Monday, May 27, 2013

MRS. MINIVER - 1942



In consideration of what to say about this week’s film, my initial reaction is pledged to indifference. As far as films go, “Mrs. Miniver” is a fine entry. I would even say I enjoyed watching it. But I wouldn’t say I loved it, nor would I venture into the vicinity of saying anything close to it. When the final credits rolled, I found that nothing about “Mrs. Miniver” struck me as particularly interesting or even compelling. For the most part, the film felt forgettable and had faded from my mind by the end of the evening. As far as cinematic experiences are concerned, I think having an apathetic response to a film is perhaps the worst kind. At least a terrible film can elicit a clear and concentrated reaction that generates something to be said around the dinner table.

Directed by the legendary William Wyler, “Mrs. Miniver” garnered 12 Oscar nominations, carting off half that number, including Best Picture for 1943. The picture stars Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon, as a middle-class English couple living an idyllic life in a small village just beyond London. The announcement of Britain’s entry into World War II quickly props up a new backdrop against which the Minivers encounter a host of distressing scenarios from assisting with the evacuation of Dunkirk to the death of their new daughter-in-law. Yet through it all, the Minivers remain steadfast and stalwart, refusing to let war force them into renouncing their courage and love for fear and bitterness.

I think one explanation accounting for why I found “Mrs. Miniver” to be principally forgettable is that none of the characters stand out as remarkable, which is disappointing as I’m a fan of both Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon. There is no character development throughout the course of the story. All of the principle players are nice, good-natured and sweet to each other. Everyone seemingly maintains all of the same qualities intact by the end of the film that were present at the beginning of the film, without any alterations, despite having endured all that they did. I refuse to accept that an individual’s character wouldn’t undergo some sort of revision with the precarious spirit of World War II literally making its way to their front porch.

The Minivers in happier times.
But the central characters in “Mrs. Miniver” seemingly all do surmount the odds, avoiding any dramatic changes. As a viewer, it becomes difficult to root for the people on screen and make a connection with them when they are coated in narrative Pam where nothing emotional can stick. After a while, for me the effect was that I divested myself of the Miniver’s journey altogether. Given that there was no measurable change or impact on their lives, I knew the film was not going to place the Minivers in any real danger that would test their mettle. Even the death of Carol, their daughter-in-law, felt like it had minimal impact because they all had this unrealistic way of accepting this grim tragedy without expressing any emotional defiance.

The only snaps I can really think to submit on this film’s behalf is that it adds a different angle to the canon of war films by offering up a portrait of civilian life. Unlike the majority of war films, “Mrs. Miniver” doesn’t transport the viewer to the front lines of battle. Instead, it maintains a domestic perspective, attempting to showcase the effects of the battlefield, as it rattles everyday living. Suddenly material possessions like cars and lady’s hats fade in value, as the Minivers are confronted by the perils of war, causing them to strip away superficial priorities. But here again, the film never dives to any great depth to illustrate the struggle of readjusting civilian reality to the more aggressive existence of war. I suppose this problem can be traced back to the issue of the characters not being presented in a complex or dimensional way.

The Minivers take safety in their bomb shelter.
As I mentioned earlier, I typically enjoy Greer Garson, as an actress. (Side note: Her first name is a contraction of her mother’s maiden name MacGregor.) She exudes a mannered and calm beauty in her roles, like staring at a big bouquet of freshly cut flowers. During the height of her career, she was nominated for an Academy Award for five consecutive years, a record equaled only by Bette Davis. “Mrs. Miniver” proved to be the only occasion on which she would win the Oscar statuette, and she took full advantage of the situation, delivering an acceptance speech that apparently groaned on for seven minutes, the longest in Oscar history. There is no denying that she is solid in “Mrs. Miniver.” However, I think it owes more to her likeability as an actress than being an interesting creation by Garson, sort of like Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side.”

