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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Gone with the Wind (1939)

Gone with the Wind is probably one of the most successful movies of all time, both in terms of the number of Academy awards it won (the movie won 10 Oscars, a record that was beaten by Ben-Hur 20 years later, but is a very high number even then), and in terms of the money that it made (when you adjust the earnings to account for inflation). It still holds the record for most number of tickets sold.
The movie is based upon the best-selling novel of the same name by Margaret Mitchell (published in 1936). Soon, Producer David O. Selznick, head of Selznick International Pictures, bought the movie rights for $50,000, a very large figure for that time (thus opening himself upto ridicule). The movie itself was made after a number of leading ladies were auditioned, with little-known Vivien Leigh finally being selected (after many leading ladies tried out for the part). The movie also had multiple directors, with Victor Fleming (45%) - who received screen credit; Sam Wood (15%), William Cameron Menzies (15%), 'woman's director' George Cukor (5%) and the first director, B. Reeves ("Breezy") Eason (2%), and the remaining 18% directed by other directors. Victor Fleming received the screen credits for the movie.

Gone with the Wind (1939)

Oscars:

* Best Picture - Selznick International Pictures (David O. Selznick, producer)
* Best Actress in a Leading Role - Vivien Leigh
* Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Hattie McDaniel
* Best Cinematography, Color - Ernest Haller and Ray Rennahan
* Best Director - Victor Fleming
* Best Film Editing - Hal C. Kern, and James E. Newcom
* Best Writing, Screenplay - Sidney Howard
* Best Art Direction - Lyle Wheeler
* Special Award - William Cameron Menzies - "For outstanding achievement in the use of color for the enhancement of dramatic mood in the production of Gone with the Wind." (plaque)
* Technical Achievement Award - Don Musgrave and Selznick International Pictures - "For pioneering in the use of coordinated equipment in the production Gone with the Wind." (certificate)

Five additional nominations:

* Best Actor in a Leading Role - Clark Gable
* Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Olivia de Havilland
* Best Effects, Special Effects - Fred Albin (sound), Jack Cosgrove (photographic), and Arthur Johns (sound)
* Best Music, Original Score - Max Steiner
* Best Sound, Recording - Thomas T. Moulton (Samuel Goldwyn SSD)

The movie is seen as a classic depiction of romance in times of war and despair, and of depicting a beautiful yet manipulative woman who did what she could to attain the love of her life; in the end, she finally realizes that this was all false, and by that time, her love has fallen out of love with her and rejects her (as embellished in the final famous line "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn").
Yet, the movie is also seen as an inherently racist movie as it depicts the great age of the south, with great estates, great men leading a good life with their families and their slaves. Slaves are treated in the movie (and in the book) through words and actions as being inherently inferior. This view is balanced by the opinion that the movie was depicting a time that is totally different from today's, where there was a Civil War ongoing between the North and the South with the South refusing to outlaw slavery, and the book and movie are set on characters in the South.
The movie is centered on the beautiful Scarlett O'Hara who is in love with Ashley, unfortunately, Ashley is committed to marry his cousin Melanie; Scarlett is admonished by her dad to not try and interfere. However, Scarlett is not going to give up so easily; over a period of time, she tries her best to get Ashley interested in her (trying jealousy, direct confession), but Ashley does not change his mind. In the meantime, a roguish young man, Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) meets her and is impressed by her (even though he knows about her fascination for Ashley). The impending war breaks around at that time, with able-bodied men getting pulled in for the fighting. Melanie's cousin, the shy Charles proposed to Scarlett, and surprisingly, they get married. However, Charles dies in an army camp within 2 months of pneumonia.
The widow is expected to behave as if in mourning, but Scarlett soon displays no sign of that. Sent to Atlanta, she accepts a dance in a party with Rhett, shocking the whole society. As the tide of the war turns against the South Confederate army, Rhett helps Scarlett, Melanie and their children to reach the road leading to their house (Tara) before going off to fight for the South. When Scarlett reaches the estate, she realizes that it is in a state of disrepair, she vows to make things better again.
Soon, she is in need of money and turns to Rhett for help, but he does not have the money and she marries her sister's fiancee, Frank Kennedy for his money. When Ashley is about to head North, she guilts him into running her sawmill (and with Melanie also persuading him). However, soon Scarlett is widowed again when in a revenge raid on a shantytown, Ashley is wounded and Frank is killed.
Rhett again proposes marriage, and this time she accepts. He promises that he will rebuild her estate, and she also builds another mansion. To Rhett's delight, a daughter Bonnie is born; at this time, Scarlett, still pining for Ashley, takes a decision that will haunt her marriage with Rhett. She decides that she wants no more children, and hence there is no need for any further physical relations with Rhett. He is extremely angry and makes his anger clear.
Things take a turn for the worse soon. One day, when Scarlett is consoling Ashley (in a morose mood), his sister spots her embracing Ashley and starts the word around. Melanie refuses to believe it, and invites her to Ashley's birthday party. Rhett, in a drunken mood, and jealous of her and Ashley, has sex with her, although he apologizes about it the next morning. When he returns from a visit to London along with Bonnie, Scarlett tells him that she is pregnant again. However, when Rhett taunts her about her wanting a miscarriage, she lunges at him, falls down the steps and indeed has a miscarriage. Compounding the tragedy, soon their child Bonnie has a similar horse tragedy as her grandfather, and dies.
In their bitterness over Bonnie's death, Melanie arrives to console them, but she is pregnant after being warned that this pregnancy could be dangerous for her. Soon, she collapses, and eventually dies, but not before asking Scarlett to look after Ashley, and be kind to Rhett. When Scarlett sees Ashley crying over Melanie's death, that is when it all breaks for her, realizing that she was loving someone who was never for her.
However, it is now too late, as when she reaches home, she sees Rhett packing. Inspite of her trying to stop Rhett with her claims of love (and genuine love by now), Rhett refuses, also taking the absence of Bonnie as another reason for the end of their relationship. And then come the famous lines:
As Rhett walks out the door, she begs him, "Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?" He answers, “Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.” In the end, she remembers that it her estate 'Tara' that gives her strength, and she goes back there, waiting for another day when things will get better.




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