Thursday, July 5, 2012

Gone With the Wind Review

"Great balls of fire.  Don't bother me anymore, and don't call me sugar."
~Scarlett O'Hara, Gone With the Wind

Some people love it.  Some people hate it.

Some people adore the book and disdain the movie.  Some people are enraptured by the movie, but scorn the book.  Some hate both.  Some love both.

And some are like me, a one-legged man with a foot in both camps.  (Sorry, can't resist the Treasure Island reference.)

I'm talking about Gone With The Wind here.  I read it last December in eight days... because I couldn't put it down. I devoured it in great big gulps, chapters and chapters at a time, and when I was finished I still couldn't decide if I liked it or not.  I had a foot in both camps, so to speak.  A few weeks ago I saw the movie with my grandmother (it's so long, we had to split it over two evenings) and... dare I say it?... I actually liked it.

Now, it is a truth universally acknowledged that in the small circle of blogs I read, GWTW isn't much of a favorite.  And I can understand why.  But hey, I'm here to give my opinion on this blog, and if it's a different opinion than most... well, so be it.

Perhaps it would help if I employed a little Tevye-
I wish snoods would come back in fashion.
ness here.  On the one hand, I pretty much hate the main character.  (And this is a big downside for me, because the characters are always my favorite element of a story.) Scarlett is vain, selfish, manipulative, malicious, conceited and severely lacking in morals.  On the other hand, she fascinated me-- in a sort of disbelieving way.  I couldn't put the book down because I wanted to find out what happened to her and if she would get her just deserts.  (Random side note: is anyone else always tempted to type that as "just desserts"?  But I don't want Scarlett to have desserts.  She doesn't deserve desserts.  So never mind.)  On the one hand, there were very few likable characters in the story-- Scarlett wasn't the only brat.  On the other hand, there were two exceedingly likable characters in the story, and I'm not going to tell you who they are yet because I want you to read this all the way to the end.

On the one hand, the plot was depressing.  Nobody, but nobody, ended up happy, and though I know perfectly well that real life doesn't always give you happy endings, I would have liked to see at least a little bit of hope at the end.  (Scarlett's going back to Tara doesn't count.  What with all the damage done to that house, I bet she fell through the floor as soon as she stepped inside.  Too bad, so sad.)  But on the other hand, the story was amazingly well-written.  I can see why the book is a classic.  Sure, it was immense, but I have a thing for big thick books.  Every page was interesting, and though I'm often guilty of skipping the boring parts (ahem, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, ahem) I skipped nothing in GWTW.

But this review was supposed to be about the movie, not the book, so I'm going to stop blathering about the book and pursue the work necessary to reign victorious over the Huns.  Er, that is, let's get down to business.

Is it just me or does Vivien Leigh strikingly resemble Elizabeth Taylor?
It's just me? ... Okay, then.
Like I said, Scarlett annoys me excessively.  Now, I'm no advocate for the pristine-perfect heroine who never does anything wrong--that kind of girl is annoying too--but Scarlett was just plain awful.  You know that feeling when a movie character does something exasperating and you just want to slam your fist into the air and do your best imitation of Mr. Knightley's "ERMMMMMM"?  Yeah, that was me every time Scarlett appeared on the screen.  In fact, "I've always thought a good lashing with a buggy whip would benefit her immensely."

All right, all right.  Fine.  She did have her good points.  For instance, she didn't let herself get bowed down by all the troubles that came to Tara when she got back home after Atlanta burned.  Even though most of what befell her throughout the story was her own fault, she at least can't be blamed for the ravages of war.  And she did handle everything admirably, though not exactly as kindly as she might have.  But what annoyed me most about Scarlett's pluckiness was the fact that she could so easily switch back and forth from Wonder Woman to Wimpy Whiner.  If I had a nickel for every time she moaned, "Oh, Rhett," or "Oh, Ashley," I would be able to retire before I turn forty.

Ugh, that CRAVAT.  My eyes are burning.
Just imagine what Sir Percy would say.
Now as to Rhett Butler.... sheesh.  I'm afraid I may be treading on thin ground here, for no matter what I say, I'm going to offend somebody.  I know there are those who think he's the best hero since anybody (to which I say "psssshhhhh--Mr. Knightley and Sir Percy, ladies"). I know there are also those who can't stand the sight of his face or the mention of his name (to which I say "Rhett Butler, Rhett Butler" and watch in glee as they throw things in great vexation).

