Gone With the Wind (1939)

Description   [from Freebase]

Gone with the Wind is a 1939 American historical epic film adapted from Margaret Mitchell's Pulitzer-winning 1936 novel of the same name. It was produced by David O. Selznick and directed by Victor Fleming from a screenplay by Sidney Howard. Set in the 19th-century American South, the film stars Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, and Hattie McDaniel, among others, and tells a story of the American Civil War and Reconstruction era from a white Southern point of view. The film received ten Academy Awards (eight competitive, two honorary), a record that stood for 20 years until Ben-Hur surpassed it in 1960. In the American Film Institute's inaugural Top 100 Best American Films of All Time list of 1998, it was ranked fourth, and in 1989 was selected to be preserved by the National Film Registry. The film was the longest American sound film made up to that time – 3 hours 44 minutes, plus a 15-minute intermission – and was among the first of the major films shot in color (Technicolor), winning the first Academy Award for Best Cinematography in the category for color films.


One of the classic films that defined American cinema, Gone With the Wind is a rare example of a collaboration involving hundreds of talents and egos that turned out great. Dozens of uncredited screenwriters (including F. Scott Fitzgerald, briefly) and hundreds of actors were marshaled by David O. Selznick for this effort. The resulting four-hour epic is, inflation-adjusted, still the highest-grossing movie of all time — and it deserves to be. For millions of people, Gone With the Wind has helped to define the myth and reality of America’s most tragic (and much-misunderstood) period of history, the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Margaret Mitchell’s bestselling novel was the most successful period romance novel of all time, a combination of historical detail and soap that drew from family recollections of the war and its aftermath. The novel’s popularity allowed the filmmakers to be confident of success, but still, Selznick spent more time and money, and took more risks, than could have been expected. The requisite attention was paid to costumes and sets, of course. More important, the film’s visual effects — especially the burning of Atlanta and the smoking ruins of the Georgia plantations after Sherman’s pillage — are the most effective and memorable that had been attempted at that time.

The most impressive thing about this epic, though, is that it uses all the extra screen time to inform us about the personal lives of its characters. This is where most epics fall short. Nowadays, any period drama with a lots of horses and explosions gets called an “epic,” but Gone With the Wind deserves the label — because it presents enough detail to be a facsimile of reality.

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