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USA 1939
Directed by
Victor Fleming
222 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

Gone With The Wind

Initially directed by George Cukor, producer David O. Selznick replaced him after three weeks with Fleming, pulling him off the set of The Wizard of Oz. Fleming had a nervous breakdown ten weeks later and Sam Wood stepped in as replacement and, eventually, co-director. A score of writers including Ben Hecht and F. Scott Fitzgerald worked on the adaptation of the hugely successful Margaret Mitchell Civil War novel (principal writer Sidney Howard died in a car accident before its release) and, of course, the talk of the day was the hunt for the actress to play Scarlett O'Hara. The part went to newcomer Vivien Leigh whilst established heart-throb Clark Gable took the Rhett Butler role after Gary Cooper turned it down

Whilst there are some technical limitations such as the back-projected scenes during the Seige of Georgia section, pound for pound the film holds up against any epic historical romance blockbuster made since. Rhett's debonair machismo and Scarlett's coquettish scheming may be the stuff of pure cinematic fantasy and the benign portrayal of slavery fall well short of historical accuracy demanded today but the film is still an extraordinary achievement particularly when the production date, a mere decade after the advent of sound movies and long before computer graphics, is taken into consideration. Divided into two halves of roughly equal length, the first part of the film is the more successful, the second half relinquishing the historical panorama to concentrate on Rhett and Scarlett's turbulent relationship.

As much as this is floridly melodramatic, the characterisation is strong, the dialogue telling and the performances excellent all round.  A troubled production that cost $4.5 million, at the time a huge amount,  it has well and truly re-paid the investment.

FYI: Selznick tried to reproduce his success some years later with Duel In The Sun

 

 

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