As for me, I intensely dislike the swaggering snob ("you, sir, are no gentleman"), but I can't help feeling tremendously sorry for him, especially in the second half of the movie.  (Ironically enough, what little empathy I felt toward Scarlett was much more pronounced in the beginning of the movie and had completely disappeared by the end.)  His morals are pretty much nonexistent, his cynicism depressing, and frankly my dear, I don't care what happens to him.  But I did feel bad when SPOILER ALERT Bonnie died and he felt so bad over it END OF SPOILER.  And I admired him just a weensy teensy bit when he decided to go join the Confederate Army's death gasp.  But then he and Scarlett did their embarrassing kissy thing and my weensy teensy admiration went pffffffffft.  The only thing I'm afraid of, in fact, is that they won't hang him fast enough to pay the taxes on Tara.

"And you ain't goin' over to Mr. John Wilkenson's to eat like a field hand and gobble like a hog!"

Mammy, however, was another story.  I loved Mammy.  Yes, her character was a bit extremely stereotypical.  No, I'm not endorsing racism.  But neither am I going to launch into a politically correct  about how horrible MGM is for portraying Mammy as uneducated  and la-di-da-di-da.  Because today I am here to poke fun at pretty much everything in GWTW except Mammy and one other character.  And I liked Mammy, and I will talk about her in the way that I see fit because it's my blog.  *steps off soapbox*

Mammy (what is her name?  Does she even have one?) is one of those characters who speaks her mind and tells you what's what.  There were quite a few times when I squealed at the TV screen, "You tell her, Mammy!" when Scarlett was being particularly dreadful (what else is new...) and Mammy was telling her off.  I was muchly pleased by these scenes. "What gentlemen says and what they thinks is two different things, and I ain't noticed Mr. Ashley askin' for to marry you." 

I.  Love.  This.  Dress.

Then there was Melanie, my hands-down favorite character in both the book AND movie, the sweetest person in the whole story and one of the very few who deserved a happy ending.  And, naturally, she SPOILER ALERT didn't live till the end of the movie END OF SPOILER.  Margaret Mitchell, Margaret Mitchell, you sure had it in for the nice people, didn't you?


I'd better say right up front that anyone who says anything against Melanie Hamilton Wilkes is going to feel the power of my wrath.  She is not wishy-washy, she is not saccharine and she is not perfect.  Her Jane-Bennet-ish tendencies cause her to think well of just about everyone (even Scarlett...) but hey, that's not a bad thing.  This world needs more Melanies and fewer Rhetts, IMHO.  And I have to admit it's pretty funny when Scarlett's being selfish and Melanie sees nothing but selflessness.  "Oh, Scarlett, you're so sweet to worry about Ashley like this for me..."

The scene pictured on the right may be my very favorite in the whole movie.  It's Melanie at her best, and I may or may not have cheered out loud while reading it in the book.  (Oops, there I go with the book again...)  My only complaint was that in the book (hush, I'll talk about the book if I want to, it's my review) Melanie was reading aloud to everyone from Les Miserables, and in the movie she read from David Copperfield.  Now, I like David Copperfield and all, but they could have easily left in my beloved Les Miz.

Melanie was an absolute trooper in that scene.  I dare anyone to call her a wimp.  The way she stood up to the Union officers and told Rhett off (yay!) and gave Ashley disapproving looks (DOUBLE YAY!) and scolded everybody was a sight for sore eyes.  "If you arrest all the men who get intoxicated in Atlanta, you must have a good many Yankees in jail, Captain. Bring him in, Captain Butler, if you can walk yourself!"

Yep, I love Melanie.
And someone as sweet and lovely and all-around awesome as Melanie is did not deserve to marry a complete wuss like Ashley Wilkes.  I loathe and despise and detest Ashley Wilkes.  But I'll save my ranting about him for another post and move straight on to other characters.

