Gone With The Wind (1939)

A review by Shlomoh Sherman
October 3, 2014

Gone with the Wind (1939)
Directors: Victor Fleming, George Cukor (uncredited)
Writers: Margaret Mitchell (story), Sidney Howard (screen play)
Stars: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Thomas Mitchell, Olivia de Havilland, Leslie Howard
Plot: A manipulative Southern belle carries on a turbulent affair with a blockade runner during the American Civil War.
Plot Keywords: love - plantation - barbecue - widow - american civil war Taglines: For the thousands who remember its unparalleled drama, action and romance! For the new thousands to whom the wonders will be revealed for the first time! Breathtaking spectacle, inspired acting by the greatest cast ever assembled! The screen's most exciting love story! The most-talked about picture ever made! [reissue] See more »
Genres: Drama - Romance - War
Certificate: TV-PG
Official Sites: Warner Bros. [United States]
Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: January 17, 1940 (USA)
Also Known As: Lo que el viento se llevó
Filming Locations: Agoura Hills, California, USA
Box Office:
Budget: $3,977,000 (estimated)
Opening Weekend: $1,192,593 (USA) (June 26, 1998)
Gross: $198,655,278 (USA) (November 13, 1998)
Company Credits:
Production Co: Selznick International Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Technical Specs:
Runtime: 238 min - 223 min (1969 re-release) - 234 min (1985 re-release) - 224 min (1994 re-release) - 233 min (1989 re-release) - 226 min (copyright length)
Sound Mix: 3 Channel Stereo (Western Electric Sound System) (5.0 Surround Sound) (L-R)
Color: Color (Technicolor)

Most people about to read this review are already thinking, "What CHUTSPAH this guy has, even THINKING of reviewing one of the greatest movies ever made, the Oscar winner for best film of the year in 1939. After all, what do I tell people who ask me about a so-so movie that I have seen? I tell them to just relax and enjoy the move and don't expect GONE WITH THE WIND.

You may be right. It may be CHUTSPAH on my part but having seen it before several times, and seeing it agin last night, several things are fresh in my mind and I want to comment on them. So please bear with me, and PLEASE send me feedback, good or bad, and suggestions if you have any.

I think I am primarily attracted to GONE WITH THE WIND because I am a Civil War buff and I enjoy seeing any wellmade movie about the conflict that nearly tore our country apart and whose affects are still with us today to a degree, not only because slavery remains a thorn in the side of American history but because in order to ensure its continuance, South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas declared themselves no longer part of the United States. Just three months after Lincoln´s election, and a month before his inauguration, seven states had left the Union. Later Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee joined in the secession. It is now a century and a half later and there are still political voices calling for secession although that is no longer a real possibility. During and after the Civil War, president Lincoln so strengthened the federal goverment that any state trying to leave the Union now would be stopped very firmly and very quickly. The voices advocating leaving the Union have been raised only after the election of a black president which I find very interesting and telling.

Towards the beginning of the movie, the citizens of Georgia are seen jubilant over the news of the outbreak of hostilities and eager to join the fight which they expect they will win after only a few months and then be able to continue with their lifestyle and their peculiar institution.

The movie follows the lives of several closely related people during and after the war.

Clark Gable plays the mercenary opportunist anti-hero, Rhett Butler who is at his most charming. It's easy to see why Gable was a top sexy movie idol for women of the 1930s generation. He plays the part perfectly. Rhett considers the eldest daughter of Gerald O'Hara, Scarlett, to be flirtatious and silly. But after the war, he falls in love with her. As reviewer Rbverhoef, rbverhoef@hotmail.com, The Hague, Netherlands, states, he loves her "mainly because they are much the same. They both think the world is there for them."

The O'Haras are the owners of one of the finest plantations in Georgia, Tara, and Scarlett is actually the main focus of the film. We watch her growth from that of a silly girl to a self-protective scheming woman who uses men for her own survival and rise through the social strata.

Scarlett's hardened persona is forged mainly by two circumstances. One is her unrequited love for Ashley Wilkes, the husband of her friend, Melanie. The other is the awful privation that Scarlett has to endure throughout the war and particularly when her home and her family are ravaged by Sherman's destruction of Georgia. In the touching scene that plays directly before the Intermission, we see Scarlett standng in the fields outside the ruined Tara, crying out, "I sear before God, I will never be hungry again!" And through her manipulation of men, she once again becomes a grand lady of the South but no longer one of the Southern Belles who waltzed through the almost legendary, grand Old Dixie while other people worked and slaved all their unhappy lives till they died.

