Have you ever wondered what is considered a “classic” film? I have. So, I decided to create a new section on SFR called ESTA’S ECLECTIC CLASSICAL CORNER. Movies that have stood the test of time throughout past decades and made a difference in my life. Films that I could watch over and over and still love as much as the first viewing. They are like “comfort food” for me. I have been influenced, inspired, and enraptured. Each week I will review a classic that I have loved, and I can’t wait to share my thoughts with you.
Please note, that there will be some spoilers in these reviews. I will have to share some of my favorite scenes and dialogue to back up my personal reflections. Since I am 73, I have much to say. I hope you enjoy the ride down memory lane. I am who l am because of theatre and movies.
For this first week, I started with three beloved and controversial films. What do I think of them in 2022?
GONE WITH THE WIND was produced in 1939. It received ten Oscars, including one for its use of technicolor. The movie was based on Margaret Mitchell’s novel, and when adjusted for inflation, it is the highest-grossing film of all time. Lines and dialogues have been quoted over and over. There has never been a film of such epic proportions, boasting a running time of three hours and forty-two minutes. At the movie theaters, there was even an intermission. The cast was perfection. The cinematography was spectacular. It remains a classic in every sense of the word, even though it is considered today on the wrong side of history.
No one watches GONE WITH THE WIND for its historical background. It is a story that openly romanticized and lied about the South, the Civil War, and slavery. These were dark days for our country. In 1939, the film industry could not be honest about the ravages and cruelty of war, racial inequality, and slavery. Even when Hattie McDaniel won her Oscar for her role as Mammy, she was not allowed to sit in the main area as the rest of the cast. She was relegated to a table in the back of the room, and her Oscar was brought to her later. Black actors could not even attend the premiere in Georgia. The producer, David O. Selznick, decided to recreate the “tale” that was the book. It did not mean it was truthful. Instead, it was just a glamorous story about the rise and fall of the South in a romanticized production. Yes, there is an “elephant” in the room when speaking about GWTW. It is currently boycotted by many groups and organizations. But for this review, I will only share my thoughts about its film achievements and how it influenced me as a young girl. I stand on the side of truth and historical accuracy. As difficult as that is for many to accept. It could and should never be made today.
GONE WITH THE WIND’s success is due to casting, cinematography, lighting, costumes, music, and memorable lines. There could not have been a stronger Scarlett O’Hara than Vivian Leigh. Every moment, the uplift of her head or eyebrow, a shrug, a sigh, a “fiddle dee dee,” her 18-inch waist, or her pure disdain for being “bored to tears over talk of war” was perfection. And who would ever deny that Clark Gable embodied Rhett Butler? They were one and the same man. Oh, as a young woman, I dreamed, no, longed, for a man to carry me up a red-carpeted staircase. It was powerful, lusty, tender, and romantic all in one breath. And that closing line… I will always believe he gives a damn.
Olivia de Haviland as Melanie and Leslie Howard as Ashley were nothing less than magnificent. It was as if the characters rose up from the original book. The costumes were heavenly. Realistic, colorful, and true to the time period. The cinematography grabbed you from the opening seconds of the title flashing across the screen to the hundreds of bodies lying on the ground during the burning of Atlanta. When the camera panned out, viewers could witness the destruction, death, brutality, and sheer waste of human lives during a war. This scene gave me nightmares for days after. I will never forget the reality and cruelty of fighting. It had the same effect on me sixty years later.
One of my favorite scenes is just before the intermission. This is when Scarlett digs in the dirt for food, crumbles to the ground, and then rises up to vow never again. “As God is my witness, I will never be hungry again. If I have to cheat, lie, or even kill, I will never be hungry again.” I learned resiliency from this scene. Life will knock you down, but your only choice is to get back up again. Stand tall. “Tomorrow is another day.” This is how I rose after my daughter died. This is how I rise every day with limited eyesight. Thank you, Margaret Mitchell… thank you, Scarlett. I can even silently hear the soaring musical score to the theme of Tara in my head while staring into a flaming red sky.
I was around twelve years old when I saw GONE WITH THE WIND for the first time. I watched it sitting next to my mother and father at the Palms movie theater in Phoenix, Arizona. I was spellbound. I have read the book dozens of times. I even played Scarlett in an oral interpretation class while attending ASU. I chose to wear a ruffled blouse and a wide-brim sun hat.
This majestic film is a testament to a period long ago. It pays tribute to the “Old South,” whose grace, genteel manners, and human cruelty represent a civilization that is hopefully GONE WITH THE WIND.
GONE WITH THE WIND is available to stream on AMAZON PRIME.