I was a little disappointed that Careen and Suellen O'Hara didn't get more screen time, but I suppose the directors didn't want to waste any of their three hours and fifty-three minutes on lesser characters.  Aunt Pittypat Hamilton also didn't have quite as many swooning scenes as I would have liked, but hey, at least she was included.  Let's just have a moment of silence, shall we, for the dear dead days gone by in which movie producers actually followed the books and included all the characters that the author created.  


I liked Gerald and Ellen O'Hara tremendously, but found it pretty amusing that they were credited first.  They aren't that important.   Maybe it had something to do with them being the guiding hands behind Scarlett's bringing-up?  In that case they should be listed as the villains.  Obviously they did not do a good job in raising their eldest daughter.

I jest, I jest.  I liked Gerald and Ellen.  Really, I did.  And I actually came this close to crying when Ellen died.  (That's not a spoiler-worthy statement, right?  I mean, it happens early enough...)

I love India's dress, but I can't stand Melanie's.
Extremely unflattering.  Melanie deserves better.

India Wilkes, Ashley's sister, is presented as being a bit of a villainess (at least from what I've read on the subject, which is very little) but I found myself liking her. Maybe we were just united in our dislike of Scarlett, or maybe it was the fact that I admired India's clothes.  Her barbecue dress was so lovely-- and that line of hers at the barbecue was so apropos.  "I can't stand that Scarlett O'Hara.  If you'd see the way she throws herself at Ashley!"  Yeah, you tell them, India.


How on earth is anyone supposed to even tell the Tarleton twins apart?  Obviously the actors aren't really identical twins, nor do they look so, but the fact that they're dressed in matching outfits makes things difficult.  Aren't they a little old to be doing the whole two-peas-in-a-pod thing?  Oh, well, we'll just use the gloves on the right-hand dude as a means of telling them apart.  (And very ugly yellow gloves they are, too.)  Wonder why the other twin isn't wearing gloves?  Maybe he spoilt them with lemonade.  In that case each of them should be wearing one good glove and carrying a bad one.  Elegant or die, you know.

I felt rather bad for Charles Hamilton and Frank Kennedy.   (They should have moved out West and joined the ranks of Dead First and Second Husbands in the Love Comes Softly books.)  Neither of them were necessarily the sharpest things in the place where they keep the sharp things, but that doesn't mean they should have ended up with Scarlett.

Lest you begin to think that I hated this movie, I must quickly set your mind at rest.  I didn't hate it.  Not at all.  I didn't love it, either, but I did like it.  The first half was infinitely better than the second, if only for the fact that all the excitement occurred in the first half.  The first half contained the barbecue at Twelve Oaks (loved that part! All those bee-yoo-tee-full clothes!), the Christmas bazaar, the arrival of the Confederate soldiers in Atlanta and the burning of Atlanta.  Call me morbid and dreadful if you like, but I really enjoyed the burning-of-Atlanta scenes.  They were thrilling and exciting and awe-inspiring.  These were the days before CGI--all those flames were real.

The second half of the film revolved around Scarlett bossing people, Scarlett chasing after Ashley, Scarlett whining for money, Scarlett getting married, Scarlett bossing people, Scarlett whining because her husband was dead, Scarlett getting married, Scarlett bossing people, Scarlett chasing after Ashley and finally Scarlett chasing after Rhett.

Really, Rhett is the only person who deserved Scarlett, and she was the only person who deserved him.  And yet in the end the story leaves us hanging-- did they ever get back together?  I'm inclined to think that they didn't... because I don't really want them to have a happy ending.   Not that they necessarily would have been happy if they had gotten back together, of course.   They might have had some fun being selfish together, but ultimately they probably would have broken up again and gone their separate ways to make someone else's life miserable.

As for me, I say fiddle-dee-dee to them and their kind.  And don't call me sugar.  I'm not feeling too sugary right now.  Although I must say, it certainly is fun to write a rather biting movie review for a change.  I'd give GWTW five out of ten.  As to whether I'd want to watch it again... well, tomorrow is another day.

18 comments:

Alexandra said...

Ok, so if Leslie Howard played Percy, as we know...he should have warned Rhett about that cravat. Yeah.

So I haven't seen/read this, which is horrifying, really. I wanna see this very much mucho badly, just because I kinda feel obligated to see it, being a classic and all. Kinda like I'm finally remedying (is that a word?) the fact that I haven't seen the Wizard of Oz since I was three.