In truth, “Mrs. Miniver” works more as a piece of propaganda than as a piece of entertainment. Propaganda is a form of communication that seeks to influence opinion, doing away with impartiality and letting the audience decide. When impartiality is eliminated, it anchors the narrative to remain in more simplistic waters. That essentially sums up “Mrs. Miniver,” which sought to be a ray of hope that would elicit sympathy and support for the struggle of the ordinary, everyday British citizen against the onslaught of Nazi attacks. From that perspective, the film plays on a much more interesting note. Of its effectiveness, Winston Churchill is said to have remarked that “Mrs. Miniver” is “propaganda worth 100 battleships.” Taken in that context, it’s no wonder that it was a box office behemoth of the 1940s that affected the attitudes of millions. But like all propaganda, “Mrs. Miniver” was created to exist for a specific cause now passed, making it feel dated and somewhat difficult to appreciate its power because the times are remarkably different now.

Favorite Line: The finale of “Mrs. Miniver” is staged in the local church, now ravaged and fragmented by war, where the local vicar makes an impassioned speech to his small parish, imploring them to take up the cause to fight for freedom against those that would impose tyranny. Apparently, this speech made such an impact the President Franklin Roosevelt requested the text to be broadcast over the Voice of America in Europe and to be printed on millions of leaflets dropped over German-occupied territory. It has often been cited as an example of the type of Hollywood filmmaking that helped mobilized America to war in defense of its allies. The text of the speech is printed below:

We, in this quiet corner of England, have suffered the loss of friends very dear to us-- some close to this church: George West, choir boy; James Bellard, station master and bell ringer and a proud winner, only one hour before his death, of the Belding Cup for his beautiful Miniver rose; and our hearts go out in sympathy to the two families who share the cruel loss of a young girl who was married at this altar only two weeks ago.

The homes of many of us have been destroyed, and the lives of young and old have been taken. There is scarcely a household that hasn't been struck to the heart.

And why? Surely you must have asked yourself this question. Why in all conscience should these be the ones to suffer? Children, old people, a young girl at the height of her loveliness. Why these? Are these our soldiers? Are these our fighters? Why should they be sacrificed? 

I shall tell you why. 

Because this is not only a war of soldiers in uniform. It is a war of the people, of all the people, and it must be fought not only on the battlefield, but in the cities and in the villages, in the factories and on the farms, in the home, and in the heart of every man, woman, and child who loves freedom!

Well, we have buried our dead, but we shall not forget them. Instead they will inspire us with an unbreakable determination to free ourselves and those who come after us from the tyranny and terror that threaten to strike us down. This is the people's war! It is our war! We are the fighters! Fight it then! Fight it with all that is in us, and may God defend the right.

Monday, May 20, 2013

HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY - 1941

Before even watching “How Green was My Valley,” I had already dismissed this film. It was clearly a nauseatingly saccharine melodrama, a judgment that subsequently caused me to let it sit on my bookcase in its red Netflix envelope for well over a week. In that time, for some inexplicable reason, I really began to dislike this film, which made me resist wanting to even watch it at all. Every time I walked by my bookcase, the inclination against watching it twisted and congealed. So by the time I finally put the DVD into the player, I was convinced that I was thoroughly going to dislike this film, probably even hate it.

However, “How Green was My Valley” completely took me by surprise. It was still a sentimental story with several overly acted moments. But it owned every tender ounce of its sentimentalism, always remaining wholly committed to being genuine and sincere. Despite my walled up determination toward disliking this film, it managed to deliver a knock-out punch, leaving me to reflect on it days after watching it. And just for the record, yes, it did make me tear up a little bit at the end, but so what. I challenge anyone to watch this film without feeling a lump climb up their throat. If that doesn’t happen, you may just be the world’s only living heart donor. 

