the Wind (1939)
Victor Fleming's Gone with the Wind is a dire, uninteresting melodrama that hardly deserves the praise it so often receives.
Narratively, Gone with the Wind is an interminable, histrionic soap opera. The story revolves around Scarlett O'Hara's various trials, loves, schemes, marriages, and the like. It never manages to lift itself from this melodramatic material and remains a trivial account of a conniving, uninteresting woman.
Besides such faults, many viewers will likely be troubled by some of the film's prominent themes. Gone with the Wind exudes nostalgia for the elegant days of the antebellum South. Life among wealthy planters is shown to be chivalrous, graceful, honorable, and courteous, and the black slaves owned by these persons are presented as toiling contentedly under their kindly masters. Moreover, everyone throughout the South is, apparently, happy to enjoy of the benefits of knowing his or her place in society, at least until the invasions of the cruel and savage Northerners disrupt this idyllic world and fill it with suffering, poverty, and anarchy. Fortunately, the viewer is reassured when he sees how resilient Southern aristocrats are able to reassert their authority and bring back a semblance of the natural order.
Characterizations of blacks throughout the film follow from these perspectives. Mammy, Scarlett's loyal black servant, for example, is contented with her lot and is portrayed positively, while those less pleased with their status are not shown in as sympathetic a light. Such pervasive and imbedded racist sentiments, and the film makers' nostalgia for a time when some men owned others, will, very probably, be deeply disturbing for many viewers and a constantly reoccurring obstacle to their enjoyment of the movie.
Lavish, if uninspired, burdened with racism and misguided nostalgia, and consisting narratively of nothing more than trivial but overblown incidents, Gone with the Wind does not merit the praise it frequently receives.
Review by Keith Allen
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