Play It Again – Gone With the Wind

Play It Again – Gone With the Wind. By Jess Lomas.

Play It Again is a weekly feature in which classic-film connoisseur Jess Lomas revisits a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line (hey, whatever; it fits!).

When you think of Hollywood epics, few come close to 1939’s Gone With the Wind. The Victor Fleming directed adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s novel was the first colour film to take home the Best Picture Academy Award, and the line “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” often ranks as the number one movie quote of all time.

The screenplay’s first draft, written by Sidney Howard, would have produced a five and a half hour cut. Despite drastic editing, the picture still clocks in at an impressive 238 minutes, lengthy by any cinema-lover’s standards. Of course, the story of Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), a spoilt Southern belle of a plantation owner who lusts after Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) during the American Civil War and the following period of reconstruction, demands an extended running time.

Easily described by today’s standards as a melodrama, this lush costume piece also stars Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, the man fascinated and consequently repelled by the selfish O’Hara, and Olivia De Havilland as the beautiful but meek Melanie, who marries Ashley.

Bringing the story of Gone With the Wind to the big screen was a herculean effort not only for the screenwriter but also for the director. George Cukor was fired after three weeks filming, despite close to two years on preproduction, and replaced by Fleming, who was working on The Wizard of Oz at the time. Despite this, Cukor continued to coach both Leigh and De Havilland over the course of the picture.

While the film’s producer, David O. Selznick, spared the audience by excluding the Ku Klux Klan from the adaptation to screen, the film is wildly out of date by today’s standards and depicts a level of racist culture that some may find unsavoury. Regardless, this lush technicolour production tackles the Civil War from a white, Southern perspective, and delivers a romance of larger-than-life proportions still referenced in culture today.

A winner of eight Academy Awards – including Hattie McDaniel, who won Best Supporting Actress and became the first African American to be nominated for and win an Oscar – Gone With the Wind is truly an historical film.

Gone With the Wind is available on DVD, Blu-ray, and can be streamed immediately on Quickflix’s Watch Now service.

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