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 Gone With the Wind

The Critics Corner: GONE WITH THE WIND

Gone with the Wind grossed $945,000 in its first week; $14 million in its first year. By the end of its initial general release it had grossed $32 million, a record that would hold until The Sound of Music became the all-time top grosser in 1965. With ticket sales since 1939 translated into contemporary dollars, it is the world's all-time box-office champion, taking in over $3.3 billion dollars.

"Gone with the Wind opens a new film era. It has everything a great picture could have. It has everything that everybody wanted." -- Lee Rogers, The Atlanta Constitution.

"...we cannot get over the shock of not being disappointed..." -- Frank Nugent, the New York Times.

"Gone with the Wind -- Magnificent and Supreme Triumph of Film History." -- Headline in the Hollywood Reporter.

"Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew seems to have got mixed up with one of the novels of Ethel M. Dell" - James Agee.

"A major event in the history of the industry but only a minor event in motion picture art. There are moments when the two categories meet on good terms, but the long stretches between are filled with mere spectacular efficiency." -- Franz Hoellering, The Nation.

"The picture is too long, and the final adventures of the Southern wench could have been abbreviated considerably. But it is a movie version of a novel, fantastic in scope, extraordinary in detail, played better than any movie I've ever seen, and more colossal, stupendous, gigantic, and terrific than any picture ever has been, without at any time seeming pretentious. If I go on any longer, I might as well go to work for MGM." - Pare Lorenz, McCall's, March 1940.

"The best part of this colossal epic is the Battle of Atlanta, depicted in all its horrors. The film's real director is its producer, David O. Selznick, rather than the unimaginative Victor Fleming, or even George Cukor or Sam Wood, who worked on the film for a while until they were fired." - Georges Sadoul, Dictionary of Films (University of California Press).

"In the desire apparently to leave nothing out, Selznick has left too much in. As in the book, the most effective portions of the saga of the destroyed South deal with human incident against the background of the war between the states and the impact of honorable defeat to the Southern forces." - Variety Movie Guide (Prentice Hall).

"..Gone with the Wind still compels admiration even while its weaknesses are acknowledged. The issues of the American Civil War are treated with naivety and the use of TECHNICOLOR is often self-consciously aesthetic; but the prodigal use of spectacle is impressive, particularly in the famous Atlanta scenes which deserve their place in film history. It is a prime example of the 'designed' film, with every other consideration subordinated to the lavish sets and costumes." - The Oxford Companion to Film (Oxford University Press).

"What more can one say about this much-loved, much discussed blockbuster? It epitomizes Hollywood at its most ambitious (not so much in terms of art, but of middlebrow, respectable entertainment served up on a polished platter); it's inevitably racist, alarmingly sexist (Scarlett's submissive smile after marital rape), nostalgically reactionary (wistful for a vanished, supposedly more elegant and honourable past), and often supremely entertaining." - Geoff Andrew, TimeOut Movie Guide (Penguin).

"It's a gorgeous film - it's exciting just to watch characters in their lavish costumes, or the fiery red skies that often serve as the backgrounds, or shots of the Tara plantation...Film defies criticism. Suffice it to say that Leigh and Gable are perfect in their roles. They are witty, dramatic, dynamic, glamorous, and boy can they kiss." - Danny Peary, Guide for the Film Fanatic (Fireside).

"...I made a deal with the movie: I would never forget its racist subtext. But I would also keep in mind that watching GWTW and worrying about its civil rights and wrongs was useless. It was like evaluating Lawrence of Arabia [1962] solely in terms of its Arab stereotypes. I could still love it even though it reduced an entire group of people to colorful savages...It is indeed a monument to "a civilization gone with the wind" - the 1930s as much as the 1860s. Enduring and immutable, it is what movies are all about. Not a grande dame, as I once thought, but a grand illusion. Perhaps the grandest illusion of them all." - Eleanor Ringel, The A List (Da Capo Press).

AWARDS & HONORS

Vivien Leigh won the New York Film Critics Award for Best Actress. Gone with the Wind narrowly missed out on the group's Best Picture award. After several ballots, however, the honor went to Wuthering Heights (1939).

Gone with the Wind set a record for Oscar® wins and nominations. It took eight awards, with 13 nominations, winning for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress (Hattie McDaniel), Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Interior Decoration and Best Editing. It also took a special technical Oscar® for Don Musgrave's "use of coordinated equipment", the Irving G. Thalberg Award for producer David O. Selznick and an honorary award to William Cameron Menzies for his use of color. Other nominations went to Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland, the special effects, Max Steiner's score and the film's sound.

Because of the film's road-show release, Gone with the Wind was not considered for the National Board of Review's ten-best list until 1940, when it placed ninth behind The Grapes of Wrath.

Gone with the Wind was voted a place on the National Film Registry in 1989.

In 1989, it was voted the Favorite All-Time Motion Picture in the People's Choice Awards.

by Frank Miller & Jeff Stafford

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