Gone with the Wind (1939): 75th Anniversary [Blu-ray]

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Director David O. Selznick’s civil war drama epic about an upscale socialite is one of the many cinematic masterpieces I’m not very fond of. Visually, it’s a stunning work of art, with sweeping splashes of bold colors that help to establish the power of the love for the South, and character Scarlet O’Hara’s ability to take from her beloved land to rebuild her empire. But underneath the gloss and brilliance of the cinematography, “Gone with the Wind” really doesn’t garner much of a complex narrative beneath its seams, relying on very unlikable and vapid characters that serves their purpose all too well. While they could really complete a story about the inner turmoil of the wealthy in the war torn South, the characters of Scarlett and Rhett really offer nothing interesting to the narrative, and most of the interesting tidbits are handed over to character Mammy.

Despite the utterly distracting racist story elements involving slaves, and their treatment as pets on many occasions, Hatty McDaniels is fantastic as the long suffering servant of the O’Hara’s who witnesses every significant event, and stands by them in their roughest times. Her ability to put up with Scarlett also makes her nearly a saintly presence of the narrative. Despite being utterly one dimensional, Clark Gable’s performance is spirited and masterful as the one man in the South that couldn’t fall for the charms of Scarlett and realizes much too late that she’s incapable offering anything of true worth to him.

O’Hara is a stain on everyone she encounters in the narrative, so it’s tough to really find any sense of empathy in her character. Vivian Leigh is beautiful and plays the role well, but I couldn’t find anything in O’Hara that made me want to see where her narrative ended, and how she endured. “Gone with the Wind” is a breathtaking series of sights, but much too long in the tooth and lacking in interesting characters. For me it’s a mixed bag of flaws and high points that makes it a movie I am very indifferent toward. I can understand why it’s lavished with such praise, but it simply doesn’t live up to any of it.

For collectors that want something as a keepsake with their box, there’s a hardcover book celebrating the film’s immortal style and fashion that’s managed to be even more famous than the film itself, in many instances. There’s also a neat Monogrammed Handkerchief with the initials RR, and a very nice music box with a photo of Rhett and Scarlett that plays Max Steiner’s Tara Theme. Disc One of the 75th Anniversary Edition features the main film with a commentary. Disc Two there’s “The Making of a Legend: Gone With the Wind,” a two hour documentary often featured on TCM that chronicles the making of the film, the long and troubled shoot, and its production history. “Gone With the Wind: The Legend Lives On” is a thirty minute companion to the aforementioned documentary focusing on the legacy of the movie, and its impact on pop culture.

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There’s also a focus on collecting and preservation of the film’s legacy. “1939: Hollywood’s Greatest Year” is an hour long look at what is arguably the greatest year of cinema, with the extra focus on MGM who packed a wallop with “Wizard of Oz” and “Gone with the Wind.” There’s “Gable: The King Remembered” an hour long biography that explores Clark Gable’s life, as hosted by Peter Lawford. “Vivien Leigh: Scarlett and Beyond” is a forty five minute look the actress, her personal life, and her legacy, as hosted by Jessica Lange. “Melanie Remembers: Reflections by Olivia de Havilland” is a thirty minute exploration of the actress with interviews, and folks that knew and loved de Havilland. “The Supporting Players” is a thirty minute look at the wonderful supporting players for the ensemble, “Resembling a Legend” is an eighteen minute look at the lengths endured to keep this film preserved for future generations. There are two newsreels entitled “Dixie Hails Gone With the Wind” and “Atlanta Civil War Centennial,” and “The Old South,” an eleven minute documentary emphasizing the South, and the cultural significance of the plantation life.

Finally, there’s “International Prologue” a prologue to the foreign release, there’s “Foreign Language Versions” a small glimpse at samples of the film’s foreign versions, and “Movieola” a made for TV movie starring Tony Curtis as David O. Selznik. Finally there are five movie trailers for the original theatrical release and re-release. Disc Three features the When the Lion Roars three part documentary which looks at MGM without a detail spared. It’s an exhaustive, masterful chronicle for movie buffs, as hosted by Patrick Stewart. Disc Four features a CD of Max Steiner’s score, and a twenty six minute featurette called “Old South/New South” which explores the history of slavery, issues involving the South. Finally, “Gone With the Wind: Hollywood Comes to Atlanta” is a twelve minute look at the uncut footage of the movie premiere.