I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Gone with the Wind, 1939










Not Rated

I’ve seen this masterpiece two and a quarter times now. One of my besties from grade/high school tried introducing this film to me when we were in fourth grade. I fell asleep not long after it started. (I’m not sure if I was just too young to appreciate it or if that was just a time I fell prey to the childhood narcolepsy that I believe plagued me.) Twenty years later, I thought it only appropriate to watch it again with her for my blog. I followed my own advice from “Lawrence of Arabia” (Lessons Learned) and armed myself with my Diet Coke for the beginning of the film and popcorn for the intermission, even though we started it at 8:30 pm. For sure it was because I was caffeinated, but it didn’t seem as long as I remembered. It is the longest Oscar film in history weighing in at an alarming 238 minutes… 2 minutes shy of 4 hours! (But I’d rather watch that than read the 1,037 pages of the best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.)

“Gone with the Wind” was the first color film to win Best Picture. It takes place in Atlanta at the time of the Civil War. It’s hard to condense four hours worth of plot, so I’ll just say that basically it is the story of Scarlett O’Hara, a headstrong Southern debutante, and her love-hate romance with Rhett Butler, a professional gambler and veritable black sheep. He was expelled from West Point and disagrees with the war. Miss Scarlett, played by Vivien Leigh, is a willful, manipulative, stubborn, and selfish woman who spends most of the movie with one eyebrow raised… (I was starting to wonder if it was plucked that way).


She has a few redeeming qualities but I spent most of the movie disliking her. Clark Gable, my adorable new crush from “It Happened One Night”, plays the almost-equally obstinate but incredible dashing Rhett Butler. He didn’t win the Best Actor award even though in my opinion, he deserved it.

I have an issue with the original movie poster; that is NOT a scene in the movie. Yes, Rhett carries her upstairs in a red dress but it is not falling off for Pete’s sake, nor is his shirt open. In fact, his ascot is still in place, and she’s kicking and fighting him in his arms. Just like “Cimarron”’s poster, it just looks like a trashy romance novel to me.

The movie’s enormous $4 million budget was record-breaking for its time. That alone might make you think it was a shoo-in to win Best Picture, but “Gone with the Wind” was up against quite a few well-known and respected films: “Of Mice and Men”, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, “Ninotchka”, “Love Affair”, “Goodbye, Mr. Chips”, “Dark Victory”, “Stagecoach”, “Wuthering Heights”, and “The Wizard of Oz”. I think it was unlucky that “Wizard of Oz” was made the same year, because I think that is a celebrated classic that deserved this award as well. (Note: Judy Garland did receive a special juvenile Oscar that year for her portrayal of Dorothy at only seventeen years old!) GWTW was awarded eight of its thirteen nominations including: Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress (to the first African American performer ever nominated and the FIRST ever invited to the ceremony!!!!), Best Screenplay (the first posthumous award given out), Best Color Cinematography, Best Interior Decoration (still not really sure what this means), and Best Film Editing. This is another movie whose Cinematography award was well deserved. The visual aspects of this film are incredible. Sure, some were enhanced, probably even more so once restored onto DVD, but the wide screen shots emphasizing color, lighting, or grandeur are breathtaking.



FAVORITE LINES:

While at an afternoon BBQ, the invited ladies all retire to a room upstairs for a nap. Mammy argues with Scarlett that “well brought up ladies takes naps at parties”. Man, how I wish that were still true…


This next quote probably seems silly but I was laughing out loud at this old man talking to poultry in the yard: A house servant is stalking a scrawny chicken with an axe in the rain hoping he can become Christmas dinner “for the white folks”. He pleads with the chicken, “Come on, old gentleman. We’s ate all your wives. We’s ate all your little chicks. You got nobody to worry your head about leaving… Don’t go getting so uppity. Even if you is the last chicken in Atlanta”.

Probably the second-most famous line from the movie is said by Rhett when he realizes that Scarlett, although she declares otherwise, really wants to be kissed by him. He stares at her face with her eyes closed leaning up thisclose to his own and says, “No, I don't think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That's what's wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.” {Sigh} I believe this is true of every woman.


The most recognizable movie line of all time also comes from Rhett at the very end once he’s had enough of Scarlett’s selfishness and finicky behavior, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

MEMORABLE SCENE:

Scarlett implores her Mammy to make a new elaborate dress for her so she can appear respectable in front of Rhett Butler, when they really have no money. Mammy makes her a dress out of one of the only things the Civil War scavengers didn’t take, green curtains. Not only is the dress hysterical, but so is Carol Burnett’s comedy sketch about it that she performed on her show back in 1975: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEPUnGfZMWY&feature=related
If you don’t have time to watch the 9 minute clip, at least watch her come out in the dress at 3:20.


TOUCHING SCENE:

Scarlett is (accidentally) pushed down the stairs by Rhett and subsequently loses her baby. She is laid up in another room while the doctor cares for her and Rhett is about to lose his mind in their bedroom. We see stubble for the first time on his face and his eyes are puffy from crying. Melanie Hamilton, who has been a dear friend to Scarlett (which unfortunately isn’t reciprocated), comes in to console him. The words they exchange are incredibly touching. He opens up to her and she comforts him in a loving way.


LESSONS LEARNED:

Don’t be too proud to ask for help. But also, don’t ask for it without at least trying it yourself, first.

Don’t put off important issues to “think about it tomorrow”. Yes, sometimes we need a little time to really weigh out the options before we make important decisions, but don’t be naïve and just “not deal with it”.

4 comments:

  1. I've never watched this all the way through but now I want to!

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  2. What a lovely review :)I do have to disagree with with your lessons learned, though. I feel like "I won't think about it today, I'll think about it tomorrow" has successfully been somewhat of a guiding principle in my life. Time creates distance and perspective which can ensure that the most important decisions we make are carefully guided and not impulsive.

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  3. "What a lovely gown." Carol: "Thank you. I found it in the window." Hilarious.

    SPOILER ALERT:
    Mom and I watched this over the summer and I remember being so incredibly frustrated with Scarlett the entire movie. Exclusively regarding the film version of this story, I was so irritated with her infatuation for Ashley and relationship with poor Melanie. Her emotional life over Ashley and Melanie is what drove the movie for me, which is funny that you didn't even mention Ashley! I also had a problem with her concluding remarks that Tara, her plantation, is where she could find what "truly matters." At first I didn't like that she didn't find love for a person, but a piece of land. But historically speaking it is worth giving her some slack because plantations are everything to a family back in the civil war. I didn't feel so critical anymore about the ending.

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  4. Beth- Yes, I definitely see that argument, and to some degree, I can agree. Taking your time with an important decision allows you to clear your head and not make an emotional decision. But, in Scarlett's case, and sometimes my own, I feel that it's just immaturity and irresponsibility driving that behavior. Some things need to be dealt with soon before they get horribly worse. Friendships can be ruined. Chances can be lost. Don't run from your problems or pretend they don't exist. That was what I wanted to tell Scarlett. :)

    Alli - Yes, her unhealthy relationship with Ashley is also a major plot line throughout the movie. I knew I couldn't delve too deep into details of a 4 hour movie and all the issues Scarlett has. ;) Her selfishness and stubborness is what drives the movie in my opinion: over Rhett, over Ashley, over material goods, over Tara, etc. I don't remember that line about Tara being what "truly matters" but I do remember that that's where she "gets her strength"... and I do get that.

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