Directed by the formidable John Ford, “How Green was My Valley” was nominated for 10 Academy Awards in 1941, taking home five prizes, including Best Picture. The film stars Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O’Hara and, making his first significant screen appearance, “Master” Roddy McDowall, so he was billed. Apparently, McDowall was one of thousands of children evacuated to America during WWII. Shortly after his arrival to The New World, he screen tested for the part of young Huw Morgan, and the rest is, as they say, history. 

The film begins with an older Huw Morgan making preparations to leave behind his valley, which has been blackened by pollution and slag from the surrounding coal mines. As he begins gathering his few belongings, Huw recounts the memories of his youth in the small Welsh coal-mining village where he lived with his family. The Morgans endure a hard life, but they, along with the rest of their community, live with a sense of pride and dignity. They are humble and plain, with a reverence for God ever dwelling in their hearts.

The Morgan family.
Given their dependence on the coal mine, the Morgan’s way of life hangs in a delicate balance. The first sign of trouble looms when the worker’s wages take a cut. This singular action touches off a chain of events, besetting poverty, injustice and death upon the Morgan’s front step. These greater forces eventually cleave the Morgan family into parts, remaining committed to one another only through their memories and familial bonds forged of God. 

There are a lot of standout elements in this film from the music and cinematography, particularly Roddy McDowall, to the performances and directing. But for me, what made this film so prevailing is that the narrative taps into a universal longing for those pleasant childhood memories created when one is young; unspoiled from the knowledge rooted in the unsettling certainties of life. The memories created in that time are revisited again and again because they are pure, idyllic and hopeful, preserved from corruption brought on by later disappointments and trials. In a way, this film is about the older Huw Morgan seeking to reclaim the memories of his youth to when life seemed green and vibrant, untouched from the slag of harsh realities.

Master Roddy McDowall as young Huw Morgan.
This frame of mind, this personal sense of reference, lends a heightened sense of sorrow to watching the chapters of Huw Morgan’s childhood unfold against the shifting backdrop of the coal mines. Despite his stalwart and loyal nature, the cruelties of life deliver blow after blow to Huw. The building sense is that with each knock, Huw is being pushed further and further away from innocence, as he begins to understand firsthand the harsh realities of being. By the end of the film, when Hugh is pulled from the wreckage of the coal mines, cradling his departed father’s head in his arms, it feels like his final farewell to childhood. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.

“How Green was My Valley” became the highest grossing film the year it was released. However, in retrospect it became a miracle the film ever ended up going into production at all. Its producer, Darryl F. Zanuck, originally conceived of the project as a colorful, four-hour epic on footing with “Gone with the Wind.” The producer’s wanted to shoot on location, but their plan was thwarted when Hitler declared South Wales to be a target of his forces. An additional dent was put into Zanuck’s vision by the suits at Fox who made the decision to reject the picture because of its pro-labor theme, lack of star power and large budget.

Zanuck eventually swapped Malibu for South Wales, which meant shooting in black and white in order to give the brown and sage colored hills of California appear lush and green. Not using color proved a blessing in disguise as it captured the grit and grim of life in the coal mines, that color might have overlooked in its vibrancy. The original director, William Wyler, was also swapped out for John Ford, who is credited with infusing the film with an abundance of heart, despite his prickly professional nature. In a documentary recalling the making of “How Green was My Valley,” Maureen O’Hara affectionately recalled working with Ford, saying, “We used to call him the meanest old S.O.B. there ever was. But he was our S.O.B., and we adored him.” 

“How Green was My Valley” is often criticized for taking home the top trophy on Oscar night over the more celebrated “Citizen Kane.” While there is no denying that “Citizen Kane” is a classic, I believe its triumph’s lay more in its technical achievements that were and continue to be ground-breaking and influential. However, these accomplishments appeal to the mind, whereas “How Green was My Valley” stirs the heart, making it much more potent to anyone willing to experience it. 

