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Gone with the Wind

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Gone with the Wind

Starring: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh
Director: Victor Fleming
Rated: G
RunTime: 231 Minutes
Release Date: December 1939
Genres: Classic, Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Olivia de Havilland, Leslie Howard, Hattie McDaniel, Butterfly McQueen, Thomas Mitchell, Barbara O'Neil, Victor Jory, Ann Rutherford

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
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3.  Jerry Saravia read the review ---
4.  Dragan Antulov read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review

Review by Steve Rhodes
4 stars out of 4

1939 was the apex of Hollywood's golden age. And the winner of the best picture that year, as well as well as seven other Oscars, was GONE WITH THE WIND. Easily one of the best motion pictures ever made, it has been restored and released to the theaters. The print is clean and handsome, the digitally remastered sound is strong and clear and this time they are showing all of the movie. To make the movie look more modern, the last few times it has been released in wide-screen by chopping off the top and bottom. This time it is being distributed in the 4:3 aspect ratio of the original release.

Based on Margaret Mitchell's record setting 1936 book, the movie is a richly textured experience with something for everyone. The epic motion picture is part romance, part history, part character study and part the world's most popular soap opera. Our packed audience treated the film almost reverentially. When one person talked briefly, people from all over the theater shushed him.

GONE WITH THE WIND could have been called SCARLETT'S STORY, for at its heart it is the tale of a woman, Scarlett O'Hara, who survives and thrives through a series of disasters. As the fickle but resilient Scarlett, Vivien Leigh gives a tour de force performance. Looking deceptively like a helpless young woman, the ever-conniving Scarlett has every man in sight wrapped around her finger. Well, all except the one she really wants, Ashley Wilkes, played as a wimp by Leslie Howard. Marrying men she doesn't love, using convict labor to line her pockets and lying through her teeth, Scarlett's guile knows no bounds.

"If I hear one more word about war, I'll run in the house and slam the door!" she declares to two of her would-be beaus in the beginning. The country may be on the brink of a massive bloodletting, but she will hear nothing about it. Her world of fancy balls and BBQs will not countenance any such intrusion, even if the first shots of the civil war have already been fired. When the "glorious" news arrives that the war has officially begun, the men go wild whooping it up as Dixie plays in the background. The intense foreboding of this outwardly happy scene makes it arguably the movie's most moving.

Clark Gable, who unbelievably lost the best actor award that year to Robert Donat in GOODBYE MR. CHIPS, has a ball playing Rhett Butler, the story's loveable rapscallion. With his hearty laugh and his sneer of a grin, Rhett is a natural charmer without trying to be so. He doesn't trust Scarlett, but she is so like him that he becomes infatuated with her. "We're bad lots, both of us - selfish and shrewd," he tells her in a succinct summation of their characters.

Olivia De Havilland was nominated for supporting actress for her role as Ashley's long suffering Melanie Hamilton. Melanie, who is constantly befriending Scarlett, is her opposite. She is as generous as Scarlett is selfish.

Butterfly McQueen is hilarious as the comically incompetent slave, Prissy. ("Miss Scarlett, I don't know nothing about birthing no babies!") But it is Hattie McDaniel as Mammy, Scarlett's Rock of Gibraltar, who delivers the strongest performance as a slave and later a servant. Hattie's Mammy dishes out wisdom a mile a minute, but Scarlett tries her best to ignore it. Hattie deservedly won the best supporting actress that year, beating out De Havilland, whose performance was superlative.

It was a more regimented time when girls were "ruined" by going on unchaperoned buggy rides. And society was scandalized by recent widows, dressed from head to toe in black, who dared show their faces in public. (Rhett's answer to society's condemnations was simple. "With enough courage," he told Scarlett. "You can do without a reputation.")

The artistic aspects of the film's production are as stunning as its acting. The sumptuous sets won Lyle R. Wheeler his first of many Oscars. The Oscar-winning cinematography by Ernest Haller and Ray Rennahan added to the vastness of the picture. Shooting outdoors with heavy emphasis on silhouettes set against rust-colored evening skies or orange-hued burning cities, they created a tableaux so expansive as to make audience's mouths drop. Max Steiner's nostalgic music, which lost the Oscar to the even better score of THE WIZARD OF OZ, is as moving as it is memorable.

The only problem with the picture is that it could have used a little judicious pruning. The international travel sequences, for example, add little.

GONE WITH THE WIND is a picture deserving of a restoration every decade. See it, if you can, in a theater. In fact, see all of the classics, if you can, in a theatrical setting. Television is fine, but classics deserve better for their full appreciation.

GONE WITH THE WIND runs four hours including a brief intermission. It is rated G, but with its war violence and frightening images it is inappropriate for most kids under around 8. And it may not hold any interest for kids under 10 or 11.

My son Jeffrey, age 9, was well behaved through a long movie that he hated. He found it boring and frightening and gave it only * . He complained that it was a love story with nothing about the war. Finally, he said that it should have been rated PG. (He turned out to be too young to appreciate it, but as he grows up, his opinions will undoubtedly evolve.)

Copyright 1998 Steve Rhodes

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