Blog Directory CineVerse: Frankly, my dear, we do give a damn...

Frankly, my dear, we do give a damn...

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Seventy-six years can leave a lot of tarnish on an antique. But while the racially controversial material certainly raises eyebrows today, "Gone With the Wind" still looks and feels fairly fresh--thanks in large part to its stunning Technicolor sheen, masterful compositions and sweeping narrative. Here are the major concepts our CineVerse group came away with after more closely examining GWTW:

The movie depicts a strong-willed female character who, despite her petty and selfish behaviors, embodied the spirit of the underdog and a survivor—especially on the eve of World War II. Not only is Scarlett a free-spirited, independent thinker who perseveres to get her way, but she learns how to use her sex appeal and guiles to achieve her goals; plus, she eventually achieves sexual satisfaction, which was almost never shown in the movies in the Hays code-enforced censorship era of the 1930s. Her ascent to independence influenced other American females who would join the workforce into and after World War II.
o Roger Ebert summarized this concept well: “It was the right film at the right time. Scarlett O'Hara is not a creature of the 1860s but of the 1930s: a free-spirited, willful modern woman. The way was prepared for her by the flappers of Fitzgerald's jazz age, by the bold movie actresses of the period, and by the economic reality of the Depression, which for the first time put lots of women to work outside their homes. Scarlett's lusts and headstrong passions have little to do with myths of delicate Southern flowers, and everything to do with the sex symbols of the movies that shaped her creator, Margaret Mitchell: actresses such as Clara Bow, Jean Harlow, Louise Brooks and Mae West. She was a woman who wanted to control her own sexual adventures, and that is the key element in her appeal. She also sought to control her economic destiny in the years after the South collapsed, first by planting cotton and later by running a successful lumber business. She was the symbol the nation needed as it headed into World War II; the spiritual sister of Rosie the Riveter.”
It was the pinnacle example of a producer being the auteur and enforcing his ultimate vision, despite great odds and exorbitant costs, on a film; starting in the 1940s, directors were given greater credit and stature as being the “authors” of important films. Here, David O. Selznick conquered Hollywood with his unflappable resolve and vision to bring this story to film, despite replacing three directors and several other crew members. After Gone With the Wind, the producer’s creative muscle took a back seat to the rising power of the director.
While it was certainly not the first Technicolor film, it solidified this expensive color process as the crème de la crème look for A-list pristine films.
Gone With the Wind also used plenty of matte painting special effects wherein numerous backgrounds, building exteriors, crowd shots, etc.
Although many consider it shameful in its attempt to sugarcoat history and soften the truth about the treatment of black slaves by Southern whites, the movie actually gives fairly prominent roles to real African Americans, and resulted in the first Academy Award win for an African American (Hattie McDaniel, whose character is able to talk back to her white masters).

Its treatment of black characters and its attempt to revise history before, during and after the Civil War. Nearly all the African American characters are personified as either simple-minded or ignorant or lazy; Prissy lies and acts hysterically; Pork appears lost without someone giving him orders; slaves who opt for freedom are “looked down on, either portrayed as unscrupulous or as gullible pawns of the political parties,” wrote SparkNotes in its dissection of the film.
It tries to glorify this bygone age and equate it to a utopian period and place, sort of like Camelot, as evidenced by its introductory words: “There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South. Here in this pretty world, Gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a Civilization gone with the wind.” Certainly the slaves and their descendents were not and are not wistful of this bygone time.
The whole payoff of the movie is Scarlett earning her comeuppance. The problem is that we have to suffer through 4 hours of her unscrupulous, whiny, conniving, spoiled brat behavior to earn this vindication. To many, she is a character with few redeeming qualities—an irritating, unsympathetic lead whom we are forced to root for/identify with at many points.
Likewise, Ashley can grate on the viewer because he’s actually a wishy washy character who lacks rugged, resolute, manly qualities; it’s hard to see what Scarlett sees in this weak-willed Willy.

Independent thinking and action is the key to survival and success.
Dreams are important, but tangible things can outlast fleeting dreams, as embodied in the terra firma of Tara itself, the land that inspires Scarlett to persevere.
The horrors of war; this is not an epic that tries to glorify the heroism of men in Civil War battles. Instead, we see the wretched suffering wrought by the conflict throughout much of the film’s first half.
The strength, determination and compassion of women can be vastly underrated. It is Scarlett’s will and doggedness that keeps her loved ones alive, and it is Melanie’s love and compassion that sets the moral compass by which many other characters follow.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Birth of a Nation, two silent films that focused on the Old South and also had racist underpinnings

The Wizard of Oz
Red Dust
Treasure Island
Captains Courageous
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Joan of Arc

  © Blogger template Cumulus by 2008

Back to TOP