An Analysis of the film Gone With the Wind
Catherine M. Piraino
ENG 225 INRO TO FILM
December 17, 2012
An Analysis of the film Gone with the Wind
Rarely has a film impacted an audience and held the test of time as the film Gone with the Wind. I have always been curious if director, Victor Fleming and producer, David O. Selznick and screenplay writer, Sidney Howard knew what they were creating a masterpiece and how this film would have such an enormous impact on audiences for years to come. Interestingly enough there were some who thought the film should not be made, as Irving Thalberg said to Louis B. Meyer in 1936, “Forget it Louis, no Civil War picture ever made a nickel” (Ten Films that Shook the World). This romantic melodrama was released in January, 1940, yet it was at the 1939 Academy Awards that Gone with the Wind was nominated for thirteen awards, the eight awards that were won were Best Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actress, Screenplay, Color Cinematography, Art Direction, and Editing (Ten Films that Shook the World). ”If the total income for Gone with the Wind were to be adjusted for inflation, it would be considered the most successful of all time” (Ten Films that Shook the World). When you think of “Gone with the Wind” from a film criticism standpoint, it’s hard to judge it by the Auteur Theory, which states that the director is supreme overlord of a films artistic merit because in the case of Gone with the Wind, Fleming takes a back seat to Selznick. The film chronicles the grandeur and splendor of the Old South, how it crumbles during the Civil War and the New South during reconstruction. The characters are basically simple folk living a simple life until their world is shattered by the Civil War and this devastation creates a new world, one which will require courage and resilience to survive. Selznick genius in the aspects of cinematography lighting, sound, costumes and societal impact and genre have ranked Gone with the Wind one of the best because this film arouses tears, laughter, terror, nostalgia, and/or mystery in a truly personal way.
We become acquainted with the protagonists, Scarlett O’Hara, who was played by Vivian Leigh, a narcissistic, flirtatious yet enticing southern belle in the opening scene of the movie. Gerald O’Hara (Scarlett’s father), played by Thomas Mitchell is strong-headed Irishman, who has a strong love of the land. Scarlett’s mother, Ellen O’Hara, played by Barbara O’Neil, a mainstream southern wife and mother who manages the plantation and family while adhering to the pretense that Gerald O’Hara oversees its operation. Melanie Hamilton, played by Olivia de Havilland and Ashley Wilkes, played by Leslie Howard are presented as they leisurely walk the grounds of Twelve Oaks where their engagement will be announced at the barbecue of the season. Ashley and Melanie personify the old south, honorable and gentile, however after the war Ashley is unable to adjust to the post-Civil War life, whereas Melanie adapts to the new challenges with dignity and inner strength. As the first scene opens, Mammy, the plump childhood slave nurse to Scarlett and her sisters, is bellowing to Scarlett that she has less manners than a field hand and that she will catch a chill going out in the night air without her shawl as she scurries to meet her father who is on his way home from the Wilkes’s where he has been catching up on the news of the barbecue of the season, the following day at Twelve Oaks. Mammy portrays a typical loyal house slave and continues throughout the film to keep Scarlett in line. Two other slave characters we encounter are Prissy and Big Sam. Big Sam is the foreman at Tara until he leaves to join the war. Prissy is a half-witted and slothful young slave who is predisposed to fabrications.
“Gone with the Wind marked the second use in Technicolor film of the matte process in which painted backgrounds are blended with...
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