Melanie Wilkes, is played wonderfully by one of my favorite actresses, the beautiful Olivia de Havilland. And she looks marvellously handsome as ever even in those scenes where she is sickly at the point of death.

GONE WITH THE WIND avoids showing the really harsh side of southern slavery. There are no Simon Legrees here, and Tara's slaves all appear to be as happy as Christmas
puppies. They are loyal through the war and afterwards choose to stay on with the O'Hara family through its difficulties.

Incredibly, there is even a scene in the film of black volunteers happily offering their services as soldiers for the Confederate army when it is obvious, after the Battle of Gettysburg, that the "War for Southern Independence" is lost.

The Avoidance of racist terms.
There are at least two scenes in which the word "nigger" has obviously been edited out due to Warner Brother's fear of offending the audiences although plenty of movies and cartoons of the era were filled with the grossest "negro" stereotypes, most of which were played for comic effect.

In one scene, Scarlett asks one of the slaves to go and work out in the fields. He replies, "I can't do that, ma'am. I'm a house worker." Of course the term used for that type of slave was "house nigger."
In another scene, Scarlett and Melanie are themselves out in the field, picking cotton. Scarlett, obviously frustrated by the terrible turn of events for Old Dixie, she exclaims, "Look at me. I am no better than a ..." The offending word is cut off by Melanie telling her to go into the house and rest.

However, everyone remembers, and audiences were probably shocked at Rhett Butler's, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!" at the film's end. It amazes us that the "damn" got past the Hayes Office, everyone's favorite Roman Catholic censors.

In the wonderful supporting role as Mammy, Scarlett's ever protective house slave, is Hattie McDaniel who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, making her the first African American to win an Academy Award. At the presentation of the Oscar, the presenter told McDaniel, "You are a credit to your race." How many of us today would think that's such a great compliment?

Butterfly McQueen, is ultimately best remembered for her role of Prissy, Scarlett's ever whining slave girl. Lizette Alvarez, who wrote her obituary for the New York Times, pointed out that the role of Prissy "brought her criticism in later years from people who considered the role stereotypical and demeaning."  McQueen herself is reported to have said in 1970, "You know, today they call me an Uncle Thomasina."

Watching this 4 hour classic in one sitting would have been too trying for me so I saw it over the course of three days. The sets, the costumes, and the cinematography are magnificent. Perhaps the most magnificent is the musical score, composed by Max Steiner, "the father of film music". All of us are familiar with what has become known as TARA'S THEME, from Percy Faith's popular album of the early 1960s.

I urge you, even if you have seen it before, and who hasn't, rent it or watch in on Turner Classic Movies, if you get a chance.

The music playing in the backgroud is of course from the movie's sound track.

