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When I saw what theme had been chosen for the Classic Movie Blog Association’s latest blogathon—what movie inspired your love of classic film, there was not even a second’s pause as to what my choice would be: Gone with the Wind.
clark gable vivien leigh gone with the wind
This will sound corny and somewhat cliché, but…
Gone with the Wind changed my life.
clark gable vivien leigh
I was not born in the south, but I consider myself a southerner as I have lived in Georgia for 24 years. My mother was born and raised in Arkansas and her grandmother was a true Southern belle from Savannah, Georgia. It wasn’t too long after we moved to Georgia that a fateful trip to Blockbuster introduced me to Margaret Mitchell’s tale of the old south. “I think you’ll like it,” my mother said, picking up the two VHS tapes it required. I remember being skeptical that my mother was trying to force me to watch something educational. And what movie requires two VHS tapes?
Well of course my mother was ultimately right. I have always been what many call “an old soul.” As a child, I always liked the older Disney films such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty over the newer ones. Instead of watching mind-numbing preteen programming, I was tuned into Nick at Nite every night, watching “Bewitched,” “Mr. Ed”  “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
Even so, I was skeptical when the sweeping credits began and I remember being surprised it was in color. But soon… I was enchanted. Those dresses! Those drawls! Scarlett, you can’t possibly marry that Charles Hamilton! And my god, what do you see in Ashley Wilkes?  I remember tears in my eyes when Scarlett discovers her dead mother, when Bonnie falls off the horse and Scarlett pleads with Rhett to stay with her.
clark gable vivien leigh gone with the wind
I recall my preteen self being confused as to why Rhett got so upset when Scarlett told him he couldn’t sleep in her room anymore. So, you live in a mansion, go sleep in another room! And why does she look angry when he says he will find comfort elsewhere? Also my mother had to explain to me why Scarlett said she was having a baby but didn’t after that fateful fall down the stairs. But nonetheless…
clark gable vivien leigh gone with the wind
The next day at school, I was still distracted by the film; my mind kept drifting back to it. I remember chattering a mile a minute about the plot to a wide-eyed friend of mine, who, looking back, probably thought I was the weirdest kid on the planet, blathering on about a movie that old. I was officially hooked.
Scarlett O’Hara is, of course, a rather imperfect heroine for a girl to look up to. But despite her many faults–”selfish and shrewd” as Rhett would say–her determination and courage are to be admired. No matter what, you carry on. Always carry on. Tomorrow is another day. Blind optimism or not, it’s not a bad sentiment to live by. I’ve met many a Gone with the Wind fan in my life, and they all seem to connect with that one central theme of the film: survival.
vivien leigh gone with the wind
Somebody (probably my mother) bought me one of Herb Bridges’ books for Christmas that year. I remember being amazed when I looked at behind the scenes and premiere pictures. Look at Scarlett, out of hoop skirts and petticoats, in dark lipstick and furs! It was then that I became more interested in not only the film itself, but what it took to create it. It also piqued my interest in the 1930′s in general and, of course, in the novel and its author.
Years later, I encountered my old tattered copy of the book and decided to reread it. I was then inspired to go buy the movie and rewatch it again; it had been a few years. For some reason, that showing was like re-opening my eyes to the magic of the film. I started looking up the actors and actresses, learning more about them and became intrigued. First, I read a bio on Vivien Leigh. Intriguing! And of course I wanted to see the films that were mentioned. One day I stumbled upon Ship of Fools on TCM. It was Vivien’s last film and I remember being amazed at how she looked, even how her voice had changed. Next up was Waterloo Bridge, an absolute treasure. The cinematography amazed me, the love story haunted me. And that Robert Taylor! He was so handsome. What was his story? Oh look, there’s one of his movies coming on TCM! And he was married to Barbara Stanwyck…who is that…well look, she’s in Ball of Fire coming on soon, let’s watch that…
clark gable hattie mcdaniel gone with the wind
It was about time then that I read a book of Clark Gable. Having seen only Gone with the Wind when I read my first biography of him, I was in awe of the man and his fascinating life. My next stop was It Happened One Night. And so it began. Through Clark Gable’s films I met the likes of Claudette Colbert, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, Hedy Lamarr, Rosalind Russell, Jean Harlow, William Powell, Joan Crawford, Marion Davies, Lana Turner, Doris Day, Robert Montgomery and, of course, Carole Lombard.
So it was because of Gone with the Wind that my true love of classic movies began and that my appreciation of Clark Gable flowered and, well, that I am here on my own website writing this. And through the website I have made so many dear friends and have corresponded with so many great Gable fans. The website, my DVR full of TCM recordings, my office filled with classic movie books, memorabilia and posters, my bathroom with 1930′s Lux Soap ads lining the walls, The Misfits theme ringtone on my phone… it can all be tied to this one film.
I know some people who have a favorite movie and they watch it constantly. Not me. For me, Gone with the Wind is a rather sweeping experience. It’s long and there are so many great scenes and lines and so many emotions that I can’t “handle” it frequently. But on the occasion I do, it’s like visiting an old friend.
gone with the wind
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14 Responses to CMBA Film Passion 101 Blogathon: Gone with the Wind (1939)