Anyway. Take that back, I have seen like, three scenes of GWTW. So yeah. And I know all about the story and plot and characters and whatnot. I grew up in the South, you know. So it's like, major pop culture there. Also probably why I feel so obligated to see it.

Did you know Shirley Temple was supposed to be Bonnie? That would be just too sad. Random.

I lol'd through your whole thing...especially the LCS reference. HAHAAHHAHAHA.

Thoroughly enjoyed the review, dearie! :)

Katherine Sophia said...

This review made me laugh so hard! I actually haven't seen GWTW since I was studying the Civil War in school, and I actually only saw the first half (I think my mom would quite agree with your one paragraph summary of the second half), but your comments were absolutely hilarious. :D

And I always want to write just desserts. It's awful. :P

I love your blog! :)

GreenMedallion said...

To tell the truth, I can't stand Gone With the Wind. I think the problem is that I simply can't root for Scarlett - and it's very hard for me to get into stories where I can't even root for the main character. She drives me nuts! Haha. Rhett, on the other hand -- I actually like Rhett. Yeah, he's certainly not perfect, and he can be a bit arrogant and annoying at times, but I liked him for his better qualities: his adoration for his daughter, his appreciation of Mammy, and his respect for Melanie. Speaking of Melanie... I love her!!! I think she's the only character in the whole movie that I actually rooted on and wanted a truly happy ending for... (which, as you pointed out, she didn't get. Wahhh). And yeah, Ashley was a whimp. Why couldn't he have just told Scarlett that it couldn't work between them, instead of being so vague, and kind of leading her on? I mean, c'mon, dude, have some backbone!
Annnnyway, I remember the first time I watched Gone With the Wind, I felt very depressed after the ending. Haha. I have trouble with movies with sad endings... I'm a "happily ever after" type person, so if a movie has anything less than that, it takes me a while to get over it.
I'm glad you enjoyed it, though! And yay for another Melanie fan!

deryn joy said...

I am so happy to know that you don't like ashley either!! I couldn't stand him and his awful character. I mean, he doesn't try to stop scarlett from liking him or anything and he's a wimp and...everything about him was lame-o. the only person I actually liked, ever, was melanie. she was IT. but I really enjoyed the book (welllllll, more than I thought I would) and my sister is bugging me to watch the movie. I don't know if I liked it THAT much.

Miss Melody Muffin said...

I haven't seen this yet, either. A couple of friends have and after what they had to say about it, I wasn't really sure I wanted to. I probably will see at least part of it someday, though. After all it IS a classic and all that.

Doesn't Olivia de Haviland play Melanie? I would watch it just for her!

Miss Dashwood said...

Ally,
Oh, please, darling, Leslie Howard may have played Percy, but that doesn't mean he knew the least little thing about how to properly wear a cravat. Only the great double A himself can in good conscience give cravat-wearing advice.
You should definitely see it. I think you'd enjoy it, honestly. It's a great film in and of itself-- I just don't happen to like most of the characters.
Heh, well, the girl who played Bonnie got on my nerves tremendously, although I didn't really have space to complain about her in this already-too-long review. And Shirley Temple is a pet peeve of mine. :D
Having finally read two of the LCS books, I now feel like I'm allowed to legitimately poke fun at them. :D

Katherine Sophia,
Thanks! My mom had me wait until I was sixteen to read the book, and then once I read it I definitely wanted to see the movie. Heehee, it might be nice if someone released a DVD of the first half only. :P

GreenMedallion,
Well, I can see where you're coming from as far as Rhett is concerned, but I just can't force myself to like him. Liking and pitying are two very different things, of course. And yes, great point about his respect for Melanie! He definitely treated her like a lady, because--shocker here--she actually WAS a lady. So, I'm very happy to meet another Melanie fan. :)
If you hate Ashley as much as I do, you'll appreciate my next post, I think. :D

Anonymous said...

