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Gone With the Wind (1939)



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"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

1939 was hands down Hollywood's best year in its long history, and it was then that Gone With the Wind swept the Academy Awards amongst the stiffest of competition. One of the most famous films ever made, Gone With the Wind is a sweeping Civil War era romance about the strong-willed Scarlet O'Hara and her desperate struggle to gain -- then, later, hold on to -- what she wants. On the one hand, it's hard to sympathize with O'Hara. Frequently, she's a naive, spoiled kid who will stomp over anything and anybody to get her way. Yet in times of war, sometimes undesirable qualities become necessities, for when the Civil War begins in earnest, it's Scarlet O'Hara who's the survivor and the more socially adjusted who let the hard times get the better of them. The public doesn't think much of Scarlet O'Hara and her direct, unconventional ways, but is jealousy breeding in the hearts of her neighbors too?

This epic film is littered with these kinds of moral ambiguities and studies of social convention. When Rhett Butler, affirmed ladies' man, pays his affections to Scarlet O'Hara -- genuine affection -- and is used and shunned by her, who's right? Who's wrong? It's not often that a borderline womanizer is made the tragic hero, nor the woman who does him in the tragic heroine. The great virtue of Gone With the Wind is that it doesn't attempt to decide these things for the viewer, yet it also knows not to hold back in other areas. Wrongs are not glossed over any more than rights are. The characters in this film are just that, black and white and gray all bundled together, and to consider them at all means to consider their every aspect. The result is that Gone With the Wind comes off as one of the greatest cinematic tragic romances ever -- between characters in love, yet so hopelessly blind and incapable of change that their relationship is doomed from the start.

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