Gone with the Wind Film Analysis
Among many great movies of Hollywood’s Golden Era, there is one that stands out. This movie is Gone with the Wind. It was released in 1939 and came to win ten Academy Awards becoming the first color movie to do so (Cutler, 2013). Even now, Gone with the Wind is regarded as one of the greatest movies of all time, and people from all over the world watch it with great interest.
Although it is difficult to find a person who has not watched the movie, it is still important to remind its plot. The movie Gone with the Wind is based on the novel of the same name by Margaret Mitchell. The novel was published in 1936 and became a success immediately. The movie is loosely based on the book. It tells the story of Scarlett O’Hara, the daughter of an American colonist and her life throughout turbulent years of the Civil War and afterwards. Scarlett grows up in a rich family because her father is a landowner and slaveholders. She is desperately in love with a man called Ashley. Although Ashley returns her feelings, he marries another woman. Scarlett marries, too, but her husband dies during the Civil War, which also ruins peaceful and carefree life of Scarlett and her big family. As South loses the war, Scarlett also loses everything. Her father turns insane after family becomes very poor, and Scarlett has to take care of her siblings. Throughout that time, she plots many intrigues and marries another man, only to find happiness with Rhett Butler, the man who is very similar to Scarlett and who has helped her a lot throughout difficult years. Nevertheless, their family happiness is ruined with the death of their only daughter and Scarlett’s desperate attempts to be with Ashley. In the end, Rhett leaves Scarlett who finally realizes how much she loves him. In the end, Scarlett decides to reunite with Rhett and return to her home, stating: “After all, tomorrow is another day!” (Fleming, 1939).
Producers of the film faced certain difficulties from the very beginning. They wanted to start the filming immediately after the novel came out, but it was postponed for two years (Friedrich, 1986). It was because the movie producer David Selznick wanted Clark Gable to play Rhett Butler. Originally, that role was offered to Gary Cooper who refused saying that Gone with the Wind would be the biggest movie failure of all times (Lambert, 1973). Cooper was also the one who said he would like to see Gable in the movie which he deemed to be so unsuccessful. There was also big casting for the actress who would play Scarlett O’Hara with many famous actresses being turned down (Miller & Stafford, n.d.). Vivien Leigh was chosen to play Scarlett as moviemakers favored her over Paulette Goddard (Haver, 1980). The original script was rewritten a few times and revised by different scriptwriters (Bartel, 1989). The movie also had a different director working on it, because original director George Cukor was replaced quickly by Victor Fleming.
The movie’s main idea is that a person can overcome any difficulties if he or she has perseverance and is devoted to changing and improving his/her conditions. The movie’s message to the audience is that one can overcome any adversity with a strong willpower and determination, and one gets their power from their homeland. Gone with the Wind brings this message to the viewers very effectively. For example, visual effects used in the movie make it very persuasive. The same applies to sound effects. The ending scene is a vivid example. In the end, Scarlett tries to make Rhett Butler stay, but he leaves, saying his famous phrase: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” (Fleming, 1939). Scarlett is left alone and devastated. The viewers can also notice great sound effects in the scene where she is standing on the stairs and contemplating what to do with her life. Different phrases overlap each other, and Scarlett hears parts of phrases and quotes of other people in her head. These words are about Tara (the land Scarlett is originally from) and Scarlett’s ability to restore her life and begin all over again. This scene features a remarkable visual effect. Scarlett’s silhouette appears against the reddish background which reminds the viewers of Tara. Scarlett’s dark figure with such a background looks like an illustration to the movie’s theme that a person can surmount any obstacle and difficulty as long as he or she has something to live for and is willing to fight for his or her dream.
Striking visual and sound effects are present throughout the movie. They are especially noticeable when the plot describes a Civil War. For example, there is a great fire scene. Scarlett tries to escape from angry soldiers and deadly battlefield, and the director has made that scene look very realistic with fire and explosions all over the place. Sound effects are also great because the viewers can hear explosions as if they were actually in the battlefield.