Oh, my stars. I have a love-hate relationship with this movie. The costumes are gorgeous and the EPIC Burning of Atlanta scenes!!! But the characters and the story and the acting are just.... : P

It's your grandma's favorite movie?! Wow! Mine, too! Heehee - we watched it and she said, "Oh, my goodness did you watch it?! Isn't Rhett Butler just to DIE FOR?!" "Um.... *cough*... Uh...."

I enjoyed the movie because I, heehee, like watching people get their just desserts, too. (lol) My sister loves sewing and she says, "It's worth watching just to see Melanie and the costumes in action." To which I say, "I should infinitely prefer a book... or TSP."

Argh, that CRAVAT!! And Leslie Howard SHOULD have said something about it - he *was* Percy, after all, in The Lesser Version.

The *only* character I can stand is Melanie - and that scene you pointed out (besides the Burning of Atlanta scene...) is my absolute favorite. The first time we watched it, I was like, "Oh, ASHLEY! Uh, I mean...." (And they should have kept Les Miz in there....) Everyone acted SO well in that scene - especially Leslie Howard and Olivia deHaviland. Looove that scene.

Argh. Again, I have a love-hate relationship with that movie. Thanks for the biting review!!! I've really wanted to do a few of those.... : P

BASHING ASHLEY!!! YES!!!! I canNOT wait!!!!!! I'll be there with picketting signs and clubs!!! (If he weren't played by Leslie Howard, who, after seeing Pimpernel Smith, I greatly adore, I would hate him even more. His actor redeemed him... a little. : P)

Alexandra - I'd recommend it as a classic... but it's not something I'd watch over and over again. It's one of those movies you have to watch just to say that you watched it. : P

Eowyn

PS: Heehee... ever seen Carol Burnett's Went With the Wind? It's a GWtW spoof. VERY funny. Just don't eat or drink anything while you watch. (Don't say I didn't warn you.) Watch for Starlet's EPIC speech (WAAAAA!) and her curtain dress. (: P) Oh, and Rashley's "And as you know... that track is five miles long!" Ooh, and, "Look away!" "Look away?" "Look away.... Dixieland." My sister says this makes GWtW better. I agree.

Part One - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aRMZ4ePmMM

Melody said...

I hate this movie.

The end.

I couldn't even watch it all. But what I saw, I didn't like. And what I left the room on, I hated. :P

But Mousie, you must not say that about the Love Comes Softly books. It's the MOVIES that have the first-husband-always-dies thing. Change that, please. Right now. (Aren't I the bossy one?)

You and your Les Miz. :P And you're funny. One minute you're saying 'the costumes are the only good thing about the movie', and the next you're having Other Hands. :P

(Are you going to say "Well, that's not much of a comment, is it?" :P)

An Old-Fashioned Girl said...

Amy,
As a whole story ( the film and the book), I DO NOT like GWTW! I find it too melodramatic, especially in the scene when there's no doctor around, Melanie's having a baby, Prissy's wailing, and Atlanta's burning. Also, Scarlett is AWFUL, but Rhett is somewhat sympathetic because of his love for her and Bonnie ( I cried a ton when Bonnie died!). I love Melanie and Mammy- Melanie's precious and Mammy's a firecracker! The only reason I tolerate GWTW (the film) is because I have a crush on Leslie Howard, the first Sir Percy I ever saw. By the way, I read his biography written by his daughter, and she revealed that he loathed the character of Ashley, and only did the role because MGM made him do it!

Anonymous said...

Here is a better quality video of Went With The Wind - Hilarious!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IH6TBEbP77Q

Enjoy!
Eowyn

Scullery Maid said...

I have read the book twice, and I still don't know if I really like it.
One thing I would like to know is, is the depiction of the Yankees in the book accurate? I haven't seen the movie, but now I want to, if only for the costumes!
Is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea dull, then? Maybe I don't want to read it so much now.;) But I'll bet anything you like it isn't a quarter so boring as Moby Dick. Have you read Moby Dick? I don't recommend it. It has been a few years since I read it, but I seem to remember that at least 300 pages were about nothing. I jest not. At one point, I was skipping up to 30 pages at a time with a reasonable certainty that I wasn't missing anything. Sorry for the whale-trail, as you can see, I feel very strongly on this subject.;)
Loved the review!

Julia said...

Hi Amy!

