Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sh!#ting on the Classics: Gone With the Wind

I really wanted to watch this again at the start of the summer because, from what I understand, Gone With The Wind is the prequel to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

From what I remembered, this movie is partially about slavery. I might be going out on a limb here, but slavery and racism are just wrong. Fuck that shit.

THE PLOT IN BRIEF: Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) is a permanently unsatisfied, strong-willed, outspoken woman -- in a word, a bitch. Scarlett meets Rhett Butler, an all-around cad and ne’er-do-well, with whom she is perfectly matched. She scoffs at the idea of ever being in love with him. Instead, she wants Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard), which doesn’t make much sense because, all things being equal, if Scarlett and Ashley ever did wind up in bed together, Scarlett seems like the kind of woman who would break him in half.

What she does not want is for her beloved South to be embroiled in a nasty, costly Civil War. Unfortunately, in that bygone age, that was the only style of Civil War available. Ashley marries Scarlett’s friend Melanie (Olivia de Havilland), with whom he is perfectly matched, and goes off to fight. To spite Ashley, Scarlett marries an extra from Central Casting, who conveniently goes off to fight and immediately dies. Rhett Butler shows up to escort Scarlett and Melanie to a doctor because Melanie is about to have Ashley’s baby, but Rhett ignores the GPS in his buckboard and drives them straight through downtown Atlanta, which is on fire.

War! Good God, y’all, what IS it good for?
FULL DISCLOSURE: The “Burning of Atlanta” scene always makes me cry. Not, mind you, because of the many casualties or the sheer heartlessness of war. My tears are much more personal. As anyone who has ever read a movie trivia book can tell you, one of the things ablaze in GWTW’s impressive “Burning of Atlanta” scene is the Skull Island Wall from the original King Kong, evidently sold for scrap by RKO Radio Pictures. This makes me cry because if the Skull Island Wall from King Kong had not been burned to cinders for Gone With The Wind, it would be in my backyard right now.

But I digress.  After the South (spoiler alert!) LOSES the Civil War, Scarlett returns to the family mansion, Tara, which is an empty husk of its former self, and to her father, who is an empty husk of his former self. Starving, she digs up a turnip, eats it, and declares, “As God is my witness, they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this, and when it's all over, I'll never grow turnips again.” It is a very inspiring line for the audience to hear because that line signals the intermission.

Scarlett marries Rhett (he loves her and is rich). Though she does not really love him, somehow, they have a daughter together. The daughter meets a tragic end. I will not say how, but trust me: if your daughter wants a pony for Christmas, SAY NO. Rhett suddenly realizes that Scarlett will never love him. I could have told him that little piece of news three hours and fifty-eight minutes earlier.

In probably the most famous closing line in motion picture history, Rhett leaves Tara forever and tells Scarlett, “Frankly my dear, fuck that shit.”

That is pretty much it. The movie is four hours long.

Scarlett O’Hara says, “Fiddle-dee-dee!” a lot. Is that supposed to be cute? Is that something people actually used to say? Is that meant to be sexy? If Scarlett O’Hara really wanted to be sexy, she would say, “I am going to make you a grilled cheese sandwich and then teach you the REAL meaning of ‘way down south.’”

In the opening scenes at Tara, George Reeves makes an appearance, playing the character of Brent Tarleton. George Reeves would later become very famous on the television, playing Superman. This got me to thinking… If the South had had Superman fighting on its side, would it have won the Civil War? Would that fact really change Ken Burns’ documentary all that much? Who would win in a fair fight: Superman or all of the newly freed slaves? I think the secret would be for the newly freed slaves to not stand in a circle and attack Superman one guy at a time, but to really gang up on Superman and use the combined strength of thousands of newly freed slaves to jam some Kryptonite up the Man of Steel’s caboose.

I have read that in real life, Vivian Leigh, who plays the title character of “The Wind,” was a nymphomaniac. If that rumor and another rumor are true -- that her real-life husband, Laurence Olivier, was a closeted homosexual -- she would be one of the saddest “beards” in history. This got me to thinking… If it is true that Olivier’s secret gay lover was indeed funnyman Danny Kaye, did Olivier and Kaye ever engage in a ménage a trois with Kaye’s occasional co-star Bing Crosby? If so, could “White Christmas” be their euphemism for a love that knows no season?

