I’ve seen Gone with the Wind countless times. I don’t think I’ve ever owned it (like, on DVD or VHS) but there was a time when AMC, TCM, and various cable channels would play it regularly, and over the years, I’ve watched it many times. It’s not a good movie, but it’s an enjoyable movie, in that Vivian Leigh does great work as the spoiled, silly Scarlett O’Hara. It’s also an interesting movie from a historical and film-historical perspective. Margaret Mitchell’s book was one of the most famous serialized books of the 20th century, and there was a ton of interest in how Hollywood would adapt the book. Clark Gable basically agreed to play Rhett Butler for the paycheck, director George Cukor was fired by David O. Selznick, there was an enormous casting call for Scarlett. It’s also the first film to feature an Oscar-nominated and eventually Oscar-winning performance by an African American actor or actress – Hattie McDaniel played poor Mamie, Scarlett’s long-time slave and then servant.
Margaret Mitchell was a racist and one of those “the South shall rise again” Southerners, and of course the book and the film is very pro-Confederacy and anti-Union. The whole story is completely problematic and racist in general. So does Gone with the Wind have a place in modern society? Can we just say “it’s a product of its time” and watch it, knowing the history and backstory? Apparently not. A theater in Tennessee had to cancel screenings of GWTW after complaints about the film promoting white supremacy:
Gone With the Wind is now gone from The Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Tennessee. The theater’s board deemed the 1939 film “insensitive” to their larger audience after receiving “numerous comments” that stemmed from a screening on Aug. 11. As such, the title has been dropped from next year’s planned summer movie series.
“While title selections for the series are typically made in the spring of each year, the Orpheum has made this determination early in response to specific inquiries from patrons,” read a statement from The Orpheum Theatre Group. “The Orpheum appreciates feedback on its programming from all members of the mid-south community. The recent screening of Gone With the Wind at the Orpheum on Friday, August 11, 2017, generated numerous comments. The Orpheum carefully reviewed all of them.”
The statement continued, “As an organization whose stated mission is to ‘entertain, educate and enlighten the communities it serves,’ the Orpheum cannot show a film that is insensitive to a large segment of its local population.”
Gone With the Wind, which won eight Academy Awards, features life on a Southern plantation during the Civil War and Reconstruction periods. Over the years, the subject matter has proven to be quite divisive for perpetuating a sympathetic view of the South during this time. As posted on the Orpheum’s Facebook page event for the August screening, one user called the film “racist.” Another remarked over news of the canceled screening, “slowly but surely, we will rid this community of all tributes to white supremacy.”
I understand the theater’s reasoning for canceling those screenings and I think that was probably the best solution, especially in the current political climate, when we’re in the middle of a conversation about the Confederacy, racism, the history of slavery, and the scars which our country still carries. Of course I believe that the all of the Confederate monuments should be taken down, and of course I believe that we should be having all of these conversations. I also think that people can watch Gone with the Wind and figure out for themselves that it’s silly trash, a historical relic that hasn’t aged well. Still, I understand why people are fed up with any piece of Confederacy propaganda, which is exactly what Gone with the Wind was and is.
PS… I didn’t even get to mention how much I hated Leslie Howard/Ashley. HATE. Olivia de Havilland is good as Melanie though.
Poster, promotional images from ‘Gone with the Wind’.