I hate this movie... I watched it and immediately regretted wasting four hours of my life! :D LOL! I did like Melanie, everybody likes Melanie, but Scarlett and everybody else was just too awful for words.

Anywho. I really came by to say something else!

I found a delightful site that has all (yes, ALL) of the Scarlet Pimpernel books online to read! I don't know if you know about it already but I thought you should know!

http://www.blakeneymanor.com/series.html

There's the link! :)

I am now an avid Scarlet Pimpernel fan and it is all your fault! :D Thank you!

~Julia

Alexandra said...

YAYAYAYAYAY. I wasn't going to saaaaay anything...but the bros and I were just discussing how Shirley Temple gets a bit...old sometimes. The whole "We all hate each other and then Shirley comes and then woo-hoo, everyone loves each other now because everyone MUST love Shirley!" Anyway. :-P

And DEAR. Could you THINK that I would have the heresy to suggest that anyone other than AA could possibly give proper cravat suggestions? I was only implying that LH should have *tried*. Not that he could help him, necessarily. Hehehehheee.

Hayden said...

hahaha!!!

I loved reading this post :) I hate Scarlet, dislike Rhett except in the part where Bonnie dies because he is SO SAD, despise Ashley Wilkes (what a wimp!!) adore Melanie, love Mamie...yes, yes, yes.

I wrote a review of the book a while back here : http://everystory-storygirl.blogspot.com/2010/12/gone-with-wind.html

Lily of the Valley said...

What a fun review! I've only seen parts of the movie, but I did read the book. It was excessively long, but I love anything Civil War, so I plugged away at it.
I think I heard somewhere that Margeret Mitchell was confined to bed because of a horse accident when she wrote GWTW. I could be wrong, but I think I'm right... I guess I need to google it! : )Anyways, I should get the movie and watch again, this time ALL the way. (I always did like that Scarlett made a dress out of her mother's curtains. It reminds me of The Sound of Music, and Enchanted. Do you think she knows Maria and Giselle?)

Margaret Hale said...

I read Gone With The Wind about four or five years ago and liked it, and then I saw the movie and liked it, and then sometime later I read parts of the book again and decided I hated it and would never read it again. (This was partly because I had seen Pride and Prejudice by that time,and I was comparing the "love story" between Scarlett and Rhett to that between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy) It's also been some time since I saw the movie last, and I did not like it either. It's so depressing. And even though I didn't like Scarlett or Rhett Butler, I like to think that they got back together and learned to like each other.

I REALLY didn't like Scarlett. I feel so bad for Frank(what's his last name? Is it Kennedy?) when Scarlett tricks him into marrying her instead of her sister. I liked Melanie a lot, and I liked Scarlett's mother, but they were the only ones I really liked. (There were a few, like Scarlett's father, that I almost liked.)
Anyway, I don't think I'd want to see it again.

birdienl said...

I remember also reading through GwtW in a week and being surprised as other classics often keep me busy quite a while (except for Jane Austen and Jane Eyre, but that might be from reading them so often now...) I think the writing style of Margaret Mitchell just drags you along.

I liked GwtW, the characters were, though not always likeable, always interesting and the whole war background was rivetting. BUT, I liked the sequel better.... I just love a happy ending and characters reforming and that's just what happens in the sequel! And the adaptation of the sequel is very nice as well. With Timothy Dalton as Rhett! (deep sigh...)

Marie said...

Oh. My. Stars. I adore GWTW - the book and the movie! The actors are quality, the realism of the story spot on, and the characters are deep and relatable. Having grown up in the South, this story is near and dear to me. I quite agree that Scarlett is vain, selfish, and as blind as a bat when it comes to anything other than money, flirting, and herself. She does have a great deal of courage and cunning, and a passion for life that Mitchell herself called "gumption."
Rhett is amazing. Yes, he is a rogue, but an interesting, can't-help-but-love rogue. (Plus, isn't Clark Gable just perfection?)
Melanie and Ellen are characters I cherish. They are prime examples of great ladies and true Southern women. Ashley is an honorable man and a gentleman (even if he is extremely flawed).I could go on and on about this beautiful, classic tale about survival and love and fighting for the ideals you stand for.
Also, love your blog, Miss Dashwood! Please, keep up the good work :)