Did You Know?
Olivia de Havilland always meticulously researched her roles. As she had not yet had a baby in real life, she visited a maternity hospital to study how various women coped with the stresses of childbirth for the scene where Melanie has her baby. Off-camera, the scene's director, George Cukor, would occasionally pinch her toes to make her feel pain.
The early scene where Mammy reprimands Scarlett for not eating is one of the few remaining in the final film directed by original helmer George Cukor.
The fact that Hattie McDaniel would be unable to attend the premiere in racially segregated Atlanta annoyed Clark Gable so much that he threatened to boycott the premiere unless she could attend. He later relented when she convinced him to go.
When Gary Cooper turned down the role for Rhett Butler, he was passionately against it. He is quoted saying both, "Gone with the Wind (1939) is going to be the biggest flop in Hollywood history," and, "I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Gary Cooper."
At nearly four hours long, this is longest running of all movies to win the Best Picture Academy Award.
First color film to win the Best Picture Oscar.
Very few of the principal cast members liked the characters they were portraying. Clark Gable was induced into accepting his role through arrangements to divorce his current wife and marry Carole Lombard. Rand Brooks, who played Scarlett's first husband, Charles Hamilton, was actually a rough outdoors-man who objected to playing a wimpy character. Butterfly McQueen disliked the negative stereotype of her character. Leslie Howard felt he was too old for the role of Ashley Wilkes and complained that his costumes made him look like "a fairy doorman" at a hotel.
Margaret Mitchell personally approved of Vivien Leigh's interpretation of Scarlett.
If box office receipts for the movie were adjusted for inflation, it would be the top grossing movie of all time.
As Vivien Leigh could not dance, she is doubled in all non close-up shots by Sally De Marco.
Vivien Leigh worked for 125 days and received about $25,000. Clark Gable worked for 71 days and received over $120,000.
During filming Vivien Leigh reportedly smoked four packets of cigarettes a day. Clark Gable smoked three packs a day throughout his career.
The horse that Thomas Mitchell rode was later Silver of The Lone Ranger (1949) fame.
Clark Gable disliked this, his most famous film, which he regarded as "a woman's picture."
1,400 actresses were interviewed for the part of Scarlett O'Hara. 400 were asked to do readings.
In a March 1939 newspaper article, David O. Selznick was reported to be considering producing Gone with the Wind (1939) as two films, as it was felt that the novel was far too long and complex to be successfully made into a single motion picture for the time.
Olivia de Havilland who has been the lone survivor of the four principal leads since the death of Vivien Leigh in 1967, was the only major cast member to live to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the picture's premiere on December 15 2009.
The four principals were billed on the film's posters in this order: Clark Gable, followed by Leslie Howard and Olivia de Havilland and then "presenting" Vivien Leigh. This changed when Leigh won the Oscar.
Although he was dismissed from the production, George Cukor continued to privately coach both Vivien Leigh and Olivia de Havilland at their request on weekends.
In 2004, the movie was completely restored from the original three Technicolor negatives. This time, digital technology was employed to create results impossible to achieve with traditional methods. The negatives were scanned in at 2K resolution and digitally combined to remove all previous alignment problems and achieve perfect registration despite different amounts of shrinkage in the masters. The resulting digital master is of higher quality than any prints available so far - including the original prints from 1939. The color was timed to be identical to that of the surviving answer print of David O. Selznick, which is the color reference for the film. Reportedly, Selznick's original answer print was lost but it turned up five weeks into the 2004 digital restoration process. The color timing of the new digital master was subsequently stopped and started all over again from scratch. This 2004 digitally restored version looks truly astonishing, particularly when projected with a digital projector. An improved version, this time working at 4K resolution is already approved and should be finished in 2005. The 2009 Blu Ray Release comes from a new improved version 8K resolution scan and that is maximum possible limit for 70mm format.
Neither Clark Gable or Leslie Howard wanted to be in the film. Howard didn't even bother to read the original novel.
The film has never been cut. Recent releases are longer because of the added Overture, intermission, and exit music, not because any deleted scenes have been restored.
According to Newsreels, there were a handful of Confederate Civil War veterans who, though quite old, attended the premiere in Atlanta.
Mickey Kuhn, who played Vivien Leigh's nephew Beau Wilkes, also played the young sailor who helps her onto the streetcar in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). When Kuhn mentioned to someone else on the set that he had acted with Leigh as a child, word got back to her and she called him into her dressing room for a half-hour chat. In an interview in his seventies, Kuhn stated that Leigh was extremely kind to him and "one of the loveliest ladies he had ever met."
The entr'acte music is played entirely on a Novachord, the first use of an electronic synthesizer in a Hollywood feature film.
Ona Munson - who played brothel madame Belle Watling - considered the film a curse as she was continually typecast afterwards.
Margaret Mitchell's first choice to play Rhett Butler was Basil Rathbone.
Among lines cut out by the censor are Rhett Butler's: "I've never held fidelity to be a virtue" and "He can't be faithful to his wife with his mind, or unfaithful with his body." Another line that did not make it past the censor from Dilcey, the Negress: "An' what it takes to feed a hungry chil' ah got."

