For those of you who have been following along with this project, you've probably picked up on one thing: long movies bug me when they're unnecessarily long. Also, some of you might be aware that I don't watch a lot of older movies because the strange melodramatic acting that took place in many classics bugged me, too. So, needless to say, Gone With The Wind was basically the one film on this list I was least looking forward to. From 1939, this classic film is not only full of that classic melodramatic acting, but full of it for damn close to 4 hours... making it the longest film on this list. And now that I've watched it, I'm left with one very important question: Why the Hell did I love it so much?
I didn't know much, honestly, going into the movie. I knew it was based around the Civil War, and I knew the famous line there at the end... but that's about it. So here's the basic plot from me to you. Scarlet O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) is a very selfish and spoiled young woman who lives on a plantation with her father (Thomas Mitchell), mother (Barbara O'Neil), sisters (Evelyn Keyes, Ann Rutherford), and slaves--particularly Mammy (Hattie McDaniel), Pork (Oscar Polk), and Prissy (Butterfly McQueen). She's basically the hottest thing ever and every guy wants to be with her. Of course, the only person she has an eye for is a man named Ashley (Leslie Howard), but he mainly has eyes for her friend or cousin or something (the relations are kinda intermixed and confusing), Melanie (Olivia de Havilland). Enter Rhett Butler (Clark Cable), a smooth man who gains an interest in Scarlet. Over the course of the film, we go through the Civil War, the destruction of southern qualities, multiple marriages, a few kids, and the fall and rise and fall again of Scarlet... because despite the fact that she continues to grow older, she just won't grow up.
I don't know if it was the fact that I watched this movie over about 4 different sittings, but the length didn't bother me at all. And I'm not sure how much that played a factor--and here's why. First, some quick background. I was originally going to get this through Netflix, but I feared I wouldn't get it on time. Instead, I rented it through iTunes. For those that don't know, once you start watching it, you only have 24 hours to finish it--and for a movie of this length, when you know you can't finish it in one sitting (due to time restraints), that causes some issues. So last night, I watched this movie for 2 hours straight and was actually annoyed that I needed to go to bed. I wanted to keep going! I wasn't bored with it or feeling any kind of drag. This morning, I took my laptop to work and, during my conference period, I watched while I prepped for class for about an hour or so. Then, during lunch, I watched another 20 minutes. Finally, after I got home today, I wrapped up the remaining 35 or so minutes. And every time I watched, I never wanted to stop.
But I don't think I thought I'd feel that way when the movie started. It gives you an introductory song at the start. For about 3 straight minutes, you just get nothing but a title card that says "Entre" or something like that and some music. Then, after that, there's another 2+ minutes of credits that feel like they'll never end. So for the first 5-6 minutes, I was pretty annoyed, building on my preconceived notions and/or expectations on the film. And then it started, and we're introduced to the spoiled and selfish Scarlet, and I immediately could not wait for something bad to happen to her. Then Rhett Butler appears. The second he looks up and smiles like a charmer in that classic stance at the staircase, the movie stuck a hook in me. But it was when he started talking to Scarlet like she was a childish dumbass that the movie really reeled me in. From that point on, I just sat, watching, waiting for them to get together so they could fall apart and Rhett could utter those iconic words.
But it wasn't just the characters that had me. This movie, for a film made in 1939, was gorgeous. I don't know if it was due to the fact I was watching a remastered version, but I was left in awe at times. The use of silhouettes in multiple scenes was great. The reds and oranges of multiple sunsets. The fire sequence when all the buildings are burning down. A scene near the end where Scarlet is running through the fog. There were just a number of fantastic shots.
However, we are then left with that melodramatic acting I mentioned earlier. Is it there? Hell yes. Did it bug me? Usually only in scenes with Ashley. If I were looking at it in terms of "everybody acts this way, but which one is the worst at it?," I'd definitely say Leslie Howard's Ashley. In other words, if I were looking at the film from the perspective of someone in that time period when it was first released, I would think he was the weakest actor. But I digress. For some reason, I was vastly entertained by the acting style. Maybe because it was borderline comical how over-the-top it was. That's what I'm thinking, anyway. There was just something about it that added to the quality of the film. I mean, the thing is totally a soap opera already. There are love triangles, multiple marriages, unwanted pregnancies, war, a lot of death, and so much more. I guess just putting that acting style on top of it made it just... fit and work.
There was a point, though, where I wondered how many characters were going to die before the movie ended. This didn't happen until the last 30 minutes or so, though. There was literally one point where I said aloud "REALLY?" At the beginning, I wanted bad things to happen to Scarlet and wanted her to learn a lesson. But by the end, I just pitied her. She only learns her lesson when it's too late. She's lost practically everything, and the only man who ever truly loved her couldn't (frankly) give a damn what she did with the rest of her life. He had finally had enough with her selfish and destructive ways.
Anyway, I don't think I have too much else to say. I loved the characters of Rhett Butler and Mammy, particularly Rhett--fantastic character. He reminded me, in a lot of ways, of Mr. Darcy (the only reason I even made it through reading Pride and Prejudice). He's a charmer who has his own faults, but is needed to both drive the primary female crazy and help her grow as a person. But luckily, Mr. Butler was in much more of the story than Mr. Darcy. I know I talked about the length already, but I do wish it were shorter... just not for the reason you think. This would actually be a movie I'd like to see again--it just takes up too much time in the day to sit down and watch!