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. It also presents some rough subject matter (very rough for the time, including rape, prostitution and, of course, slavery) without wallowing in it.
Acting is actually not the film's strongest suit, and most of the characters have weaknesses that make them hard to like. When Gable walks out on Leigh at the end, we care less than we're probably supposed to. But partly that is because the personal mistakes of the characters are necessarily dwarfed by the sweep of history, and the catastrophes, that the film bears witness to.
The new Collector's Edition DVD set features four discs and a wealth of extras, including a commentary track from historian Rudy Behlmer, the documentary The Making of a Legend: Gone With the Wind, newsreels and international errata, and a selection of documentary shorts and profiles. If you're a fan, you'll kill yourself if you don't purchase this box set.
Run time: 238 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 17th January 1940
Box Office Worldwide: $400.2M
Distributed by: New Line Cinema
Production compaines: Selznick International Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Fresh: 69 Rotten: 4
IMDB: 8.2 / 10
Director: Victor Fleming
Producer: David O. Selznick
Screenwriter: Sidney Howard
Starring: Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara, Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, Olivia de Havilland as Melanie Hamilton, Thomas Mitchell as Gerald O'Hara, Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes, Barbara O'Neil as Ellen O'Hara, Evelyn Keyes as Suellen O'Hara, Ann Rutherford as Carreen O'Hara, George Reeves as Stuart Tarleton, Fred Crane as Brent Tarleton, Hattie McDaniel as Mammy, Oscar Polk as Pork, Butterfly McQueen as Prissy, Marcella Martin as Cathleen Calvert, Harry Davenport as Dr. Meade, Leona Roberts as Mrs. Meade, Cammie King as Bonnie Blue Butler, Eric Linden as Amputation Case, J. M. Kerrigan as Johnny Gallagher, Ward Bond as Tom - Yankee Captain, Jackie Moran as Phil Meade, Cliff Edwards as Reminiscent Soldier, Lillian Kemble-Cooper as Bonnie's Nurse in London, Yakima Canutt as Renegade, Louis Jean Heydt as Hungry Soldier Holding Beau Wilkes, Mickey Kuhn as Beau Wilkes, Olin Howland as A Carpetbagger Businessman, Irving Bacon as Corporal, Robert Elliott as Yankee Major, William Bakewell as Mounted Officer, Mary Anderson as Maybelle Merriwether, Ona Munson as Belle Watling, Jane Darwell as Mrs. Merriwether, Isabel Jewell as Emmy Slattery, Paul Hurst as Yankee Deserter, Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson as Uncle Peter - Her Coachman (as Eddie Anderson), Laura Hope Crews as Aunt 'Pittypat' Hamilton, Carroll Nye as Frank Kennedy - Guest, Rand Brooks as Charles Hamilton - Her Brother, Alicia Rhett as India - His Daughter, Howard C. Hickman as John Wilkes (as Howard Hickman), Everett Brown as Big Sam - Field Foreman, Victor Jory as Jonas Wilkerson - Field Overseer
Also starring: Sidney Howard
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