Gone with the Wind
is a sprawling mosaic of a picture, one of the best-loved and most successful in movie history, but also one of the most frustrating. Wonderfully epic in scope, the decline and fall of the antebellum South as seen through the eyes of feisty, independent and wilful heroine Scarlett O'Hara makes the first half of the picture an absolutely riveting spectacle. From the aristocratic old world of Tara to the horrors of Atlanta under siege, Gone with the Wind
features any number of indelible scenes and images: the genteel girls taking an enforced siesta during the Twelve Oaks barbecue, a horrified Scarlett walking through the wounded, the flight from burning Atlanta, and Scarlett's moving pledge against a burnished sunset set to Max Steiner's glorious music score. But the second half shifts gear, the melodramatic quotient is upped yet further as tragedy piles upon tragedy, and despite its unwieldy length everything feels rushed. Add to that the central problem that the audience never really understands, why Scarlett could ever fall for weak-chinned Ashley in the first place, and the picture begins to unravel unsatisfactorily. Behind the scenes problems doubtless contributed, with directors coming and going, Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable apparently barely able to stand the sight of each other, and producer David O Selznick's endless rewrites and interference. Nonetheless, this 1939 box-office smash remains one of Hollywood's finest achievements, an irresistible spectacle chock-full of the finest stars in the filmic firmament striking sparks off one another. They really don't make 'em like this anymore.
On the DVD: No extra features on this DVD, which is a pity given the amount of material that must be available, but it has to be admitted this disc is worth the asking price simply to drink in the astonishing quality of the picture, sumptuously presented in its original 1.33:1 "Academy" ratio. The mono sound is vivid, too, showcasing Max Steiner's headily romantic score. --Mark Walker