When Ashley comes to Atlanta for Christmas during the war, he and Melanie go upstairs to bed and call over the banister of the staircase landing to Scarlett. They proceed on to their room, and we see the light from their room reflected on the wall at the staircase landing. The light disappears as their bedroom door closes, leaving Scarlett watching in misery. However, when we see Prissy and Scarlett packing to leave Atlanta because Sherman is coming (while Melanie is in labor) it appears that there is no bedroom in a position that could leave a light on the landing wall. See more »
After Ashley Wilkes is carried into his room from a night at Belle's place, Melanie picks up a lamp with an electric cord attached.
(at around 1:05:00) When Scarlett leaves the military hospital in Atlanta, repulsed at the impending leg amputation, she runs out into the street where panic has ensued. The scene goes to a wide shot of the square. A radio tower is visible in the distance, painted the standard alternating red and white scheme.
When trying to get Doc Meade, Scarlett runs past several lamp posts containing electric bulbs.
When Scarlett visits the Lumber mill we see a saw cutting lumber, the "whirr" of an electric motor can be heard quite clearly.
In the opening shot of Scarlet and the Tarleton Twins on Tara's front porch, the shadow of the boom mike is clearly visible on the pillow of the porch swing behind Scarlet. Watch it rise as the trio stands up.
When Scarlett is singing after her night with Rhett, a boom mic shadow is visible on the right top corner of her pillow.
Mammy mistakenly says "John Wilkenson's" instead of "John Wilkes" in her famous line, "I ain't aimin' for you to go to Mr. John Wilkenson's and eat like a field hand and gobble like a hog!" The barbecue was held at the home of John Wilkes, not Jonas Wilkerson, the overseer.
Leslie Howard's British accent can often be heard in Ashley Wilkes' dialogue.
When Rhett kisses Scarlett goodbye right before he enlists, he drops his hat on the ground. He kisses her and picks it up from atop a fence post.
Scarlett's coral necklace appears at the barbecue but she isn't wearing it when she hurriedly leaves her bedroom. Also, she never finishes tying the cord on her hoop when Mammy puts her dress on.
News is brought to Tara that the war is over because Lee surrendered. Lee's surrender of the Army of Northern Virgina on 9 April 1865 had no effect on Georgia. That state's troops were in the army of General Joseph Johnston which continued battling Sherman in the Carolinas for a few weeks after Lee. The surrender of General Kirby Smith at Galveston, Texas, on May 26 is considered the true end of the Civil War.
While Melanie is talking to a soldier in the hospital he tells her that he hasn't heard from his brother Jeff since the Battle of Bull Run. That battle was called Bull Run by soldiers of the North. It was called The Battle of Manassas by soldiers of the South.
The credits read "Brent Tarleton.....George Reeves, Stuart Tarleton.....Fred Crane," but that's backwards. David O. Selznick was informed of the error but decided it would be too costly to correct it, as prints had already been struck. It's easy to remember which is which. George Reeves tells Scarlett that she'll dance with both of them: "First Brent, then me, then Brent, then me." So that means Crane played Brent and Reeves played Stuart.

[first lines]
Brent Tarleton: What do we care if we *were* expelled from college, Scarlett? The war is gonna start any day now, so we'd have left college anyhow.
Stuart Tarleton: War! Isn't it exciting, Scarlett? You know those fool Yankees actually *want* a war?
Brent Tarleton: We'll show 'em!
Scarlett: Fiddle-dee-dee! War, war, war; this war talk's spoiling all the fun at every party this spring. I get so bored I could scream. Besides... there isn't going to be any war.
Brent Tarleton: Not going to be any war?
Stuart Tarleton: Why, honey, of course there's gonna be a war.

Crazy Credits
George Reeves is credited as playing the part of Brent Tarleton, and Fred Crane is billed as Stuart Tarleton. This is incorrect: Crane played Brent, and Reeves played Stuart.

Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: What became of the costumes?
Q: What became of the Tara and Twelve Oaks sets?
Q: Was this the first movie to use profanity?

