Ever since its release in 1939, Gone with the Wind has become a standard for what movie-making should be. It has retained its wholesome image as an expressive, classic motion picture and American Civil War “documentary” due to its extraordinary organization of the original novel’s many elements, diverse cast, and excellent production. The plot itself has much to offer, with resonating qualities and the deep timbres of its themes. The moment the main characters were cast, however, was when this war film was set as an exceptional cinematic presentation. It doesn’t matter if the viewer has any personal interest in the events of the Civil War or the slavery abolition movement. When Vivien Leigh marches onscreen as Scarlet O’Hara, a spell is still cast even after all these years. In fact, from Clark Gable as Rhett Butler to Olivia de Havilland as Melanie Hamilton, Gone with the Wind is worth its weight in gold for its fabulous (and eccentric) characters as well as the performances that made them iconic. Scarlet O’Hara is a female protagonist unequalled in all of literature; Leigh makes her an unforgettable one.
Moreover, aside from the personalized side stories, Gone with the Wind has an unparalleled overview of the Civil War and its after-effects from a Southern point of view, i.e. Confederate. The movie displays how the South was overturned and pillaged by the North for personal gain and profit, not for the abolition movement. The film is understanding and sympathetic, acknowledging the injustice in slavery per se but still showing how the Confederacy formed and what it stood for. Through a mask of selfish concern for her vulnerability and insecurity, Scarlet strong-mindedly pulls the audience through the history that changes her life and steepens her personality. The many climaxes and downfalls in Gone with the Wind are only worth seeing together or not at all, even in the face of continual tragedy. The small victories in the story and the power of this impressive, colorful spectacle simultaneously re-creates the impact of the Civil War’s on history and the future while depicting a great spark of humanity in full visual glory.