A Great Classic

        Gone with the Wind, that title brings forth so many connotations, ideas, memories, brief insights to a past culture so on and so forth. Gone with the Wind is not only one of America's highest grossing films of all time. But it was awarded by the American Film Institute in 1998 by being one of the greatest movies of all time. Gone with the Wind is more than just another classic movie, but it is also a classic book. The movie has wonderfully round and relatable characters from the heroine, Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh), who still gives hope to young women around the world to Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), the realistic knight in shining armor who is cynical and imperfect yet whom one cannot help but adore. Even within the characters of Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland) and Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard), we witness the ideas of a Southern culture long destroyed by war. This movie is more than just a Pre and Post Civil War movie set in the South, but something generations ever since have loved and found something from their time period to relate to the movie. Gone with the Wind has moved beyond an American classic spanning over generations and many countries to become a great classic.

         Book to screen adaptations are never an easy concept for directors and script writers to do, yet Gone with the Wind would easily be the hardest book to screen adaptation of its time. Written by Margaret Mitchell and published in June of 1936, Gone with the Wind had over 1,000 pages. When the director, David O. Selznick bought the rights to the book in July of 1936, he knew he had a lot of work before him. The 1,000 plus pages of the book calculates into a movie well over 160 hours long. The writing process by which Selznick, and dramatist friend, Sidney Howard, was a long, difficult process involving cutting much of the O'Hara clan and Scarlett's first two children out of the movie. Even after Howard had cut the book down into a script it was till a six-hour-long movie. From here on Selznick hired many others, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, to help in cutting the original script down to a three-hour movie. Fitzgerald is known more for not adding to the script but for cutting out much of the large unimportant parts. Instead of having huge monologues throughout the movie, the script writers replaced them with short lines directly from the text. The writing and rewriting of the script was not an easy project. It was such an engrossing project that even the actors did not have a final version of the script till after the movie was finished.

         Nothing about the making of Gone with the Wind was easy, Selznick decided early on that this epic drama had to be in Technicolor. Technicolor was new to the film industry and because of this was not used much during the time period Gone with the Wind was filmed. Because Selznick decided to use such new technology, it brought many more difficulties to the table. There were only seven cameras that could shoot Technicolor, and Selznick rented every single one of them for this flick. Selznick also decided to use shadows to put more emphasis on certain scenes; one of the most popular images/scenes from this movie is one of those "shadowed" scenes. Anyone that has seen anything from Gone with the Wind knows the scene where Scarlett and her father (Thomas Mitchell) look over Tara as the sun is setting in the background. The audience watches as the colors in the sunset are played up, while Mr. O'Hara and Scarlett stand before it shadowed and outlined in black. Selznick used the use of shadows in this scene so the audience would understand Gerald O'Hara's love of his plantation. Also, this scene foreshadows Scarlett's future love of the land and the work she puts into saving it. This scene obviously worked because, even if one does not know much of Gone with the Wind, he or she has more than likely seen this image and can relate it back to this movie.

        Gone with the Wind is also known for its large use of extras and some of its more readily known and massive scenes. The very first scene filmed for the movie was the burning of Atlanta. This scene is important because of the historical accuracy. Selznick wanted everything to look as real as possible. The burning of Atlanta scene was actually pieces of other movies and back lot material no longer needed by MGM. One of the most famous things burnt were backdrops and the huge gate from the movie King Kong. Along with the famous burning of Atlanta scene, is the one in which Scarlett must find Dr. Meade (Harry Davenport) at the railroad station. The station has become a place for the wounded soldiers to get treatment. This is one of the largest scenes in Gone with the Wind. As the camera pulls away from a close up of Scarlett and Dr. Meade, one can see over 700 extras lying in Confederate costumes, representing all the wounded soldiers. Along with all those extras were over 700 dummies and more "soldiers" painted into the scene during editing. At the time of the filming no other film had ever used the massive amounts of extras and dummies that Gone with the Wind had.

         Gone with the Wind was not only the hardest book to movie adaptation ever filmed; but, also because of all this work, it has become a great American classic. Not only is it sold in America, but also it is a popular video in eight European countries, two Southern American countries, and three Asian countries. The popularity of Gone with the Wind has been growing since it was made in 1939 and is just at as popular today. While compared to some movies shot today it looks old and out of date, yet it is still a favorite to many. Originally thought to be the biggest flop in Hollywood history, it actually became the best classic in Hollywood history.

Amy Hiett

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