Review: Lizzie Guilfoyle
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Discs One and Two: Commentary by
film historian Rudy Behlmer.
Disc Three: 'The Making of a Legend: Gone with the Wind' 1989
documentary. 'Restoring a Legend' documentary. Footage from 1939
Atlanta and 1961 Civil War Centennial Atlanta premieres. 'The
Old South' 1940 theatrical short directed by Fred Zinnemann. International
prologue. Foreign-language version sample scenes. Trailer gallery.
Disc Four: 'Melanie Remembers: Olivia de Havilland Recalls Gone
with the Wind' documentary. 'Clark Gable: A King Remembered' documentary.
'Vivien Leigh: Scarlet and Beyond' documentary. Mini documentaries
covering lives and careers of most prominent cast members.
SO MUCH has already been written about Gone With The
Wind, I doubt there's anything more I can add. However,
its release on DVD will, no doubt, introduce it to a whole new
generation - a generation accustomed to the technological wizardry
of modern cinema and films such as The
Lord of the Rings trilogy, Titanic and Gladiator.
Yet so good is Gone With The Wind, that it may come
as something of a surprise to learn that it was first released
a little over 66 years ago, on January 1, 1939.
But it's been digitally remastered, you might argue. So what?
The film's fundamental format remains unchanged.
Adapted from the novel by Margaret Mitchell - her only novel,
incidentally - Gone With The Wind is a tale of truly
epic proportions. Set in America's deep south, it opens in 1861,
with the country on the verge of civil war.
Into this climate of imminent change, comes Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien
Leigh), a young, spoilt and spirited southern belle, whose love
for the debonair but upright Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) is
thwarted by the announcement of his impending marriage to his
gentle and selfless cousin, Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland).
Lastly, and inadvertently party to
Scarlett's declaration of love, is the dashing profiteer, Rhett
Butler (Clark Gable). The lives of these four become inextricably
entwined as the winds of war sweep aside their old and privileged
way of life, leaving Scarlett struggling to keep Tara, the O'Hara's
ancestral home, while suffering the pangs of unrequited love.
All four are superb. In fact, for her portrayal of Scarlett,
Leigh won an Academy Award for Best Actress - just one of the
productions then, record-breaking total of ten.
Others included Best Picture, Best Director (Victor Fleming)
and Best Supporting Actress for Hattie McDaniel, the wonderful
Mammy, who actually triumphed over fellow nominee, Olivia de Havilland.
As a matter of interest, McDaniel was the first African American
to win an Oscar.
For me, their names will always be synonymous with their characters;
all exactly as I'd imagined them from reading the book. Nevertheless,
it set me thinking. Who, of today's stars, could play these key
roles as convincingly?
Certainly not Timothy Dalton and Joanne Whalley-Kilmer who starred
as Rhett and Scarlett in the 1994 TV mini series sequel, entitled
simply, and somewhat lamely I feel, Scarlett.
How about George Clooney and Jude Law? Could they step into Gable
and Howard's shoes? For the women however, I admit to being stumped.
That aside, for it's purely hypothetical nonsense, Gone With
The Wind has it all - romance, drama, suspense, even a touch
of comedy. And while the set pieces, the burning of Atlanta for
instance, are not as lavish as we've come to expect, they do nonetheless,
work very well.
On the negative side, however, with a running time of 224 minutes,
it is long and exponents of the book might bemoan a number of,
what can only be described as, insignificant changes. Ultimately,
they detract nothing from the story's overall impact.
In a nutshell then, Gone With The Wind is entertainment
exactly as it should be.