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With: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, Hattie McDaniel, Butterfly McQueen
Written by: Sidney Howard, from the novel by Margaret Mitchell (with uncredited help from Ben Hecht and others)
Directed by: Victor Fleming, George Cukor (uncredited), Sam Wood (uncredited)
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 238
Date: 12/15/1939

Gone with the Wind (1939)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Swept Away

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A new Technicolor print of Gone with the Wind opens today at the refurbished Metro Theater. And, whether you're a fan or not, you may ask why. Released in 1939, the film's 60th Anniversary isn't until next year. It's possible that Titanic may be approaching Gone with the Wind's amazing, unstoppable, all-time box office record, and that the release is timed to protect that record. Or maybe New Line Cinema was counting on Gone with the Wind placing on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 Greatest American Movies of all Time, which it did, at number 4 (after The Godfather, Casablanca, and Citizen Kane). Or maybe it's just because it was time to bring out a really good movie for a change and show 'em how it's done.

Gone with the Wind is always an event and seeing it in a movie theater definitely enhances the experience. It makes you realize how hokey Titanic is in comparison. It's a great soap opera, set against a great event, while Titanic is a mediocre soap opera set against a great event. Both stories are love triangles, but Gone with the Wind's is more complex and tragic. It doesn't rely on one-dimensional stock villains to force the audience's sympathies to one side. It's characters are flawed and wretched in their own small ways, but you love them all the more for it.

The Gone with the Wind characters slowly command your respect during the course of the 222 minute film. They are more than the sum of their flaws. Vivien Leigh stars as Scarlett O'Hara, the top choice out of 1,400 possible candidates. Leigh never had another role as good. In Gone with the Wind, she is fiery, stubborn, beautiful, and selfish, and she won a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal. Rhett Butler is played by Clark Gable, a mustached, cocky, manly actor, whose grin often sent women's knees shaking. Although Scarlett is the center of the film, Gable's intensity matches Leigh's. His ego seems to be competing with hers, physically wrestling hers on the screen. Normally, I don't care for either of these actors, but here their energy and passion rise up to meet the gigantic film. The supporting characters are lovely, too, especially Oscar winner Hattie McDaniel as Scarlett's Mammy. She steals every scene she's in with her explosive line readings, and her compassion.

The film is credited to director Victor Fleming, who replaced George Cukor (The Philadelphia Story). Cukor was known as a "women's director," and Gable didn't want to be associated with him. When Fleming later fell ill, Sam Wood (A Night at the Opera) was brought in. Both Wood and Fleming were company men, nine-to-five workhorses. If not for them, the film would probably still be shooting today. But the real brains of the movie was genius and madman producer David O. Selznick, who dared to dream the whole thing into existence. It was Selznick who ordered bigger sets, more extras, brighter colors, and heart-pounding music to fill the screen.

People not used to seeing pre-1950s movies on the big screen might think they're getting gypped when they see the square-shaped screen. Gone with the Wind is not a widescreen movie. The screen is shaped in the same aspect ratio as a TV screen. When TV made its debut in the 1950's, the shape was copied from movies like Gone with the Wind, and the movies became wider afterwards to compete. In Gone with the Wind, you're seeing everything you were meant to see. Another note: Like many Broadway shows, the movie has an "overture" at the beginning represented by a few minutes of music over a black screen. Don't panic; nothing is broken, and the film will start shortly.

Seeing Gone with the Wind in the theater will be an experience you'll remember all your life. It's the kind of movie that simply turns a movie reviewer's brain off. You get swept up in the majesty, the grandeur, the history, and the emotion. It's not a technical masterpiece (it's no Citizen Kane), but it's a great story, well-told. This is movie magic in solid form.

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