Gone With the Wind Movie Review
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.