Favorite Line: In the film’s final scene, young Huw Morgan bravely searches the teetering debris of the coal mines, following an accidental explosion. After finally finding his father crushed beneath the ruins, young Huw is pulled from the dark pit of the mines, holding his father’s crumpled body, as the voice over belonging to the older Huw says, “Men like my father cannot die. They are with me still, real in memory as they were in flesh, loving and beloved forever. How green was my valley then?!”

Sunday, May 12, 2013

REBECCA - 1940



There are two things that immediately come to mind when I think of the film “Rebecca.” The first is that it was one of the few VHS tapes we owned when I was kid. At some point, someone had squashed the case when it was vacant of the tape, leaving it mangled and bent out of shape. In an effort to repair the damage, the guilty party placed several evenly spaced strips of black electrician’s tape across the front of the case to help retain its rectangular shape. The tape created this venetian blind effect, isolating the darkened stares of Mrs. de Winter and Mrs. Danvers in the famous scene where the latter tries to convince the former to leap to her death. As a kid, I found these intense stares looking out at me between the strips of black tape sort of unnerving, which gave me serious pause before firing up the VCR to ever watch “Rebecca.”

However, when I did finally get around to watching “Rebecca,” I remember finding it a tad boring, a conclusion owing more to my age than to the film itself, I’m sure. The one thing that did hold my interest was the surname of the protagonist couple: de Winter. This name made me think of Wint O Green Lifesaver candy, which became so embedded in my thoughts that I couldn’t think of much else happening onscreen. Heck, Mrs. Danvers could have could have pushed Mrs. de Winter from a window, gone off and married Maxim and I probably still would have continued to daydream about Wint O Green Lifesavers.

Needless to say, it has been good to revisit “Rebecca” as an adult to construct a new set of memories and appreciate the film beyond its apparent subliminal message about impulse-buy candy. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and toplined by Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, “Rebecca” was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, taking home three, including the Oscar for “Best Picture” in 1940. Produced by the indefatigable David O Selznick, “Rebecca” signaled Hitchcock’s American directorial debut and would go one to become the Master of Suspense’s only film to win “Best Picture.” I find this notably ironic for two reasons. The first is that “Rebecca” is a gothic yarn skipping hand-in-hand with a psychological thriller, which doesn’t land neatly inside the brand of suspense that the name Hitchcock would become synonymous with. What’s more, Hitchcock’s later success with classics like “Rear Window,” “North by Northwest” and “Psycho,” have nudged “Rebecca” so far to the edge of the spotlight that it’s scarcely remembered when discussing Hitchcock films. Yet, it was the only one of his pictures to breakthrough and collect the top honors.

Judith Anderson (left) torments Joan Fontaine in "Rebecca."
Based on Daphne du Maurier’s popular novel of the same name, “Rebecca” is a dark, ghostly fairy tale of a young woman, who falls in love with and marries the aristocratic and brooding Maxim de Winter. Although sweet, the newly minted Mrs. de Winter is clumsy, delicate and never an articulate voice in any social situation. In fact, her first name is never even revealed, suggesting just how ordinary and forgettable her character is. These qualities essentially amount to her being in over her head in dealing with her distressed and temperamental husband, whose heart is a deep cauldron of brewing emotions, simmering over the death of his first wife, Rebecca.

Shortly after their wedding, the de Winters make their way to Manderley, Maxim’s sprawling estate. But Mrs. de Winter’s qualities soon leave her floundering in the role as mistress of Manderley, as the entire mansion is seemingly monogrammed with memories of Rebecca. She, in turn, possessed all the star qualities that elude Mrs. de Winter version 2.0, leaving her to feel inadequate compared to Rebecca’s legend. Perhaps no one whips up these comparisons more forcibly than the house keeper, Mrs. Danvers. Gliding through Manderley’s corridors like a vampire with perfect posture, Mrs. Danvers evokes the image of an evil stepmother, jealous that Cinderella has married the prince. As such, her efforts are focused on sabotaging the happiness of the de Winters to protect the legacy of her precious Rebecca. 

