"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.|
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.