Catholic GWTW Review
From the American CATHOLIC WORLD, Volume 179 - Nr. 8, August 1954, p385:
When I left the theater after seeing GONE WITH THE WIND in its fifth national release since it first came out in 1939, I was amazed at how well this elaborate drama of the South before, during, and after the Civil War has stood the test of technical improvements and varying techniques in acting. Exhibited as it is currently on wide-screen with stereophonic sound (really a sort of gilding-the-lily embellishment), GONE WITH THE WIND might have been made this year. As a matter of fact, many of the younger crop of moviegoers who had never seen the film before were overheard debating whether this wasn't a "new" version of an "old" picture they'd read about somewhere or other.
In the long years of Hollywood history, there haven't been many films which took such pains to present a really three-dimensional heroine like Scarlett O'Hara. Of course, the late Sidney Howard was one of our great playwrights and the script he fashioned from Margaret Mitchell's 1,036-page novel was a masterpiece of compression without sacrificing any of the spirit of the original. Mr. Howard snipped and pruned here
and there but he was careful not to omit anything which was important for the audience to know just what kind of girl - and woman - Scarlett was.
It takes three hours and forty minutes for GONE WITH THE WIND to change her from a spoiled and willful belle of Southern society into a mature woman who finally realizes that the world does not exist for her alone. No cast could ever do better than the one which director Victor Fleming worked with on this memorable film: Vivien Leigh, a perfect Scarlett; Clark Gable, never better than as Rhett Butler; Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, Hattie McDaniel, and Thomas Mitchell. Several of those before and behind the cameras are no longer around but, wherever they are, they can be happy to know they have contributed one of the most glorious films of all to Hollywood's Hall of Fame.
From the British THE ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS, 27 April 1940, p574:
"Tough and Tender" by Ivor Brown
"GONE WITH THE WIND" was a book of quantity as well as quality, and the film is the same. If there were Seven Wonders of Hollywood , this would be the first, for it is a Colossus among "movie", and a coloured Colossus at that. Mr. Victor Fleming as director and Mr. David Selznick as producer now offer the public nearly four Technicolored hours of battle, sex appeal, and sudden death in America's Deep South, full of coal-black Mammies, rich blue skies, lovely white women, and Mr. Clark Gable himself. This feast is not served singly, but thrice at once: you can partake at the Palace Theatre, the Empire Cinema, or at the Ritz,
close by the latter.
That, certainly, is doing the thing in a large way. So much of it is extremly well contrived that one is reluctant to grumble about the lavishness, but I must confess to the opinion that when the wayward Miss Scarlett has got through the Civil War and the South's disaster, which are most finely handled, there is something too much of the subsequent love-affairs, family mournings, and domestic upheavals. Perhaps one's reactions depend upon the toughness of one's eyes; to keep looking at the screen for nearly four hours is a very real test of optical endurance, It would do the film no harm at all, and perhaps the public eyesight quite a deal of good, to cut at least half an hour out of its later reaches, and the public could scarcely grumble or pooh-pooh a film because it only lasted a beggarly three hours!
That remark made, it remains only to congratulate. Miss Vivien Leigh has not only a very long, but a very exacting part as Scarlett O'Hara, because that young lady has to hold the general sympathy and yetto
behave in the way most likely to lose it. She has to be tough and tender at once, as she hesitates between the darling of her tender moods, played by Mr. Leslie Howard, and the recipient of her tougher affections, for whom Mr. Clark Gable provides a grand display of sinister charm. What eyebrows he wears, with what naughty allure does his voice resound, how he narrows his gleaming eyes to fascinate the very susceptible Miss O'Hara!
This contrast between the fair and gentle Mr. Howard and the dark and dashing Mr. Gable is fundamental to the popular appeal of the picture, and Miss Leigh plays her part in the masculine duel not only decoratively, but very cleverly. But for many people the film will be notable and memorable for its camera-craft. The use of colour has now passed far beyond the picture-postcard crudities of its earlier phase, and there are majestic presentations not only of natural beauty, but of domestic interiors, with their lovely grouping of old furniture and Victorian costumes. One can feel that one is really seeing that carefree South which was overwhelmed in the chaos of war. Here is not only tender romance in colour, but tough history in fact.
From the British THE ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS, 11 May 1940, p638:
"Films and Opinion" by Ivor Brown
The film of "Gone With the Wind" , of which I said something in my last article, has been so much the largest matter of the year, in actual extent and even in merit, as well as in finance, and has also appeared as a lonely Triton among so many minnows of the screen, that I do not hesitate to refer to it again. The war has made all nations more sensible than ever of the power of the arts to affect opinion, and we must accordingly take note of the way in which the makers of a highly successful picture have handled some extremely inflammable material. The United States are still, to some extent, two nations, and "Gone With the Wind" is the saga of one of them, including the period of its severe defeat in battle by the other, followed by the agonies of commercial and social chaos. But far the greater part of America's wealth and population are not in the deep South, whose suffering this story tells, and the film had to be easily saleable all over the continent. None the
less the film, like the book, does, I think, put the case for the South in a very valuable way, chiefly because it never seems to put the case at all.
It explains what the Southern gentry thought of the North's incursion in their affairs, and it shows how the old South lived; it does not, of course, justify slavery, but the superb acting, for example, of the old black Mammy, and the way in which her part is written, does at least suggest that domestic workers of this kind were not only as well treated in a decent Southern home as they would be while wage-earning in the North, but also that they enjoyed a freedom of speech among their owners which they might never have been allowed to practise among employers. A rich Yankee lady of 1860 would, I fancy, have sacked an old Mammy who was as candid as this one, and left her to take her chance of starvation in the cold streets of a "free" city.
There is wisely no effort to idealise the Southern gentry. They are given their virtues; they have tradition and taste and build beautiful homes. But they can be gossipy, shallow, conceited, and plunge into a war with small comprehension of the impending ruin. Because they are not idealised, they are likeable and credible, and the picture of them has now proved acceptable to people in all parts of the States and of the world. That is where the craftsmen of the Selznick production, as well as the authoress, Miss Mitchell, have been clever. Out of years and themes of bitter animosity, they have made a story about one side; yet it is not a one-sided story, but a story that anybody can like.
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