"Death of a Nation"
With an enhanced Technicolor print and a re-mastered digital soundtrack, GONE WITH THE WIND will be re-released in specially selected theaters, a year short of its 60th anniversary. An American masterpiece, this evergreen giant will forever reign as the king of Hollywood productions. Scarlett O'Hara gains husbands and money, but not happiness as her lifestyle crumbles around her. Not only does this movie feature some of the most intricate plotting and masterful acting ever portrayed on screen, it documents America's greatest tragedy, the Civil War.
With an enhanced Technicolor print and a re-mastered digital soundtrack, GONE WITH THE WIND will be re-released this summer in specially selected theaters, a year short of its 60th anniversary. As classic an American tale as they come, this evergreen giant will forever reign as the king of Hollywood productions. Not only does it feature some of the most intricate plotting and masterful acting ever portrayed on screen, it documents America’s greatest tragedy, the Civil War. Incomparable in scope and depth, it traverses nearly the entire range of the human condition.
The story remains the same, and no explanation is necessary for most Americans, but for young people and those unfamiliar with this tale by Margaret Mitchell, here is a brief summary. The story opens in the deep south just prior to the Civil War. Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) flirts with two twin brothers over which of the two attracts her the most, thus setting a lasting impression in the mind of the audience that this is a woman who trifles with men’s hearts. Belonging to a family of some wealth, the main love of her life is Tara, her antebellum home. Her father, Gerald O’Hara (Thomas Mitchell) grows cotton and keeps loyal slaves, including Mammy (Hattie McDaniel) and Prissy (Butterfly McQueen). Secretly, Scarlett loves an equally wealthy neighbor, Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard), but Ashley is betrothed to his benevolent and kind cousin, Melanie (Olivia DeHavilland).
At a barbecue held at the Wilkes home, Scarlett flirts with all the boys. There she meets the dashing Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), a scoundrel who tells the Southern gentlemen that the North will win at war. Ashley goes off to fight, but Scarlett marries Ashley’s brother to spite him. Ashley’s brother dies, and Scarlett goes into forced morning. At a dance, Rhett dances with Scarlett, astonishing everyone. Scarlett goes to visit her Aunt Pittypat in Atlanta, and Atlanta is attacked just as Melanie is about to give birth. Scarlett and Prissy have to deliver the baby alone. Rhett finally comes to the rescue with a carriage and whisks them away as Atlanta burns.
Scarlett, Melanie, Prissy, and Melanie’s baby return to Tara to find Scarlett’s mother dead. Tara has been ransacked and left without any food. Scarlett goes to the garden to find a vegetable to eat, but when she tries to eat, she vomits and says, “As God as my witness, I’ll never go hungry again.”
The second half of the movie shows Scarlett picking cotton at Tara, while her father has gone half crazy. A lone Yankee soldier comes to raid Tara, but Scarlett shoots him down with a gun that Rhett gave her. When Scarlett discovers that the Yankees are imposing a $300 tax on Tara, she goes to Atlanta to visit Rhett, but he won’t give her the money. Instead, she cozies up to a former neighbor who is now running a successful business, Frank Kennedy (Caroll Nye). Of course, Scarlett doesn’t love Frank, but “she’ll never go hungry again.”
One night, Rhett, Frank and Ashley raid a Yankee encampment. Rhett comes back to Scarlett and tells her that Frank is dead. Rhett then proposes to her. They marry, and, for a moment, Rhett is able to keep Scarlett’s attention. However, after they have a baby, Scarlett refuses to sleep with Rhett again. Rhett takes their young daughter to England, but finally returns home. Happiness almost seems in their grasp when their daughter dies in a pony riding accident. The tragedy drives Rhett and Scarlett further apart. One night, Rhett gets drunk and takes Scarlett upstairs to have his way with her.
Melanie becomes fatally ill, and Rhett thinks that now Scarlett can fully love Ashley, but he’s wrong – Scarlett’s passion for Ashley is gone. Rhett refuses to stay with Scarlett, however, leaving her with his infamous “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” speech. Not knowing how to get him back or where to go, Scarlett remembers her beloved Tara, decides to return there and exclaims, “Tomorrow is another day.”
Many books have been written about the making of this epic movie. Other books have discussed the social implications of the movie. But, what about the moral issues in this movie?
Scarlett O’Hara is one of the most memorable and notorious screen characters of all time. Her insincerity, flirting and cold-heartedness stand out as the defining qualities of her character. For these, she is a dangerous role model, but one can learn important lessons from her waywardness. The most important one is that sin does not pay. Throughout the film, Scarlett is not happy. Though she tries to fill the void in her heart with men and money, she is never completely satisfied. In the end, she loses both Rhett and Melanie, the two biggest supports in her life. Scarlett O’Hara thus stands as a cautionary tale for all young women who would follow in her footsteps.
Two memorable lines in GONE WITH THE WIND help define this arc in Scarlett’s morality tale. The first is the statement Scarlett makes at Tara, “As God is my witness, I’ll never go hungry again.” The whole second half of the movie therefore is basically about how Scarlett will marry, connive and steal her way to wealth. Her philosophy is basically “do whatever you have to do to get ahead,” but the movie shows the audience that this philosophy doesn’t produce happiness for her. The second line is what Scarlett remembers her father saying, “Land is the only thing that lasts.” Scarlett’s father, however, loses his mind. Thus, land may indeed last, but our claim to it may not. As Jesus Himself said in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
The majority of the other characters in this classic movie are sincere, loving and good-hearted. Rhett, despite his reputation, loves Scarlett and desires a family with her. Mammy stands as the voice of reason to Scarlett, a conscience who also prays and reads the Bible. Her loyalty to the O’Hara family is also admirable, staying with Mr. O’Hara even after the war is over and he goes insane.
Perhaps one of the greatest screen characters embodying selflessness and grace is Olivia DeHavilland’s Melanie. Throughout the movie, she has cause to hate Scarlett for loving her husband, Ashley, but she does not. In fact, when Rhett forces Scarlett to dress lasciviously, Melanie accepts her without judgment and without scorn. In fact, on her dying breath, Melanie tells Scarlett to take care of Ashley and to love Rhett.
GONE WITH THE WIND remains a great morality tale. It reminds the discerning that, when one’s anchors are not fixed on God, one’s lives are as unstable as the shifting sand. It also shows some very troubling realities in a very reserved and dignified matter. It exposes the audience to death, childbirth, war, and more with great tact and skill. It is a movie that deserves another viewing on the big screen.
(CC, Ro, Pa, L, V, S, AA, D, M) Christian worldview including prayer, scripture reading & family with strong romantic & pagan elements; one mild obscenity; mild war violence, woman slaps man, man slaps women, robber shot dead, & city burns & falls; implied prostitution, sexual innuendo & extensive flirting; no nudity; alcohol use & drunkenness; smoking; and, miscellaneous immorality including lying, insincere expressions of love, slavery, name calling, some superstitious attitudes, & insanity.