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Newark Evening News Review

How did a 1940 movie critic view the coming of 'GWTW'?

By Charles Hautler Newark Evening News

Time has apparently been kind to Scarlett and Rhett. Take a look back at this review of "Gone With the Wind," which appeared in the Jan. 26, 1940 edition of the Newark Evening News:

For a long, long time we've been saving up superlatives to use on "Gone with the Wind" and, glad to say, the trouble hasn't been in vain. The picture version of the Margaret Mitchell Civil War novel fully lived up to claims and was well worth waiting for these many seasons. It is a thrilling, affecting epic, so beautifully photographed as almost to merit being called enchanting.

The film had its local opening yesterday at Loew's, the first screening, preceded by shorts, starting at 10:10 and lasting until 2 o'clock. Many in the audience were in their seats shortly after 9 o'clock, when the doors of the theater opened, but the power of the picture was such that the crowd sat rapt throughout the unreeling. You need entertain no apprehension about the film's length.

It is safe to say there never has been a picture that exerted a deeper and more enduring appeal than this one does. You sit lost to surroundings as the tragic story of the old South unfolds, as a proud people are stunned, crushed, then slowly recover through the desolation of the post- war period. Producer David O. Selznick rates high encomiums, for he seems to have accomplished the unusual, blending an intimate story with a historic era without detriment to either.

The fascinating course of the scheming heroine, Scarlett O'Hara, and the lost cause of the South complement each other to produce one of the most overwhelming climaxes ever seen on a movie screen, the fall of Atlanta and the numbing trek back to Tara. Doubtless it will be a long time before the sight of the blazing city and Scarlett's desperate journey with Melanie and the latter's newborn baby will fade from the memories of those who saw the film.

It is the middle and high point of a long train of vivid penetrating episodes. Many are startlingly dramatic, for instance Scarlett's shooting of the Union soldier. Many are profoundly moving, especially Melanie's death. The Scarlett-Rhett Butler clashes are pert, amusing. And Hattie McDaniel's comedy as the mammy is an unadulterated delight. All are presented with the maximum of effectiveness, enhanced and made more realistic through the use of natural hues.

When the story, in its latter chapters, leaves behind its epic phases and deals with the personal life of Scarlett and Rhett, a part of your interest in the proceedings is lost, but sufficient remains to keep you absorbed to the end. Vivien Leigh, the green-eyed British beauty, may not satisfy your visualization of Scarlett, but she is well able to portray the vixenish, ruthless and spirited heroine. Scarlett's coquetry, her love for Ashley, fine courage, selfish designing and ultimate grief seem very real. Miss Leigh's slim shoulders bear most of the burden of the story. She never falters. We'd call it a brilliant performance.

As everyone knows, Clark Gable is a natural for the part of Rhett, and nothing but praise is due him. An accolade should be awarded Olivia De Havilland for her work as Melanie. It is a touching portrayal of the gentle, high-minded girl. Tom Mitchell as Gerald O'Hara; Leslie Howard, as Ashley, and many others are at their best.

Of almost as much aid to the story as the luminous acting are the film's background and atmosphere. The charm of the plantation, horrors of the Civil War hospital, devastation of ruined Southern estates after the passing of Sherman's legions and many more scenic features were devised with rare skill. And the Technicolor photography is a visual feast, with the costumes of Southern belles, uniforms, rich interiors and countryside in lovely tints.

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