When I was boy, Budweiser was The King of Beers and “Gone with the Wind” was The King of Movies, the one old movie you would never see on T.V. So when it was re-issued in 1968, I finally saw it and was distinctly unimpressed. I guess it’s natural for teenagers to feel that anything Mom and Dad liked must be 100% corn.
Over the years I saw “Gone with the Wind” again–not too many times. not at that length–but it started to grow on me. Now I’m at a stage in my life at which the film impresses me as an artifact from a bygone age of movie-making. Like the slightly newer “Doctor Zhivago” it impresses by the sheer accumulation of detail, the mounting of its bravura scenes and even the way in which it manages to cram a bit of history, albeit one-sided down its audience’s throats.
It also offers movie-nuts a chance to see some favorite supporting actors strutting their stuff. There’s Eddie “Rochester” Anderson as Uncle Peter stalking a rooster marked for Christmas dinner, there’s Ward Bond playing a Yankee officer bamboozled by those crafty Southerners, Charles Kemper, the despicable Uncle Shiloh in Ford’s “Wagonmaster” and the murderer in “Intruder in the Dust”–but also Robert Ryan’s compassionate partner in “On Dangerous Ground”–here played a Yankee deserter who tries to make off with Ellen O’Hara’s ear-fobs but gets shot by Scarlett for his troubles. Victor Jory even contributes a bit of delicious villainy as overseer-turned-carpetbagger Jonas Wilkes.
Lastly it begins to appeal to me as a study of Love’s many pitfalls–the danger of loving your image of someone as opposed to their real self, the importance of timing, so that two hearts must literally beat as one. The fact that Rhett and Scarlett are never quite able to get their feelings for each other “in sync” is probably what gives their story its longevity–a tragic ending or a happy one would not have stayed the course.