Best Picture Review: Gone with the Wind (1939)

Could it be #1 on the list?
Could it be #1 on the list?

Saturday afternoon, our Best Picture viewing took us to 1939’s famous epic Gone with the Wind, starring Vivien Leigh and my favorite actor of this time period, Clark Gable.

It was snowing and blowing outside in Minneapolis, and Lauren, Nick, and I found no better time to sit down for this 3 hour, 53-minute film that broke every record in the books, including a record that stands to this day–most tickets sold.

Of course of all the movies we’ve seen so far, Gone with the Wind was by far the one movie I’ve heard the most about.  I expected great things from the movie that recently placed at #6 on AFI’s Top 100.

The story takes place in Georgia during and after the time of the Civil War.  Scarlett O’Hara is in love with a man named Ashley Wilkes, but he has chosen another woman, her longtime friend Melanie.  Soon the Civil War begins, and Ashley and most other Southern men head north to fight.  Scarlett’s life will never be the same!

We’re taken on Scarlett’s life journey, through the highs and lows of her next few years.  She winds up marrying three times, but never for love.  She leaves her home of Tara, Georgia for Atlanta, and it’s inevitably Tara that is the love of her life.

That’s the best I can do to wrap up a four-hour movie in a couple paragraphs without giving too much away to those who still intend to see the 69-year old movie.

Gone with the Wind was long, but very engaging and very entertaining.  The worst thing I could say about Gone with the Wind is that it reminded me of a glorified Cimmaron.  But that’s a pretty awful comment to make about the movie that changed history.

There are plenty of great things I can say about it.  Obviously, the movie being in color was huge.  Gone with the Wind has some of the most recognizable scenes ever… stuff I’d seen before but didn’t realize what I was seeing.  Not only was it in color, but some of the shots were pretty amazing.  I loved the way they colored the sky bright red and orange.

Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable were outstanding in their lead roles, as were most of the supporting actors.  The music was good, the script was strong, and there are a ton of memorable quotes, including the #1 quote of all-time according to AFI, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

It did seem like four hours though, and I often wondered where they were going with the story.  I kept wondering what the big moment would be!  Would Scarlett and Rhett finally fall in love (even though they were married for some time)?  In the end, it just turned out to be a big life lesson for Scarlett, who after many, many turns of events realized she wasn’t ever madly in love with Ashley and all along was in love with Rhett… but it was too late.  Rhett had given up on her and left.

Nick noticed at the end that every character, large role or small, ended the movie unhappy.  Everyone was either mourning a death or losing a loved one in some other fashion.  No, Gone with the Wind does not have a traditional happy ending like You Can’t Take It with You, or It Happened One Night.  But then again, it wasn’t uncommon for movies of this time to end tragically (Mutiny on the Bounty, Cimmaron, Grand Hotel).

Overall, Gone with the Wind comes out at #1 on my list so far.  I think I was more entertained by Grand Hotel, but I do appreciate the cinematography and the historical significance of Gone with the Wind enough to give it the edge.

  1. Gone with the Wind, 1939
  2. Grand Hotel, 1932
  3. Mutiny on the Bounty, 1935
  4. All Quiet on the Western Front, 1930
  5. It Happened One Night, 1934
  6. The Life of Emile Zola, 1937
  7. You Can’t Take It with You, 1938
  8. Cimmaron, 1931
  9. Broadway Melody, 1929
  10. The Great Ziegfeld, 1936
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