Frankly my dear, we can’t believe this iconic film is turning 75!
The costumes, the spectacle, the curtains — Gone with the Wind is turning 75 and all I want to do is sit on the porch sipping lemonade with a Clark Gable look-alike and watch the movie on repeat.
The first time I saw Gone with the Wind, I was 12, and duly unimpressed. It was playing on TV and my parents were convinced that watching the nearly four-hour-long Civil War romance would be good for me. Rather than give in to their ridiculous suggestion that I “enjoy” the film, I sighed and rolled my eyes and fidgeted mercilessly until they excused me for being a completely unbearable teenager. I’m sure they enjoyed the movie much more without me.
But I had no idea what I was missing. In my obstinance, I had removed myself completely from the film’s cinematic scope, its hypnotizing score, and its incredibly maddening characters, and it wasn’t until college that I’d find myself giving the movie another chance — and only then because I had to watch it for film studies class.
I’ll never forget the feeling that the movie’s opening scene conveyed. From the first frame to the last, I was completely mesmerized by the camera work and the beautiful, non-CGI settings. The score was haunting and perfectly suited the backdrop reeking of man’s inhumanity to man. And I’ll never forget holding my breath in outrage as Rhett leaves Scarlett with a wagon full of tragic people to care for, so that he can (finally) join the battle.
Which brings me to Scarlett. Complicated, miserable, defiant, manipulative, resourceful and continually contrary Scarlett.
Scarlett O’Hara is an inspiration — and not because she’s a “good” person or a feminist or anything admirable like that. No, Scarlett is a deeply flawed person who makes a series of unbelievably frustrating choices (Ashley, anybody?) that left me alternately wanting to save her or throw her from Tara’s highest roof. But here’s the thing — she’s a total survivor! And as a woman and a storyteller, I wish there were more women like her on screen today.
Scarlett is not neat. She is not tidy. She does not love who she is supposed to love when she’s supposed to love them. She’s selfish and weak when you think she oughtn’t be, but then she’s selfless and strong when you expect her to fall apart. She’s not superwoman, but she’s also not a terrible woman — she’s just one woman trying to make the best of a series of really unfortunate events. And that’s a woman that, tragically, we don’t get to see on screen very often.
As someone who has admittedly has seen one too many rom-coms in her youth, Scarlett O’Hara brought the ridiculousness and futility of those films into stark focus against the complexity and breadth of her role. As the credits rolled, I was left completely stunned by both Vivien Leigh’s performance, and by the roller coaster of emotions I’d felt as I alternately cheered and cursed Scarlett.
We sat down with a few Gone with the Wind super fans (and one who is not a super fan) and got their take on the movie. The fact that the film can still have such an effect on people 75 years later is a testament to the power of the film. We’re not saying you have to watch the movie every year like one of our super fans, Allison English, does, or that we expect you to sit through it 25 times like William Knight has, but if you haven’t seen Gone with the Wind, you really ought to. You might be surprised by just how powerful it still is.