Gone with the Wind (1939)
Directed by Victor Fleming
Starring: Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Thomas Mitchell, Hattie McDaniel
This classic 1939 film was nominated for thirteen Oscars and won eight of them. This included Best Picture and Best Director for Victor Fleming. In 1939 Fleming also directed another classic film, The Wizard of Oz. This movie would also receive Oscars for Art Direction, Cinematography, Editing, and Screenplay. In the acting categories this movie won Vivien Leigh an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role. The Best Supporting Actress statue was given to Hattie McDaniel. This was a historic win since McDaniel was the first African American to be nominated and win an Academy Award.
The film has a huge cast of Hollywood stars. Vivien Leigh would later win another Oscar for her role in A Streetcar Named Desire. Clark Gable was nominated for his role in this movie, but his only win would come for his role in It Happened One Night. Despite a great performance, Thomas Mitchell won his Oscar for another 1939 film, Stagecoach. For Hattie McDaniel this was the peak of her career. She would go on to work in film and television for another thirteen years. During her career she also had roles in movies like The Died With Their Boots On and Song of the South.
The story forGone with the Wind was based on the novel written by Margaret Mitchell which was adapted into a screenplay by Sidney Howard.
The movie was a major success, and to date has grossed more than 100 times it’s production cost. With adjustment for inflation this is the highest grossing film ever made.
Scarlett O’Hara (Leigh) is the privileged daughter of wealthy plantation owners. Over the course of the Civil War and the trying times before and afterwards she carries on a relationship with Rhett Butler (Gable). Throughout it all she’s in love with the husband of her cousin, a fact that has left her unable to commit to Rhett or anyone else. Her selfish nature and manipulative behavior soon put her at odds with everyone. Her desire to succeed in all that she does soon isolates her as she seeks to find what she’s really looking for.
This is a powerful movie from every aspect. The acting is amazing, and would earn four Oscar nominations in the acting categories. The film is also visually stunning, each of the sets seems perfect for the film. Many of the sets included stunningly painted backdrops that served to complete the lower half of the sets that had been built.The lighting and camera work are also used to near perfection throughout the movie. The film manages to make use of color in ways that had not been seen before 1939. Between Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, audiences were seeing films in vibrant color. Each of the scenes uses the color to lend to the mood. There is a warmth in the movie that is hard to miss.
Another success of the film is the costuming. All of the cast are costumed wonderfully. The film also features a number of classic dresses worn by Leigh.
I can’t really criticize this movie. Since it’s release the film has been criticized for romanticizing the issue of slavery and the Southern way of life. True as this may be, this was a film on the cutting edge when it was released. Hattie McDaniel wasn’t even allowed to attend the premiere in Georgia due to Jim Crow laws.
This movie regularly makes the list of best movies made. Without having to rank them, I would include this in my top ten. Besides being a historic achievement in film making, this is a wonderful movie to watch. It’s entertaining and filled with drama and emotion that work as well today as they did almost 74 years ago. I feel no reservation in giving this movie 5 stars out of 5. If you’ve never made the time, (about four hours worth) this is a must-see film.