Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) wishes she could be with Ashley (Leslie Howard), but learns that he is to marry his cousin, Melanie (Olivia de Havilland). The American Civil War hits soon after and Ashley is sent to war while Scarlett looks after Melanie.
During the War, Scarlett continues several love affairs with various men to keep her beloved home, Tara, safe. All the while though she pines for the one man she can't have.
If you've vaguely heard of Gone with the Wind, I bet you'll never guess what it's about. Judging by the pictures either side of this paragraph, you'll probably guess some love story between two people - and you'd be half right. It's a war epic shrouded by a love story.
If you've seen Gone with the Wind, or ever read a review about Gone with the Wind you'll know what's coming and might as well skip to the bottom for an completely unshocking star rating.
Gone with the Wind is, relatively speaking and factoring in inflation, the highest grossing film of all time - leading second placed Avatar by a staggering $250 million.
Firstly, I want to know how this is possible. At four hours long, Gone with the Wind isn't your average I'm-going-to-watch-this-casually-on-a-Sunday-afternoon film. It's a lets-prepare-for-a-four-hour-battering-months-in-advance affair. So, for it to have accumulated over 3 billion of those inflation adjusted dollars is frankly ridiculous.
The farce gets even bigger when you come to realise that Gone with the Wind is effectively about a stupid woman who chases after someone she can't have, whilst being fawned over by a general who wishes to worship the ground she walks on. Incessant cries of "Ashley, oh Ashley" are only mirrored in quantity by her getting slapped across the face and told to get a hold of herself. Quite right.
Jokes aside though, and Gone with the Wind is an epic. The background war setting shows America being ravished by itself during the civil war, and the change in the community before, during and after the events. There are also themes of racism (cue the various olden terms for the servants), but even these characters have so much to add the story.
OK, I'm going to come out and say it - Mammy is my favourite Gone with the Wind character. And Hattie McDaniel takes the role and really gives her character a certain fire and resilience. Whilst, during the rest of the story, the characters are running around screaming about how war and marriage is affecting their chance to copulate, Mammy keeps her dignity, shakes them around the head and utters some wise story that sets them back on the straight and narrow.
That said, the story wouldn't be made without the rest. As irritating as Scarlett is, she is the centrepiece of the story and it is her stupidity that forms most of the scripting. She is also very unpredictable, loving Ashley, hating Ashley, loving Rhett and hating Rhett. Vivien Leigh does well to keep the audience loving and empathising with her character even while she's being an idiot.
As for the boys, Ashley is much like his wife with an air of dignity, but he is flawed by his occasional weak lust for Scarlett. Rhett is probably ideally suited for Scarlett in that they are both after someone who doesn't love them in return and one does wonder whether the turn of events at the end of the film would have happened sooner had Scarlett felt differently about him.
All these words and nothing yet about the scenery! My mother described it as "orange" and she wouldn't be far wrong. One of the most romantic backdrops? Sunset. Colour? Orange. One of the most ravished backdrops? War and fire. Colour? Orange. Of course, it does vary (surprisingly, it isn't 4 hours of mobile phone advertising), flicking from olden sawmills with convict workers, to the sweeping plains of Tara. The various country houses aren't to be sniffed at either.
It is easy to take for granted the director Victor Fleming and producer David O. Selznick in this rave. Naturally, it is in their vision that the film takes place - adapted from Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel of the same name - and what a stirling job. Impressive concentration to create a four hour masterpiece.
At this point I'd like to welcome back those who had already seen the film or a review for the star rating.
PS, I bashed this review out in 20 minutes. Take note epic film-makers.