Sunday, June 01, 2008

[cue Tara theme]

"Rhett!" "Scarlett!" "Ashley!" "Mellie!" "Mammy!" "Prissy!"

The famous story of Scarlett O'Hara, the Southern belle with more spine than sense. Scarlett wants Ashley, the brooding heir of the neighboring plantation. He's an idealist, a dreamer and a romantic. He's also madly in love with his cousin Melanie, and engaged to marry her.

When the engagement is announced, Scarlett accepts Melanie's brother, Charles' proposal of marriage in a fit of pique. Then comes the War Between the States (this is a movie from the Southern perspective, after all).

The men march off, and the women are left to worry after them, although at first the war seems very far away, and the women are as much concerned about the season's parties and hats.

When at last Sherman marches through Atlanta, Scarlett's forced to make a do-or-die choice. It's at that point she begins to show her stubbornness and wilfullness as strength - strength she needs in the years after the war ends and reconstruction begins.

Unfortunately, the same stubbornness that keeps her alive keeps her emotionally tied to Ashley, in spite of an obviously better match in Rhett Butler, the scandalous rake who only gains favor in Southern society's eyes when he becomes a blockade runner. Even so, his gains are ill-gotten and as the upper crust regains its stature, he's quickly relegated to the position of "new" and "scandalous" money. Rhett never quite gets past being a cad, and seems to court the reputation.

The book was a sensation in its time, and may still be the best-selling fiction novel in the world, so the ending was probably not much of a surprise to the viewing audiences, but it does fly in the face of standard 30's romantic movie tradition. I understand there was an alternate ending planned that was more in line with the industry standard. Fortunately, it was left on the cutting-room floor.

Although parts of this movie are rather insulting to the modern attitude toward race relations, it's a beautifully shot film.

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