It's the king of corn and the soapiest soap opera ever filmed, but who'd have it any other way? If CITIZEN KANE is the screen's greatest film, GONE WITH THE WIND is the screen's greatest entertainment. Based on Margaret Mitchell's phenomenal bestseller, GWTW's storyline is little more than a love triangle set midst the Civil War. But, as with all great films, it is the characters that make it a classic. That, plus the obsessive attention to detail that producer David O. Selznick poured into his labor of love. The film also boasted an impeccable cast (with the exception of a miscast Leslie Howard), including King of Hollywood Clark Gable in what is probably his finest screen performance. But it is the remarkable gale-force performance of relative newcomer Vivien Leigh that holds the film together and provides its relentless drive and energy. As the New York Times observed at the time: "She is so beautiful, she need hardly be so talented. She is so talented, she need hardly be so beautiful." - JL
It''s corny and melodramatic and beautiful in the way only old movies can be. GONE WITH THE WIND is the film that makes me miss the old studio system the most. My only real complaint is that, in order to keep the film under four hours, they did a great deal of trimming of scenes, including beginnings and endings, and this is most noticeable in the second half, especially once Rhett and Scarlett get married. Their life together flies by from one short scene to another, and I believe that it might even be a better film had they left some of that footage in. The first half is so filled with epic moments - the burning of the ammunition depot (not of Atlanta, as many misremember it), the crane shot of the hundreds of dead and wounded - that the second half can occasionally feel a little flat and rushed. But only occasionally. John L. is right - GONE WITH THE WIND is really little more than a four hour soap opera, but the Civil War setting (especially in the first half) and the characters and actors make it come alive with every viewing.
Everybody praises Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable and for good reason, of course, but I want to take a moment to applaud Olivia De Havilland for her excellent work as Melanie Wilkes. What could have been a one-dimensional goody two-shoes character comes off as a kind, gentle woman who is completely aware of everything that is going on around her, has complete faith in her own judgment in people, and a serene, inner strength that allows her to have unconditional love for the people in her life. After four viewings so far, Melanie Wilkes is my favorite character. Bravo, Ms. De Havilland.
Final note: while I absolutely love Vivien Leigh as Scarlett, one of my biggest fantasy movies would be GONE WITH THE WIND starring the actress who lost the part to Leigh at the last moment, Paulette Goddard. Existing test footage tells me she might have been just as good.
A five-star movie if there ever was one. - JB
ADD ANOTHER QUOTE AND MAKE IT A GALLON
"Tell me, Scarlett, do you never shrink from marrying men you don't love?"