Gone With The Wind Victor Fleming

Whether you consider Gone With The Wind art or mere entertainment, it's hard to deny its cinematic importance. The fervour leading up to its release and its enormous and enduring success are only half of it. The story of Gone with the Wind is the story of early Hollywood, the studio system, the enormous influence of producers and how to work the publicity machine. The film was already legendary before it hit theatres. The underlying theme, that life was grand when plantations kept the land alive and slaves happily toiled for wealthy families, is difficult to overcome. The film, however, is pure soap opera. The plot is well-known and well-parodied. Scarlet O'Hara (Vivien Leigh), who has come to represent the quintessential Southern belle, pines for Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard), struggles through the Civil War and learns, alas, too late, that Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) is the man for her. The actors do much more than mug for the camera in grand costumes. Leigh, Howard, Olivia de Havilland and all do a remarkable job of creating well-rounded characters in a shallow storyline. Only Gable falls short by simply playing Gable but he's a fun contrast to the melodrama surrounding him. The DVD includes an enormous amount of extras, behind the scenes stories and documentaries. Not all of it is useful, or even interesting, for that matter (while de Havilland is a great actress she isn't a very good storyteller), but it's possible someone might care to see all those newsreels. The audio commentary by historian Rudy Behliner is astonishingly well researched. He provides a detailed history of every actor with a speaking part, describes the process of three strip Technicolor film, and gives an overview of the Hollywood star system, film distribution and anti-trust laws. "The Making of a Legend" documentary and a short biography of Clark Gable are both clever and informed. One significant omission is the lack of insight into the film's racist elements. The extras only address this issue with disclaimers before particularly racist newsreels. Behliner comments on NAACP's involvement and Hattie McDaniel's attempts to "clean up" Mammy's speech but a more in-depth critique would have been valuable. Emphasising the positive impact of Gone With The Wind is understandable. However, a film with such cultural impact must have met with criticism and anger, especially amongst those still fighting the Jim Crow laws of the South. Producer David O. Selznick toned down the more overt racism of the book, dropping all KKK references, but there's only so much one could do with Margaret Mitchell's story. This DVD is enjoyable on many levels but it doesn't "hearken back to a simpler time," which Mitchell, Selznick and MGM/Warner try so desperately to evoke. (Warner)