So it’s finally come to this.
I’ve been putting off watching “Gone with the Wind” for the better part of ten years, seemingly ignoring one of the most important movies ever made and the highest grossing when adjusted for inflation. And it wasn’t because I thought I’d hate it or that it wouldn’t live up to the hype, and it certainly wasn’t because of the subject matter, but simply because of its length. At just slightly under four hours, I think it’s safe to say “Gone with the Wind” is the longest film I’ve ever watched, while still firmly holding the belief that any movie over three hours becomes a chore after a while. However, never watching “Gone with the Wind” would be like never watching “Citizen Kane,” so despite my reservations, I felt now was finally the time to sit down and watch this sprawling civil war epic and see just how this film has mesmerized audiences for 80 years.
And after those four hours just flew by, it is hard to argue against “Gone with the Wind” being one of the greatest films ever made. There’s such a massive sense of awe and wonder in this brightly colored film, giving the movie the look of a classical painting come to life. At times, it feels like cinema was invented solely for this kind of movie, with its gorgeous back drops, breathtaking cinematography accompanied by a flurry of a score from Max Steiner, all while these larger than life characters shine brighter than the sun as their egos threaten to extinguish each other in a brilliant display that would rival a supernova. The only other movie that accomplishes all of this amazement just as well is “The Wizard of Oz,” both released in 1939, though “Gone with the Wind” somehow feels even more fantastical than the land of Oz through the romance between it’s two leads, Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable).
There is so much to love about these endearing characters, not the least of which being Leigh and Gable’s witty banter and their undeniable fiery chemistry, but what I took away more than anything else was their authenticity. Despite the amazing production design, colorful dialogue and the many detailed depictions of the south during this conflicted time, none of that worked quite as well as the flawed yet strong characters of Scarlett and Rhett, how they always fumed and battled for supremacy like it was the only thing that mattered. They live every moment like it was their last, and we watch the highs and lows of that play out like any great tragedy with the most sincerity ever shown on screen.
Ultimately, “Gone with the Wind” is the ultimate cinematic epic, capturing a moment in time that was beloved and treasured, yet can never be again. The length doesn’t feel nearly as awful as I thought, because no moment in this movie is wasted, adding to this grand picture that only cinema can offer. It is both sprawling, yet personal, covering an entire society while feeling like it was made for these two egotistical characters. To me, this film is the definition of “larger than life.”
Final Grade: A