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Selznick International Theme (1937) (uncredited) Written by Alfred Newman Played for the Selznick International Logo
(I Wish I Was in) Dixie's Land (1860) (uncredited) Written by Daniel Decatur Emmett Played often in the score Katie Belle (uncredited) Written by Stephen Foster
In the score for Tara and Twelve Oaks scenes Under the Willow She's Sleeping (1860 (uncredited) Written by Stephen Foster In the score for Tara scenes Lou'siana Belle (1847) (uncredited) Written by Stephen Foster
In the score for Twelve Oaks scenes Dolly Day (1850) (uncredited) Written by Stephen Foster
In the score for Twelve Oaks scenes Ring de Banjo (1851) (uncredited) Written by Stephen Foster
In the score for Twelve Oaks scenes Sweet and Low (1865) (uncredited) Music by Joseph Barnby In the score for the afternoon nap scenes Ye Cavaliers of Dixie (uncredited) Composer unknown
In the score when Charles Hamilton challenges Rhett, and other sections Taps (1862) (uncredited) Written by Daniel Butterfield
In the score for the death of Charles, and other sections Massa's in de Cold Ground (1852) (uncredited) Written by Stephen Foster
In the score for the death of Charles and Frank Maryland, My Maryland (1861) (uncredited) Music based the traditional German Christmas carol "O Tannennbam"
In the score at the bazaar in Atlanta and at the train depot Irish Washerwoman (uncredited) Traditional Irish Jig
Dance music at the bazaar in Atlanta Garryowen (uncredited) Traditional
Dance music at the bazaar in Atlanta When Johnny Comes Marching Home (1863) (uncredited) Written by Louis Lambert (Pseudonym for Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore)
In the score at Gettysburg and other sections Weeping, Sad and Lonely (When This Cruel War Is Over) (1862) (uncredited) Music by Henry Tucker
In the score outside the Examiner Newspaper office The Bonnie Blue Flag (1861) (uncredited) Written and arranged by Harry McCarthy
In the score at the depot and other sections Hark! the Herald Angels Sing (pub. 1856) (uncredited) Music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1840)
In the score for Christmas at Aunt Pittypat's Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! (The Boys Are Marching) (1864) (uncredited) Music and Lyrics by George Frederick Root
In the score during the siege The Old Folks at Home (Swanee River) (1851) (uncredited) Written by Stephen Foster
In the score at the train depot and during the intermission Go Down Moses (Let My People Go) (uncredited) Traditional Negro spiritual Sung by marching negro soldiers off to fight the Yankees
My Old Kentucky Home (1853) (uncredited) Music and Lyrics by Stephen Foster
In the score in the birth of Melanie's baby sequence Sung a cappella by Butterfly McQueen Marching Through Georgia (1865) (uncredited) Written by Henry Clay Work
In the score during the escape from Atlanta, and other sections Battle Hymn of the Republic (circa 1856) (uncredited) Music by William Steffe
In the score during the burning of Atlanta sequence Beautiful Dreamer (1862) (uncredited) Music by Stephen Foster
Played during the intermission Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair (1854) (uncredited) Music by Stephen Foster
Played during the intermission Yankee Doodle (ca. 1755) (uncredited) Traditional music of English origin
In the score when the war is over Stars of the Summer Night (1856) (uncredited) Music by Isaac Baker Woodbury
In the score during the New Orleans honeymoon Bridal Chorus (Here Comes the Bride) (1850) (uncredited) from "Lohengrin" Written by Richard Wagner
In the score after Scarlett's nightmare Deep River (uncredited) Traditional
In the score at the lumber mill For He's a Jolly Good Fellow (uncredited) Traditional Sung by guests at the party
London Bridge Is Falling Down (uncredited) Traditional children's song
In the score in London Ben Bolt (Oh Don't You Remember) (1848) (uncredited) Music by Nelson Kneass Poem by Thomas Dunn English (1842) Sung a cappella by Vivien Leigh

Cast overview, first billed only:
Thomas Mitchell ... Gerald O'Hara
Barbara O'Neil ... Ellen - His Wife (as Barbara O'Neill)
Vivien Leigh ... Scarlett - Their Daughter
Clark Gable       ... Rhett Butler
Olivia de Havilland ... Melanie Wilkes
Evelyn Keyes ... Suellen - Their Daughter
Ann Rutherford ... Carreen - Their Daughter
George Reeves ... Brent Tarleton - Scarlett's Beau
Fred Crane      ... Stuart Tarleton - Scarlett's Beau
Hattie McDaniel ... Mammy - House Servant
Oscar Polk      ... Pork - House Servant
Butterfly McQueen ... Prissy - House Servant
Victor Jory      ... Jonas Wilkerson - Field Overseer
Everett Brown ... Big Sam - Field Foreman
Howard C. Hickman ... John Wilkes
Alicia Rhett ... India - His Daughter
Leslie Howard ... Ashley - His Son

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