I was looking at this Gone With The Wind overture clip, and I found myself curiously melting down over Max Steiner‘s music. Because it’s gentle and sad and lamenting, and because it conveys a sentimental longing for things — customs, attitudes, climates, cultural atmospheres — that are gone and never to return.

I’ve written five or six times that GWTW is not a film about slavery or the antebellum South or even, really, the Civil War. If it was just a Civil War epic or a Southern plantation drama or a marital misery piece it would have faded many decades ago.

It’s basically a parable about hard times and terrible deprivations, and most people (apart from the terminal wokeys) understand that today. It’s 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.

Yes, David O. Selznick‘s 1939 film is an icky and offensive thing here and there, but (I’ve said this also a few times) you can’t throw out the second half of part one…the shelling of Atlanta, the struggle, the crowd scenes, the panic, the burning of Atlanta, the anguish, the soldiers groaning and moaning, Scarlett’s drooling horse collapsing from exhaustion, the moonlight breaking through as she approaches Tara, the radish scene plus Ernest Haller‘s cinematography…you just can’t throw all that out.

Obviously the film’s unfortunate racial attitudes, which were lamentably par for the course 85 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, and Steiner’s music is just too affecting, too transporting.

Steiner’s greatest scores: King Kong, The Informer, Slim, Jezebel, Gone with the Wind, Sergeant York, Casablanca, Since You Went Away, The Big Sleep, Key Largo, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, White Heat.