Perhaps the most iconic film from the classic era of Hollywood, lies with Victor Fleming’s, ‘Gone with the Wind’. Based on ‘Margret Mitchel’s’ historic novel of the same name, the 1939 masterpiece that is ‘Gone with the Wind’ was once named “the mother of all movies”.
Gone with the wind presents the story of America in the 1860s at the centre of the ‘civil war’. The main screen protagonist ‘Scarlett O’Hara’ played by ‘Vivien Leigh’ is seemingly nothing more than a spoilt young woman with an obsession with ‘Ashley Wilkes’ played by ‘Leslie Howard’. That is until they are thrown into the mess of war and the film moves into a heavy battle between the somewhat bachelor of the film, “Rhett Butler” played by ‘Clark Gable’ and Scarlets long struggle with her underlying love for him. There are of course other main actors such as ‘Melanie Hamilton’ played by ‘Oliva De Havilland’ whom is a short while into the film married to ‘Ashley’, which causes Scarlet to despise her, until she begins to rely heavily on her after the death of Scarlets parents at her childhood home ‘Tara’. There is absolutely no doubt that this will always be the most confusing film I will ever watch in my life, but it will possibly be one of the most influential films.
It was one of the first films to be ‘splendidly’ made in Technicolor. A process which was famously expensive and hard to make immaculate. As such, Gone with the Wind was a triumph in the process, the film is almost four hours long at 238 minutes, surprisingly it doesn’t lag in the fact that Technicolor was used clearly throughout. The picture on the screen is almost crystal clear for a film from the 1930s, this may be due to the film being produced by MGM, who were undoubtedly the dominating studio in the golden era of Hollywood, having already made ‘The Wizard of Oz’ in the same year. I usually don’t mind watching black and white films, it’s the narrative and the way it’s been told that counts. However, I really wouldn’t want to watch ‘Gone with the Wind’ if it were in black and white. There are some outstanding beautiful crane shots that are bursting with colour that are very prominent to the scenes that build up the whole film. A particular, famous, shot from the scene featured thousands of extras and dummies that are all injured and dying on the ground of a train station, after a big battle. It is one of the most famous crane shots in the whole of cinematic history, because of its scale. The shot without Technicolor wouldn’t have been the same, when we see the flag at the end of the shot blowing over the soldiers.
There are certainly some dated elements of the film, as there’s bound to be being made in the 1930s. For one a few of the sets are back dropped horribly, such as when Scarlett and Rhett are riding the carriages. It’s an old cliché film technique to have a rolling screen when characters are travelling on screen, and for the most part, it works in Gone with the Wind, there are just minor details that allow this to slide for a modern day audience, but it’s expected, and the same will be said about films made today in hundred years. Although there are some fantastic sets, such as the iconic scene matching the films poster, when Scarlet and Rhett flee ‘Atlanta’. For this scene, real buildings were burnt down, real five hundred foot fire was everywhere in the MGM studios, so much so that local residents phoned in worrying that the studio was on fire, and perhaps most impressive, the whole scene was filmed on the only seven Technicolor cameras in existence.The visual style of this film, embeds all that classic cinema should have. It isn’t a soppy love story that were largely produced around this decade, it is a hugely powerful and dominating film. The director ‘Martian Scorsese’ quoted that Gone with the Wind is the ‘Greatest production of the first half of the 20th century, no doubt about it’ this is backed by the mere fact that it swept the Oscars winning ten academy awards.
As it is for so many of the films that I watch, it is the soundtrack that really interests me when watching movies. ‘Gone with the Wind’ doesn’t disappoint. The beautiful soundtrack was composed by ‘Max Steiner’ whom over his career won twenty four Oscars. The classic ‘Tara theme’ was recorded by MGM’s resident orchestra, the theme holds elements of brass and string quartets, that together, cause a dramatic and military styled score. Likewise the costume designer ‘William Plunkett’ drew five thousand designs for the film, as it was spanned over eleven years, the designs had to change with the fashions of the time. In my view this just explains the scale of the films production. It was incredibly extensive, a clearly a lot of love and dedication was poured into it.
A strong reason for my love for this film is the acting that is presented in it. In the 1930s, Hollywood was breaking away from the expressionistic acting of the silent era, many films were over dramatised in their acting to compensate for the lack of speech. Vivien Leigh is the perfect example of a new wave of acting that developed into the golden era of Hollywood. She won herself an Oscar with her role as Scarlett, and all the other categories, were filled with a nomination from the film.
To finish, I couldn’t possibly talk about this film, without mentioning one of the most famous lines in film history, and quite ‘frankly my dear, I don’t give a dam’ if you do like this film or not, to me it is a cinematic triumph, that will continue to outshine many films.