Thursday, April 19, 2012

Day 365 - Gone With the Wind

Gone With the Wind (1939) directed by Victor Fleming

Wow. I can't believe I'm all done now. I actually did it, 365 movies in 365 days. I don't really know if I want to talk about my relief of being done or my excitement about this film. It's only fitting that the last movie of my journey would be Gone With the Wind, perhaps the greatest if not grandest epic ever. The two movies I feared the most during this challenge were Lawrence of Arabia and GWTW because of their fame, epic scope and mostly their daunting lengths. GWTW is almost four hours long! However the four hours breezed by relatively quickly because of how captivating the story is. It is the very definition of sweeping epic, complete with rich complicated characters, the Civil War, the changing south, romance, and tragedy.

I always shied away from GWTW because I assumed it would be some sappy soap opera melodrama. It is definitely soap opera-y but is far from sappy. I was shocked by just how cynical and nasty the film is. I thought the film would be about Scarlett's and Rhett's undying love for each other but the two characters spend most of the film absolutely despising each other. The theme of their romance is spite, hatred, and greed, stuff straight out of the soaps but nonetheless intriguing and invigorating. I loved it! Some of the stuff they say to each other is just plain mean and hurtful. I guess it's true that there is a thin line between love and hate. All this leads to what you think would be a moment of clarity when the two realize that they loved each other all along but the film avoids the traditional happy ending where they passionately kiss and the end credits roll. No, instead we are treated to one of the most famous quotes in movie history: "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," when Rhett finally gives up on Scarlett. There really is a thin line between love and hate.

The film is notable for its great technical brilliance, but honestly it begins and ends with the performances and the sweeping story. Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh provide powerhouse performances that carry the entire film. Rhett recognizes that they are perfect for each other immediately; both are stubborn, selfish and don't have the southern manners everyone else has. Yet these are also the reasons why they could never be together; they are just too hard headed. That and there's no way to tame the strong willed Scarlett. In many ways she is one of the first modern women in film, sexually aware, business savvy, fiercely proud and independent. She has three husbands that she marries for reasons other than love yet is not ashamed of it. She does what she has to do to get what she wants. Ain't nothing wrong with that. The only person who could possibly match her is someone equally brash and strong and that is Rhett. Despite the vitriol they hurl at each other there is an undeniable passion between them.

And of course there is the setting in which the story takes place. It takes place in the deep south around the time of the Civil War and captures this time period well. We can see the ravages of war and the aftermath of reconstruction. As the phases of the south changes so does Scarlett. She begins as a spoiled brat, becomes a determined survivor, and then finally turns into a successful business woman.

It always amazes me how good some of these older movies look. The colors in this film pop out and some of the scenes look like paintings. The sunsets are so majestic they border on cliche, but damn, they are nice to look at. There are a lot of great little scenes that show off the director's grand vision. One impressive one is a shot that we've grown familiar with in other films, countless dead bodies spread out seemingly as far as the eyes can see. Scarlett stands lost in the middle in a sea of bodies showing the horrors of war. There are even good action sequences such as when Scarlett and Rhett are fleeing from a burning Atlanta. At the time of filming this was the most expensive film ever and it's easy to see why. They spared no expenses on sets, props, costumes and the like. The production value, even by modern standards, are top notch.

Also, mad props to Victor Fleming who directed GWTW and Wizard of Oz which came out in the same year! Has any other director pull out two bonafide classics in the same year? I really enjoyed this film. It is the very definition of epic. Perhaps I am riding a little high on my project finally being over or maybe it's just the feeling you get after watching a great movie. It's hard to differentiate between the two now. Either way I'm glad I picked this one as my my last film. And just like that, I'm gone with the wind.

Grade: A

A final write up is coming, but I need some time to just take a break and gather my thoughts.


  1. Discipline. I didn't know you finished all 365! Amazing Chris! Well done.

  2. Discipline. I didn't know you finished all 365! Amazing Chris! Well done.