Actors Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in the 1939 film 'Gone With The Wind'.
Actors Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in the 1939 film 'Gone With The Wind'.

My bad. I just watched Gone with the Wind and you should too

DON'T let the thought police put you off watching Gone with the Wind.

In a scramble for political correctness HBO Max removed it from its US streaming service recently saying it was "a product of its time" and depicted "ethnic and racial prejudices".

Using that sort of logic on a work of art is dangerous. It's a slippery slope that could lead to banning half the movies ever made.

It has since been reinstated but now includes the disclaimed that the film "denies the horrors of slavery".

As soon as I saw that HBO Max had dropped it my inner contrarian said to me - "You must watch it again." So I did.

Luckily Fox Classics on Foxtel screened it recently, with a disclaimer stating that it was a movie of its time although any sensible person would get that.

The film was based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Margaret Mitchell, first published in 1936. It's a dramatic saga set in Clayton County and Atlanta, both in Georgia, before, during and after the American Civil War.

Gone with the Wind is still regarded as a classic
Gone with the Wind is still regarded as a classic

It depicts the struggles of young Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh in the film) the spoiled daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner, who must use every means at her disposal to claw her way out of poverty in the aftermath of the war, a conflict the devastated the country at a cost of more than 600,000 lives.

The novel has always been popular and more than 30 million copies have been printed worldwide and scholars at American universities refer to, interpret, and study it in their writings. It is now part of American popular culture.

The film includes one of the most famous lines in Hollywood history, delivered by the dashing Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) who has an antagonistic romance with Scarlett O'Hara.

At the end of the film he turns to her and says ...."Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." Why? Well you'll have to watch the film to find out.

It won 10 Academy Awards and is still regarded by many as the greatest of all Hollywood classics.

FOX Classics' recent screening was part of a tribute to the late Bill Collins (our own Mr Hollywood), 12 months on from his passing. It included Collins' introduction to the 1939 film, one of his all-time favourites.

Among the praise he showered, Collins enthused about one of the African-American stars.

"Just take a look at this magnificent woman, Hattie McDaniel, the first black person to get an Academy Award," Collins said. "And she deserved it as Mammy in Gone with the Wind. You can't imagine Gone with the Wind without her."

Vivien Leigh & Hattie McDaniel in Gone With The Wind.
Vivien Leigh & Hattie McDaniel in Gone With The Wind.

McDaniel's performance is remarkable and it's worth watching the movie just to see here. As for its depictions of slavery, well, slavery existed and I don't think anyone would watch the movie and suggest it validated this great injustice.

But it does show how blind the white folks of the south were to that injustice and how they viewed the old south, predicated on slavery, as a an idyll destroyed forever by the Civil War. And of course some people in America are still fighting that war and still flying the flag of the Confederacy, literally and metaphorically.

It's bizarre but true.

Gone with the Wind is the story told from the loser's side and it helps explain a lot about America. Rather than shun it we should all watch it again but set aside half a day because it's more than three hours long. In the old days they would have had an intermission at screenings.

I say don't ban films such as this, don't mess with Fawlty Towers and don't take down statues of Captain Cook. Stop trying to rewrite history to suit the present because there are lessons to learn from the past and we can't learn them by erasing it.




Originally published as My bad. I just watched Gone with the Wind and you should too

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