Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Has 'Gone with the Wind' now gone for good?


Has my possibly all-time second-favourite film now been declared off-limits to watch? It would seem so, at least on 'HBO Max' site from whence it has been removed, a subscription film library site I wasn't even aware of until today. But it needed just a nudge in this direction and now the move will probably snowball. 
I think it must have been in the 1970s when I first became aware of mutterings against the film's portrayal of black slaves in the American 'Deep South' just before and during the Civil War, as being contented with their lot and fiercely loyal to their white 'masters' - even so much as seeing the outlaw of slavery, let alone emancipation, as being a 'threat' to their stable livelihood. 
The quite understandable disapproval of this depiction has grown in years since then and after the start of this century it has become almost blasphemous to even mention the name of the film and Margaret Mitchell's novel in polite company, at least without holding one's nose while doing so.  

The move by HBO Max arises, of course, from the worldwide reaction to the death (and circumstances and method of killing) of George Floyd in Minnesota a fortnight ago, a formidable reaction which has grown in intensity, acquiring a momentum of its own, and which up to now shows no sign of abating. It has inspired long overdue debate all over on the unequal treatment and attitudes towards black people in particular and non-white peoples generally by governments, various authorities, but primarily by police forces. No one with half a brain even can argue that the matter should not be addressed, and urgently.  In the U.K. the current related obsession has moved to arguing for the removal of statues and monuments, and re-naming buildings and streets, which commemorate in positive terms, historical figures who sometimes actively participated in the slave trade themselves, and who in many cases acquired their wealth from the abhorrent practice - though it has now also reached to those influential persons who supported slavery as well as those who were not sufficiently condemnatory, whether or not they had power to do anything about it. Further, it now extends to those who held views holding certain races or colours in contempt  - for example, it's long been known that Winston Churchill had a very low opinion of those of Indian race. Is it now okay to deface, or even remove, the many statues of him? 

But back to GWTW. 
It would have been back in the mid-1950s when I first saw the film and when I'd have been somewhere around 10 or 11. It was in the cinema, naturally - and in fact still remains the film I have seen in the cinema more times than any other - around 20, I suppose - helped by its numerous re-releases, including in the late 1960s when it was released blown-up to big-screen 70mm (and tinted) when visual epics were all the rage. It's had further releases since then, such as in the 1990s when it was re-released in its original screen proportions and original colours. 

I've always loved the film - as well as the 1,000+ pages novel, which I still read periodically, being something like eight times to date.
Of course one's opinion is bound to be influenced to a large extent of it being evocative of one's own life experiences, my own especially strong ones being of seeing it for the first time with my mother, who was also a great fan of film and book - and, very significantly, the film including the first time I recall ever having felt a crush on someone, that someone being Leslie Howard - who, as I grew, fast faded from my list of 'desirables', and has meant nothing to me since those very early days. But I still wonder, did I pick up on my mother saying that she had liked him, and that I felt that I need to follow her taste? Maybe, but if so it will have been subconscious, and is much too long ago to recall it now.



And, of course, from the start I thought that Vivien Leigh's Scarlett was fab! but who wouldn't? - most of all when she was strong, sassy and determined - and in the end she was well rid of Rhett - after all "Tomorrow (would be) another day!" though will it ever again be so for the film and the book?




     



29 comments:

  1. Deep breath
    I think it shouldn't be pulled
    I think in this case it's partronising to remove it
    It was filmed version of a popular novel AT THE TIME
    cannot everyone see it for what it is ?
    In retrospect cannotbevertone see it as a work of art with a few warts
    Having said this it gave an academy award to a black actress something that would be repeated for over 50 years

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    1. Agree with you 100%, JayGee. Once this policy starts - and arguably it started some time ago - just where does it end? Must ALL films now have to pass a 'contemporary values' test? The world will be a sorrier and sadder place if that's the case.

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  2. I first saw GWTW is a young child and it didn't impress me and it was too damn long!

    then I read the book in high school. and have read it since then.

    then I saw the movie as an adult several times.

    I don't think it should be pulled either.

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    1. Yes, W.Q., at 3 HOURS and 40 minutes long [excluding any interval] it's quite some trial for one's sit-upon. I noted that when that interval came [at least in a cinema screening] it was not even at the half-way point of the film's running time. Nevertheless, I don't recall at any of my several cinema viewings an over-riding need to get up and stretch my legs, though I probably did so a few times. Didn't deter me from going again, though.

