Gone With the Wind is 70


Chris Grieb

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Warner Home Video has just released "GWTW" for the first time on Blu-ray Disc (3 discs), and in a newly reworked DVD set (5 discs), for the 70th anniversary. Those sets have some collector's clutter, such as production stills and posters, along with a reprint of the souvenir program, and far more worthwhile documentaries about the production, the cast, and the stellar movie year of 1939.

The core of those sets, though, is an astoundingly perfect digital transfer of the film itself that was created in 2004. In fact, it's better than what was shown on screen back in 1939. The three strips of the Technicolor negatives were matched, frame by frame, in perfect registration — and, of course, all that existed to match them up in '39 was a mechanical process that created the single color print.

Computer tools also were used to clean up film dirt, scratches, and processing flaws, and aided in a vibrant but not overbearing rebalancing of the color. The soundtrack, naturally, was also effectively reprocessed into 5.1 Dolby Surround stereo. (The mono track, itself cleaned up, is also present.) The set even has a 15-minute bonus feature about the huge technical achievement of this restoration.

That transfer is unquestionably the best version of "GWTW" ever released. It blows any theatrical, VHS, or earlier DVD copy out of the water. I had my mouth hanging open at its quality when I first watched it, and I'd already seen it at least a dozen times over the years.

It's still available in a four-disc set from 2004 that is easily obtainable for $20 or less in used condition on Amazon.com or eBay — and sometimes brand new, though Warner has discontinued that set.

I'd advise searching for the 2004 set, rather than paying $50 or more for a 2009 set, unless you've made the jump to Blu-ray. All you'll really miss is the additional documentary about the movies of '39, and that's been shown repeatedly on Turner Classic Movies this Fall.

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As for that film's central triangle, I'd say Rand summed up a lot of it quite well in her use of this story to talk about plot-themes: "The romantic conflict of a woman who loves a man representing the old order, and is loved by another man, representing the new." (The Romantic Manifesto)

Ashley Wilkes was only reluctantly cast with Leslie Howard in the film, as producer David Selznick admitted freely. (See the superb "Making of a Legend" documentary, included with the 2004 and 2009 DVD sets described above.) Yet the role and that British actor both embodied a character type that was far more popular in the 19th Century than we remember now: the pale, detached, romantic, overly idealistic cavalier, living in the turbulent real world, but belonging in spirit almost to some other era of legend.

A Scarlett would take after that type, from a world and "old order" she understood, probably from tales told to her about that personality at an early age. The classic Prince Charming, but where a lack of charisma may actually have been a plus. He could allow himself to be dominated — and in the story, he did just that.

Rhett Butler (as well as Clark Gable) was from a new world: almost anti-idealistic, certainly cynical, not playing into illusions but "looking things in the eye and calling them by their right names." It never matches up with what Scarlett wants, until the end of the tale, where she realizes that love on more practical terms is still better than none at all — but has found this out too late.

You could match up extremes here, perhaps: Platonic idealism versus Aristotelean (or Alexandrian) harsh realism. Scarlett is whipsawed between the two, and can't or won't look deeper to find out why. All she knows is that Ashley's world feeds her desires, and Rhett's world feeds her stomach. (As in the hunger-driven first-act climax in the film, the quintessential and chilling No More Ms. Nice Gal moment.) She wants to pretend she can have both.

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My big question: What did Scarlett see in Ashley?

Forbidden fruit I'd say.

The most boring character in the movie?

Bill P

Bill:

Ashley Wilkes always reminded me of Wesley Clark who was even fired by Bill Clinton!

He has that weak look and the morals of a liberal, meaning whatever the traffic will bear type morals.

Adam

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As for that film's central triangle, I'd say Rand summed up a lot of it quite well in her use of this story to talk about plot-themes: "The romantic conflict of a woman who loves a man representing the old order, and is loved by another man, representing the new." (The Romantic Manifesto)

Ashley Wilkes was only reluctantly cast with Leslie Howard in the film, as producer David Selznick admitted freely. (See the superb "Making of a Legend" documentary, included with the 2004 and 2009 DVD sets described above.) Yet the role and that British actor both embodied a character type that was far more popular in the 19th Century than we remember now: the pale, detached, romantic, overly idealistic cavalier, living in the turbulent real world, but belonging in spirit almost to some other era of legend.

A Scarlett would take after that type, from a world and "old order" she understood, probably from tales told to her about that personality at an early age. The classic Prince Charming, but where a lack of charisma may actually have been a plus. He could allow himself to be dominated — and in the story, he did just that.

Rhett Butler (as well as Clark Gable) was from a new world: almost anti-idealistic, certainly cynical, not playing into illusions but "looking things in the eye and calling them by their right names." It never matches up with what Scarlett wants, until the end of the tale, where she realizes that love on more practical terms is still better than none at all — but has found this out too late.

You could match up extremes here, perhaps: Platonic idealism versus Aristotelean (or Alexandrian) harsh realism. Scarlett is whipsawed between the two, and can't or won't look deeper to find out why. All she knows is that Ashley's world feeds her desires, and Rhett's world feeds her stomach. (As in the hunger-driven first-act climax in the film, the quintessential and chilling No More Ms. Nice Gal moment.) She wants to pretend she can have both.

Graybird; Your analysis is very good.

I must add on a personal note that I am re watching it and finding very well done.

Rhett wants to have it both ways. His getting himself back into Atlanta society in one example.

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When a movie is made of a book I love, I almost always make a point of staying away from it. I've found that usually the movie takes from the book everything except that which made it good. One of the few exceptions to this is the movie of GWTW. It is remarkably faithful to the spirit, the theme, the characters, the events, and the meaning of this remarkable book. And the casting, in my view, is superb -- including the casting of Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes (since Frank O''Connor would not have been available).

Barbara

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