December 11, 2013

Gone With the Wind

For all its sudsy melodrama, Gone With the Wind is still compulsively watchable. If you look at Vivien Leigh's performance in light of the fact that the role of Scarlet O'Hara had been offered to Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn, you may find a new appreciation for what Leigh brought to the character. (Davis and Hepburn were fantastic, but neither was the right choice for GWTW.) Leigh gets Scarlet O'Hara perfectly: she's tenacious, audacious, venomous, and vulnerable. And Clark Gable never takes her seriously as Rhett Butler, which is a perfect antidote to Scarlet's drama queen persona. Its depiction of antebellum South, the land of manners, cotton, and slaves, may be rosier than we'd like to think, but then, the fall is all the more profound. And I have yet to see a film with a richer color sense than this one. It slumps a bit during the second half (the film clocks in at nearly four hours in total), but there are enough great performances and great set-pieces to sustain this saga, which has a surprisingly good sense of humor considering it's bigger than life itself. Directed by Victor Fleming. (George Cukor was fired in the first few weeks of filming after spending years in pre-production.) Written by Sidney Howard, who adapted Margaret Mitchell's bestselling book. Produced by David O. Selznick. With Olivia de Havilland, Leslie Howard, Hattie McDaniel (who is perhaps the funniest character in the film, Mammy), Thomas Mitchell, Barbara O'Neil, Butterfly McQueen, Oscar Polk, Ona Munson, Ann Rutherford, Evelyn Keyes, and Carroll Nye. 1939. ½

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