      I'd have been in my mid-20s when I first read the book, by which time I'd have seen the film a few times. Film followed the book surprisingly closely, save that in the book Scarlett had a son [wasn't he called 'Wade'?].
      I liked that much of the film's dialogues were lifted straight out of the novel.

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  3. I can understand why people are reacting to anything treating the antebellum South with anything but contempt, but as a historian I will say GWTW should be regarded as a credible depiction of the times. And if we don't know our history....
    It would be a disservice to believe that all slaves adored their masters, but enough of them must have have been obedient enough to allow our "peculiar institution" to thrive for over 200 years.

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    1. RTG, I note that a certain 'leader's [I use the word advisedly] latest rant is against the idea of re-naming various institutions in order to replace reference to former prominent Confederate leaders and supporters, he call them 'American Heroes', people [all men so far as I know] who actually fought against the idea of a 'UNITED States of America'. Sheesh! Yet again, another instance [of many] where I'm sure I know more about American history than he does - but that's not saying much as he's set the bar oh so low!

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  4. I too enjoy the movie and don't think it should be pulled either. Just about everybody and their mother have seen the movie, and their is no denying that slavery was sadly, apart of our history, and like Todd said it does depict a side to slavery. Its' one of my favorite films and Hattie McDaniel is one of my favorite actresses. She brought rather a entertaining side to the film I thought with her sass. She starred in over 300 films but was only credited in 80 or so of them, and she even took an Oscar for her part in GWTW. Sadly though when it premiered in Atlanta, and because of Georgia's segregation laws, she was held back from attending, which I think was extremely insulting. I have it on dvd, so I can watch it whenever I want.

    So glad to see you post! I do hope your getting by and avoiding the pandemic as best you can...and readying for the bound to be warm summer, which is fast approaching.

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    1. I had no idea that Hattie McD had appeared in so many films, M.M. Goodness me! Apart from this one I can only name off the top of my head 'I'm No Angel' with Mae West. I'll have to do some research - and pronto!

      Of course I'm aware of the shameful way she was treated and excluded from the ensuing Oscar celebrations [both with the benefit of retrospection as well as for then] on her fully deserving award win - but then I thought that just about everyone in that film deserved some worthy recognition, even Leslie Howard who, we know, was reluctant to take on the role of Ashley Wilkes as he felt he was too old for the part - and, from the novel, I think that he was right.

      Yes, still managing to dodge the virus, sitting here with four pussycats - and only ever going out just to do necessary shopping. Thanks for asking. Hope you're keeping well too - and judging from the regularity of your blog postings you're doing just fine.
      I'd post more frequently myself but unlike some of those I'm following, there's very little noteworthy happening in this corner. I'll try to see to that.

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  5. This insane attempt to rewrite history and pull the race crap on every aspect of life is a complete outrage, bordering on insanity.
    It happening everywhere here in America, thanks to the radical liberals.
    I remember long ago when the novel "Huckleberry Finn" was banned from public libraries.

    "Gone With the Wind" is a priceless classic, which doesn't endorse racism or racial suppression. In fact, Mammy is really the strongest and wisest character - who holds the others together.

    I first read GWTW when I was sixteen and it remains one of favorite novels.
    I first saw the movie when I was eighteen. It was a remastered restoration shown at the CinemaDome in Palm Springs, California.

    I suppose we'll soon have to go "underground" to find pirated copies of the film and book....

    What the hell is the world coming to???

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    1. I've got the film [original 'undoctored' version] on an old VHS video tape, Jon, which I can still just about play. Both that and the novel I regard as priceless and would hate to have to part with either.

      The trouble with all this censorship in the name of contemporary values is, that though I feel considerable sympathy with the general thrust of the argument, everyone has their own idea of exactly where the line should be drawn, making any consensus totally out of reach. Not only that, but if agreement was to be found, unlikely though that is, in a few years' time it'll have changed again - and later yet again. The only answer I can think of is either to leave things as they are or to take down ALL statues, rename ALL buildings, streets, institutions etc in favour of inanimate objects. I feel those who are digging a hole now have not realised that there's no bottom to it. Don't know where all this will end, but I just wish the whole damn thing would.

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  6. Quite simply, this is a movie about a specific time in history, made at a specific time in history.
    It's not about the world today and does not represent the views of th storyteller, or the filmmakers today.
    This is a dumb decision.

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    1. That's the sensible attitude, Bob - but 'sense' in this as in so much else, is sadly lacking. Those who are pushing this have only got to ask themselves where does it end - and it's clear that there's no one answer which will satisfy everyone. Just leave the darned thing alone!

