Average Joes don’t care who’s running the big studios, but I do. Especially if the studio honcho isn’t some mushy corporate toadie but someone with a little passion and gumption and force of personality. In this sense Tom Rothman, who’s just been appointed Sony’s Motion Picture Group Chairman, or in layman’s terms the successor to Amy Pascal, is an intriguing fellow. The other contenders were Doug Belgrad and Mike Deluca. Rothman had been working as TriStar chairman. Before that he more or less ran 20th Century Fox’s film division with changing, increasingly powerful titles from ’96 through ’12, mostly as chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment. True story: I vaguely knew Rothman back in the early ’80s through actor friends, all of whom seemed to live on the Upper West Side. I was also glancingly familiar with his actor brother, John. One night Tom, myself and a few others sat around and played a speak-along dialogue game as we watched Gone With The Wind. I can recite GWTW dialogue any hour of the day. Scarlett: “Sir, you should have made your presence known. You are not a gentleman!” Rhett: “And you, miss, are no lady.”
Wait…did I just make a mistake? In politically correct Stalinist circles and particularly in the wake of 12 Years A Slave, saying you’re down with GWTW can almost be interpreted as a tacit endorsement of its patronizing attitudes towards blacks and absurd characterizations of plantation slave life. It’s almost like saying you admire Birth of a Nation. Sorry! I hate GWTW! Not really. GWTW has always been a racist joke, except it’s really a film about the hard deprivations of life during the early years of the Depression and how gumption and survival instincts are what really matter in life. And the last hour of the first half (attending to dying men in Atlanta hospital to “I’ll never be hungry again!” in Tara) is about as good as old-school Hollywood filmmaking gets.