One of the unique aspects about “Rebecca” is that the action, the characters, the entire narrative, are so affected by a singular individual, which the audience never even gets a glimpse of. Yet due to her overarching influence on the lives of everyone in the story, Rebecca seemingly lives on, coursing through the veins of the memories of others. (It somewhat reminded me of Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants,” in that regard.) You come to judge Rebecca, to feel you know what type of a woman she is, particularly because those singing her praises are less than savory characters. But it’s clever storytelling to reveal the central antagonist strictly through the descriptions of others because it allows the viewer to construct a sublimely malicious creature.

But I think what gives Rebecca gravity to be a threat is that she represents the past, which can be the most menacing villain of all. The past is ubiquitous and relentless in its attack on the present in trying to destroy the future. Sometimes the villainous past can take form in those still living, which in this case is the stoic Mrs. Danvers. Judith Anderson serves up a deliciously creepy performance as Manderley’s house keeper from hell. Rebecca’s ability to be everywhere is seemingly matched only by Mrs. Danver’s similar ability to be lurking at every corner. Her wish to do Rebecca’s bidding from beyond the grave makes the entire film shiver, allowing Anderson to steal the picture.

Just as a side note, several modern critics have speculated that the character of Mrs. Danvers was obsessed with Rebecca to the point of sexual attraction. However, I don’t completely agree with this assessment. To me, her obsession with Rebecca seems more founded upon a notion that Mrs. Danvers vicariously derived from Rebecca all of the female qualities she wished she possessed but never did. I feel like behind Mrs. Danvers’ sinister stare is her fossilized soul, created from years of being ignored and undervalued for her lack of beauty and gaiety. However, the opportunity to attend to the beauty and care of a shining star like Rebecca allowed Mrs. Danvers to internalize some of the credit for Rebecca’s social successes. In mourning Rebecca, I think Mrs. Danvers is also mourning the loss of her direct line to splendor and exquisiteness, leaving her once again a wretched and overlooked housekeeper.

Apart from Anderson, Olivier and Fontaine also turn in wonderful performances as a mismatched couple attempting to take cover from the past, instead of confronting it head on. I particularly enjoyed watching Fontaine’s Mrs. de Winter evolve from being an awkward thing to finding her feet and taking up courage to stand on them to support Maxim, as he eventually turns to face Rebecca. Apparently, David O Selznick tried to drum up publicity by recreating a casting frenzy for the role of Mrs. de Winter, a la Scarlett O’Hara for “Gone with the Wind.” He set up screen tests for a parade of actresses, including Anne Baxter, Margaret Sullivan and Joan Fontaine’s sister, Olivia de Havilland, a move which only served to add fuel to their legendary sibling rivalry. But in the end, Hitchcock adored Fontaine, staking his reputation on her by claiming he could get the performance out of her.

Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier embrace in "Rebecca."
Like most Hitchcock films, the true star is Hitchcock himself, who had an incredible talent for pacing a story to maximize the mystery and suspense. He employs a gift for never sacrificing plot for mood, dialogue for action, instead coaxing every element of story to perform exactly as he wishes. If Adam Smith had been a film critic, upon reviewing any of Hitchcock’s films he most certainly would have written about an invisible Hitchcockian hand guiding his pictures from start to finish. Nothing about a Hitchcock film seems sloppy or extraneous. They always feel whipped into shape and “Rebecca” is no exception. And while it may not contain a slasher shower scene or a climatic finish on Mount Rushmore, the power of “Rebecca” lies in its peculiar subtleties, chilling you like a stare from Mrs. Danvers behind a piece of black electrician’s tape.