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  7. What a hornets' nest! I understand the sentiment behind the move to stop glorifying America's original sin. I agree with removing public symbols of the defeated confederacy, except in museums where context and teaching can occur. We don't have many monuments to the losers of our other wars, just as I'm sure Britain and France don't have many statues of Hitler and other prominent Nazis in their public squares.

    But this is a novel (which I have read) and a film (which I have watched AND enjoyed). I don't think it's quite the same thing.

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    1. Quite so, Walt. As I say in response to Todd G. above, it seems that at least one 'illustrious' [sic] leader doesn't even know that the Confederates LOST the Civil War!
      No, you're right. I'm sure I'd be looking in vain for a statue or any memorial to Hitler or any of the Axis leaders - even in Germany itself, where it would actually be a criminal act to put up such a monstrosity.

      Glad that you too liked the film. I had no idea it had so many fans, which pleases me no end.

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  8. I have never loved the film. But didn’t appreciate how racist it was until the early 80s (would have been the same age as you when you discovered that). I can’t imagine what it was like for my black schoolmates to grow up with that. But I wonder if we all need to be educated to look at these films in a different light rather than censoring and burying our racist history. Dickens was racist. Do we put away all those books and films or learn from that history as well as the history of child abuse and social injustice? Although I do think statues honoring the racist leaders of the American confederacy should be buried or “museumed.”

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  9. Meant to add re Dickens, anti-Semitic, too.

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    1. I agree that the best places for such statues are in a museum - a kind of 'prison' as it were, but with a large, easily readable notice, perhaps hung round its neck, to explain the context for its placement in that building. As for re-naming geographical locations, not so easy, though for 'little' places it could be done. But once we're on the slippery slope - which we now seem to be - there's no knowing how to stop going down further and further.

      Dickens, yes, of course. Also, probably the best known anti-Semite of all 'creators' Richard Wagner - lots and lots of statues to him still in place in Germany, of course. Just where do we draw the line? Now that we've started SOMEONE is going to have to call a halt to thus near-madness.

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    2. Dickens took care of that himself by writing Our Mutual Friend

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    3. I've read 'Friend' at least three times but all the plots of his lesser-known novels have become so intertwined in my mind that I'll have to refresh my memory on this to appreciate what you say.

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  10. Just want to add my vote that it should not be pulled. It's a classic. A flawed classic, but still a classic.

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    1. Thanks for your 'vote', Kirk. As you might guess, I'm entirely of your opinion - and it does now look like the film will not now be deleted both from HBO [though here with a note of 'qualification'] and most other libraries. Seems that sense is prevailing on what had been an over-hasty move.

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  11. I remember my roommate from the South saying everyone from where he came from loves this movie as it shows the South was glorious. I smelled a rat.

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  12. Anyone who would use the word 'glorious' to describe the the South of those ante-bellum times betrays where they [figuratively] are coming from. Having said that I must have seen the film about a dozen times before I thought there was anything 'wrong' with it - and even then only because others were pointing out why. Nonetheless I'll still be happy to watch it over and over as long as my video-player survives.

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  13. It's a movie of its time, and I think that it would be so many peoples favorite, that it seems a shame to discard it now. I don't think I have ever managed to watch it all the way through without falling asleep.

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    1. I think there must be a lot of people, Poppy, who've attempted to watch to but just couldn't make it through what is near to a marathon of viewing. I have to confess I've never been bored with it on any of my numerous watchings even though I know so well what's coming in the present and ensuing scene right through to the end. On video too, I never feel tempted to fast-forward it. That would lessen its 'magic'. But that's just me.

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  14. I saw this movie for the one and only time a few years ago. It bored the crap out of me! I will not read the book. I prefer Carol Burnett's version. I feel the same way about Citizen Kane. I don't get it. If I don't like something, I just won't watch it. It's not a race thing for me. One of my favorite books growing up was Huckleberry Finn.

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  15. Well there you are, D. There's no need for me to repeat what I think of it. We'll just have to put it down to differing tastes. Ditto as regards 'Kane'.
    I quite liked 'Huck Finn' but enjoyed 'Tom Sawyer more - and was particularly entertained and much tickled by the passage involving a dog in church, though these days I'd be thinking more of the poor suffering dog rather than deriving amusement from its predicament.
    Twain was a fine writer, though.

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  16. How are we meant to learn from our mistakes, if the slate is wiped clean? GWTW, one of my top 10 films...

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    1. You're so very right, Debdor - and I'm delighted to learn that you are also a true appreciator of 'quality', even if it's only my/our opinion.

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