The reputation of Gone With The Wind began its decline a little more than three years ago. The campaign began with former N.Y Post critic Lou Lumenick calling its “undeniably racist” attitudes no longer tolerable in our current socio-political climate. This was reiterated last August when the Orpheum theatre in Memphis said it would no longer show Gone With The Wind after receiving complaints about the 1939 film being “insensitive”, etc.
Now a Reddit piece offers further proof of how yellowed and moth-eaten Gone With The Wind is by the current calendar. With Margaret Mitchell‘s story spanning the years 1861 to 1873, David O. Selznick‘s film is now slightly closer to the Civil War era it portrays than to the present day. The film opened 78 and 1/2 years ago (i.e., December 1939) while the timeline of the film (which begins in April 1861) began just shy of 79 years before that event.
The author of the eight-day-old Reddit piece, “u/RespectMyAuthoriteh,” goes on to explain in detail how phenomenal the popularity of Gone With The Wind was, considering the intense competition from other films. Example #1: “From the ’20s to mid ’50s seven major Hollywood studios were grinding out 25 to 40 movies per annum,” etc. Example #2: “Gone With The Wind finally left theaters in late 1941. But it was such a huge hit, it was already resurrected for a revival run in March 1942, just three or four months later. It ran on Broadway for two years straight. That’s why GWTW‘s run is so impressive. There has never been anything like it before or since, with the possible exception of Star Wars.”
Posted on 6.26.15: “Lumenick is not wrong, but I feel misgivings. I don’t believe it’s right to throw Gone With The Wind under the bus just like that. Yes, it’s an icky and offensive film at times (Vivien Leigh‘s Scarlett O’Hara slapping Butterly McQueen‘s Prissy for being irresponsible in the handling of Melanie giving birth, the depiction of Everett Brown‘s Big Sam as a gentle, loyal and eternal defender of Scarlett when the chips are down) but every time I’ve watched GWTW I’ve always put that stuff in a box in order to focus on the real order of business.
“For Gone With The Wind is not a film about slavery or the antebellum South or even, really, the Civil War. It’s a movie about (a) a struggle to survive under ghastly conditions and (b) about how those with brass and gumption often get through the rough patches better than those who embrace goodness and generosity and playing by the rules. This is a fundamental human truth, and if you ask me the reason Gone With The Wind has resonated for so long is that generation after generation has recognized it as such. If you want to survive you have to be tough and scrappy and sometimes worry about the proprieties later on. Anyone who’s ever faced serious adversity understands the eloquence of that classic Scarlett O’Hara line, “I’ll never be hungry again.”
“I think GWTW particularly connected with 1939 audiences because they saw it as a parable of the deprivations that people had gone through during the Great Depression.
“On top of which the second half of part one of Gone With The Wind (the shelling of Atlanta to Scarlett shaking her first at those red skies) is undeniably great cinema. Max Steiner‘s music, the struggle, the crowd scenes, the panic, the burning of Atlanta, Ernest Haller‘s cinematography, the anguish, the soldiers groaning and moaning, Scarlett’s drooling horse collapsing from exhaustion, the moonlight breaking through as she approaches Tara…you just can’t throw all that out. Yes, the film’s unfortunate racial attitudes, which were lamentably par for the course 75 years ago, are now socially obsolete. And I wouldn’t argue with anyone who feels that portions of it are too distasteful to celebrate, but it just doesn’t seem right to lock all of that richness inside some ignoble closet and say ‘no more, forget about it, put it out of your minds.’ Legendary filmmaking is legendary filmmaking.”