very much a case that all the stars aligned themselves at the same time to deliver what is one of the best movies ever made. Even if it is nearly 4 hours long it never becomes dull and is one of those movies which leave you wanting more once it is over.
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