I have also read that Clark Gable, who plays the title role of “Gone,” had false teeth and killer halitosis. This got me to thinking… that little moustache that Gable always wore must have smelled pretty ripe. And Gable’s wife, Carole Lombard -- did she really die in that plane crash or was she just using that as an excuse? Could Clark Gable’s stinky ’stache have driven Carole Lombard to FAKE HER OWN DEATH?

I do know that our own Patrick Bromley has not yet seen this classic film, so here are some scenes he can look forward to seeing once he actually gets around to screening the film: 1) the scene where all those scary Civil War soldier zombies rise from their graves and perform a big musical number; 2) the scene where costars Olivia de Havilland and Hattie McDaniel discuss radical feminism over a traditional Southern breakfast; 3) the thrilling, pulls-out-all-the-stops Kung Fu battle between Clark Gable and a stripped-to-the-waist Ulysses S. Grant; 4) the tender moment when Leslie Howard shoots Ol’ Yeller, and 5) the scene where Clark Gable comes upon the Statue of Liberty and realizes that, all this time, he has been ON EARTH.

You can see why so many people call this movie a classic! They do not make them like this anymore!

Gone With The Wind is a grand soap opera for people who love wearing window curtains as ball gowns and shooting people in the face. Yes, I’m looking at you, Dick Cheney.

People love Gone With The Wind, but it is rather long -- and it stole the Oscar from The Wizard of Oz in 1939. Victor Fleming directed BOTH FILMS.


  1. Was that some sh*tfaced director's cut that only you guys know about or what?

  2. Just curious, but didn't the Statue of Liberty arrive to the States in 1886 from France (quite a few years after the events in "GWTW")? What the heck was Gable time-traveling about to be able to come and see the remains of the statue before it was even erected? DOES NOT COMPUTE, DOES NOT COMPUTE, DOES NOT... :-)

    I just got the Blu-ray of "GWTW" (under $10 for just the movie and the commentary; the extras I can still go back to my 4-disc DVD release from 2004 for). My mother dragged me to see this in a theater in El Salvador when I was like 5 or 6 years old. The only thing that could make a four-hour epic without cartoons or martians feel even more endless for a kid my age back then was to have to read-along the dialogue in Spanish subtitles (joy!).

    Alas, that experience didn't scar me from the movie like others did (puke..."Altered States"... ugh!) and the handful of times I've seen it since as an adult I've enjoyed it more and more. Rhett (!) Butler is such a pimp; the movie literally comes alive whenever Gable is on-screen, which in a four-hour movie is a surprisingly low amount (it is Scarlett's story after all). Personally casting Leslie Howard as Ashley is the movie's biggest crime of all, IMHO. The character (more than the actor but still) has less appeal than a wet piece of cardboard on an interstate highway, leading one to constantly question Scarlett's judgement until way too deep into the narrative to not affect it.

    For all the wrong things it does and say about culture and Hollywood in its golden pre-war period though, the scope and ambition of "GWTW" ultimately win me over. It is a spectacle like today's summer blockbusters or the fall Oscar bait prestige pics, and approached as such (the 'look what we can do with all our money/skills/actors' dick-measuring contest winner between studios of 1939) "GWTW" to me delivers the goods, big time.

    It's what most people remember David O. Selznick for (it was his baby), but to me Selznick's post-"GWTW" work ("Rebecca," "The Third Man," etc.; plus, had Selznick not loaned Hitchcock and Ingrid Bergman to RKO, "Notorious" would be a much different picture) is where the cat's meow lies. And the success of "GWTW" paved the way for Selznick's quasi-independence to finance and get those projects off the ground. Yet another reason (an indirect one) to appreciate "GWTW."

  3. One of your funniest dumps yet JB. I totally agree with your strategy on how to use slaves to defeat Superman, but I think you just spoiled the ending of Django Unchained.

    I watched GWTW for the first time a few months ago and I found a lot to like about it (the Fiddle-dee-dee shit got pretty grating though) and I assume the whole "Frankly, me dear..." line was the best stand-up-and-cheer moment in cinematic history until the first Death Star explosion, because man, that really worked for me.

  4. I don't like Gone with the Wind at all. Reading this review was like watching a David Lynch film. What am I looking at??? Needless to say, I love it.