Favorite Line: Maxim de Winter first meets his future wife in Monte Carlo, where she is working as a companion to the wealthy and obnoxious Edythe Van Hopper. The two engage in conversation, with the future Mrs. de Winter sitting by quietly, when Maxim asks her directly if she is enjoying Monte Carlo. Before she has a chance to respond, Mrs. Van Hopper elbows her way back into the conversation, prattling on before eventually saying, “Most girls would give her eyes for a chance to see Monte.” To which Maxim dryly responds, “Wouldn’t that rather defeat the purpose?”

Saturday, May 4, 2013

GONE WITH THE WIND - 1939



To the Best Picture winner’s circle, the 1930s has graduated some notable alumni. But even the brightest products of that decade are dwarfed in comparison to the juggernaut of “Gone with the Wind,” which won Best Picture in 1939. It’s astonishing how far it raised the bar beyond what any film up to that point had been able to achieve. What’s more extraordinary is that more than 70 years later, the list of films is modest that can claim to even be in the same league as “Gone with the Wind.” It truly was the high point of Hollywood history.  If I had to commit to selecting an all-time favorite film, this would undoubtedly be the one, hence this admittedly, albeit slightly, over-effusive post.

Without question, it is producer David O Selznick’s audacity, determination, undeniable talent, not to mention extremely good fortune, which realized the whole grand affair. With Selznick’s chutzpah behind the wheel, the story of making “Gone with the Wind” became as dramatic, epic and chaotic as the actual film itself. The production consumed a parade of screenwriters, devoured three directors and became an over-budgeted leviathan. And yet, somehow, it soared, miraculously knitting together every element of film to produce a masterpiece.

Producer David O Selznick with Vivien Leigh on Oscar night.
But what is it that makes “Gone with the Wind” such a singularly great film? That is a question that presents a buffet of valid responses. I’m sure everyone has their own answer, and rightfully so. What appears onscreen is a total team effort devoid of a single weak link. Every component of this film is operating on such a high level that one could ponder endlessly about what constitutes the supremacy of “Gone with the Wind.” But in the interest of time and space, for me, its greatness hinges chiefly from Vivien Leigh’s towering performance as Scarlett O’Hara. 

Arguably, every character, every conflict and every course of action orbits Scarlett. She is at the center of it all. It’s not a barbecue until Scarlett arrives. It’s not drama until Scarlett slaps someone. It’s not romance until Scarlett is in deep embrace. She is the proverbial sun coaxing every other character into full bloom. Rhett Butler would simply be another sly scoundrel if not for Scarlett working her way into his heart, opening a deep chasm from which his emotional complexities could surface. Melanie Wilkes would have died another clich├ęd, delicate goody two-shoes if not for the attrition of Scarlett’s opposite nature toward Melanie’s, which colored the true depths of her unique goodness and quiet strength. Ashley Wilkes would just be a simpering dolt were it not for Scarlett’s smoldering advances ushering him to the shores of temptation and affording him the opportunity to construct his feeble honor by refusing her emerald stare.

In short, the weight of the film rests on Scarlett’s shoulders, and with a running time of nearly four hours, that translates into an enormous amount of pressure. But Vivien Leigh proved more than equal to the task, delivering quite simply the greatest performance ever by an actress. However, matching Leigh to the part of Scarlett is an introduction that encountered as many twists and turns as that clown fish looking for his son in “Finding Nemo.” 

Finding Scarlett became an international pastime. The public sent the studio piles of letters, scribbling their recommendations for who they thought should be awarded the role, which totaled 121 different actresses being named. Interestingly, one man all the way from New Zealand wrote in suggesting Vivien Leigh. Eventually, 32 actresses were screen-tested, with the choices being narrowed down to six leading-ladies: Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Miriam Hopkins, Joan Crawford, Margaret Sullivan and Barbara Stanwyck. But still no frontrunner emerged, and the frantic search for Scarlett dragged on. After a while, Selznick joked that they would have to wait until Shirley Temple grew up to play the part.