One can say that Gone with the Wind deserves such praise for visual and sound effects. Taking into consideration the fact that the movie was made in 1939, spectators are still astonished with its high quality of the movie, scenes and types of shots which are almost 75 years old. At that time, there were few movies shot in Technicolor, and color movie was rather something new. It was difficult to shot in Technicolor because it required heavy cameras, and each one needed to have a color consultant who could “veto” certain hues. Hence, moviemakers were very dependent on such professionals and the overall process.
Nevertheless, it is thanks to color that the movie appeals to spectators so much and creates a vivid picture of epic drama. Gone with the Wind features striking visual innovations. For example, Scarlett and her father are shot as silhouettes when they speak on the hills of Tara. Moviemakers did it realizing how important it was to use shadows as visual effects. The land glooms in front of the characters, which accentuates the mood of Scarlett’s father who finds land to be very important for building and developing one’s personality. The ending scene described above uses the same shooting technique.
It is essential to analyze the portrayal of different characters. Scarlett’s main rival and friend is Melanie, Ashley’s wife. When both women speak, there are huge shadows on the walls, which express hidden messages behind their conversation. The filmmakers use silver light in the scene of Melanie giving birth. It makes the scene more appealing and adds purity to the moment.
Another interesting technique used in the movie is matte painting. Moviemakers did it while working on the scenes which were not shot completely. For example, they covered a certain area in a frame and then painted it with black matte paint. While employing this technique, they also used glass screen in front of cameras. Rewound negatives were used to shoot fully colored scenes. This technique was adapted by Clarence Slifer, who was the movie’s special effects cinematographer. He used it for partially finished sets which still had to be completed. The technique was employed for panoramic scenes in the film such as side views of Tara. It was also used while shooting burning streets and even wounded soldiers. Hence, modern spectators are still astonished with great mise en scenes and settings in the film, which were painted by hand and then combined with the actual shots. The audience may not even realize that the burning city Scarlett and Rhett are in is also painted.
It is also essential to discuss the actors. The cast of Gone with the Wind is considered legendary by many movie critics. They praise Vivien Leigh’s and Clark Gable’s performance, but the actors who played minor characters were also great, which can be seen with Hattie McDaniel who received an Academy Award for her role of Mammy.
Gone with the Wind has a unique ethos thanks to its incredible cast. Actors and actresses acting in it immediately attracted attention of people and guaranteed the movie success. Even the modern audience know the actors playing in Gone with the Wind. Logos is persuasion by great techniques used in the movie. People watch battle scenes and tend to believe them thanks to the realism of the filming. Pathos is presented through great acting when spectators relate to the characters. They sympathize with certain characters, justifying Scarlett’s fiery temper or Rhett’s unstable nature because the characters appeal to viewers’ emotions.
The narration of Gone with the Wind is focused on Scarlett and her life throughout important years of American history. Scarlett’s life may be regarded as a symbol of American history with all its vicissitudes. The country goes through turbulent times just like Scarlett does only to realize that her dream lies in her home.
Hence, it can be concluded that the movie carries certain hidden messages. It portrays war as something that transforms people and countries. It also indirectly speaks of patriotism and the necessity to value the land one comes from because it is the place where they can be truly happy. One can also speak about racial prejudice which is shown in Gone with the Wind due to the fact that it depicts the Civil War and social position of the African Americans. The movie tries to justify Southerners showing that they were not that bad in their treatment of blacks. However, the fact that Hattie McDaniel (who played Mammy) was not allowed to be at the movie premiere in Atlanta only proved the strength of racial biases in the American society.
Nevertheless, Gone with the Wind remains one of the greatest movies of all times having won ten Academy Awards and become a part of popular culture. People nowadays still quote the movie and praise it for outstanding visual and sound effects, amazing cast and innovative approach to filmmaking, which the audience has admired for more than seven decades.