Late into the casting process, Laurence Olivier happened to travel to Hollywood with his new love interest: a little-known actress named Vivien Leigh. She had coveted the part of Scarlett, and through Olivier’s connections, landed a screen test, officially being offered the role on Christmas Day in 1938. While the announcement stirred up some controversy, particularly in the South due to the fact that Leigh was British, most Southerners were generally reported to offer a shrug and say, “Better an English girl than a Yankee.”

If “Gone with the Wind” does have an over-arching theme, it would be survival, examining why some rise to the occasion and others fade from view when trials break on the horizon. Scarlett is the total embodiment of survival throughout, further cementing her position as the keystone to the entire narrative. It’s her determination to “never go hungry again” that fuels the action of the entire story. She does indeed lie, cheat, steal and kill to ensure her survival, sending life-altering shockwaves through everyone and, perhaps most of all, herself. 

Her will to survive is what makes her such a fascinating character because it causes you to simultaneously root for and against her. You want to her lick the Yankees, to save Tara from destruction and fulfill her impassioned speech to God. Yet when Rhett walks out on her it induces some head-nodding approval because Scarlett refused to trade-in her stubbornness and pride, insofar as he was concerned. Plus, she married her sister’s beau, which is a pretty bitchy move. (Curiously, author Margaret Mitchell initially wanted to call her heroine Pansy O’Hara, which is ridiculous and completely out of step with the character. Because love her or hate her, nothing about Scarlett suggests that she shares a single trait with the diminutive pansy. You don’t mess with Scarlett.) 

The role of Scarlett was certainly a high-wire act that would have crumbled in lesser hands, especially given all of the aforementioned drama happening off camera. But Vivien Leigh deserves all the credit in the world for thoroughly inhabiting Scarlett in her many incarnations from silly flirt to Civil War survivor, and from unethical businesswoman to hard-charging wife. I think my favorite moment of Leigh’s performance is when Rhett forces Scarlett to attend Ashley’s birthday party in order to not let her escape public humiliation stirred up by her own foolishness for throwing herself once again at Ashley’s feet. She arrives at the party, overdressed in a devil-red velvet gown, bracing herself for Melanie’s public rebuke. With all eyes on her, Scarlett just stands there, not saying a word. Yet the stiffness in her pose and in her fact exhibits a rare vulnerability that conveys pages of character description, while also showcasing the heights of Leigh’s talent.
 
Besides Vivien Leigh’s performance, there is so much more that one could write about this film. The music, the costumes, the sets, the cinematography, the acting, the writing, it all merits its own essay. But in the end, perhaps what makes “Gone with the Wind” so enjoyable as a film is that it has it all: war, romance, tragedy, comedy, beauty, ugliness, clarity, ambiguity. And because it congregates such variety, every time you watch “Gone with the Wind,” the experience is never duplicated. David O Selznick’s pictures have often been called the Rolls Royce of films. Indeed they are, and every once in a while, everyone should take “Gone with the Wind” out for a spin to appreciate what a fine ride it truly is.  

Favorite Line: “Gone with the Wind” is more quotable that “Jerry Maguire,” Wayne’s World” and every John Hughes movie combined. The number of great lines and phrases in this film would not fit underneath one of Mammy’s petticoats. And while “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” is without question a classic. My favorite line is when Scarlett raises a fist to the air, declaring, “As God is my witness, as God is my witness they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again.”

A runner-up to this line is when Prissy is calling for Rhett to leave his engagement and come help transport Melanie and her new baby out of Atlanta before full-blown siege descends upon it. Calling up to him, Prissy cries out, “Captain Butler! Captain Butler! You come down to the streets to me! Miss Mellie done had her baby. A fine baby boy, and Miss Scarlett and me, we brung him.” Now I realize on its face this quote doesn’t appear to be anything but special. However, it brings back a funny memory of my older sister who used to do an exaggerated impression saying this line, with an over-the-top, shrieking delivery that would never fail to make me laugh. In fact, just writing about it now tugs at the corners of my mouth.