  1. Brittaney says:

    I have seen this movie numberable times but had the good fortune to watch it on the big screen this year. It was definitely a highlight of my classic movie loving life.

  2. “Gone With the Wind” is a good old friend to have. I enjoyed reading about the journey of your fascination with film, and Gable in particular, from a VHS tape to your website and all those wonderful stops in between.

    I once attended a pops concert featuring Hollywood scores and while I admire “Gone With the Wind” I didn’t think of myself as a huge fan, but when the orchestra played Max Steiner’s score I couldn’t keep the tears from my eyes.

  3. The Lady Eve says:

    Your journey into, around and through “Gone with the Wind” is fascinating. As I read the contributions to CMBA’s Film Passion 101 blogathon, I realize that so many of us almost literally went “down a rabbit hole” when we first viewed the film that inspired our passion.

    By the way, I love it that “The Misfits” theme is the ringtone on your phone!

  4. FlickChick says:

    Love it! The first time I saw GWTW was on the big screen (no – not in 1939!)and I was dazzled. I love how you describe how one film or star just leads you to another and anther and another! I think that’s the way we all fall down the rabbit hole. And I do agree that, as much as I love GWTW, I can’t bear to watch it too often. The sad parts really do get to me. Thank you for a wonderful addition to the blogathon!

  5. Christine says:

    The story of how your love for old films and Clark Gable came about is so similar to my own, it’s scary!!

  6. Rick says:

    It’s always a wonderful sign when a film makes you want to learn more it and its cast! I watched GWTW because I had read so much about it that I felt obligated to see it. I didn’t think it’d be my kind of movie, but–of course–I enjoyed it. But, really, what did Scarlett see in Ashley?

  7. Coco B says:

    You have described me almost to a tee. I don’t have a website but I do correspond regularly about the book and Clark. When Gone with the Wind premiered on TV my mom pretty much made me watch it. She said it was a part of the history if America. She was so very right. From that movie was born a love of classic movies, American history, literature and business. Scarlett owning businesses inspired me to own my own. While I am not self employed my husband and I own two businesses and employ over 60 people. Like Scarlett I am building my own home. Gone with the Wind is a very important part of who I am. I also fell in love with Clark that night as well. Reading one of his bios I picked up a very important habit. My clothes are always clean pressed and in good shape it always make a good impression. And Carole and Kay spoiling him is good advice too. My hubby is spoiled and happy. Ria,s pancake recipe is the bomb. :)

  8. Fritzi says:

    Great review! And I can certainly relate to your story about recounting the entire tale to a classmate. Not that, ahem, I ever (cough cough) did such a thing…

  9. Aurora says:

    I love that way that happens – how one classic begets another, which begets another and so on. :) That’s sort of how I feel about some of the classic film blogs I’ve run into and “met” through CMBA as they introduce me to new-to-me-classics.

    Anyway – great read. I’m an admirer of Scarlett’s too and Mr. Gable, well, you know better abut him than I do – just great presence. I love them together in GWTW. I love the pics you chose too.

    Aurora

  10. R.A. Kerr says:

    I laughed when you asked what Scarlett O’Hara sees in Ashley Wilkes. I ask myself that question every time I watch this movie.

    You made an interesting point about this movie being about survival. I’ve never thought about it that way before, but your absolutely right.

    Thanks for sharing your memories of this remarkable film.

  11. Beautifully written.

    1. I remember the two VHS tapes as well. It just seemed appropriately grand that Gone with the Wind would have more than one.

    Our tapes were housed in a flat rectangular box with the tapes lying side by side, giving the cover artist a bigger space than usual to work with. Again, epic marketing.

    2. I understand about not watching your favorite on a loop. I did that with The Heiress (1949) to find subtle clues to everyone’s motivations that maybe I missed the 1st time. I wrote about three blog posts on it and several unpublished articles. But after a bit I burned out. It’s still my favorite, though.

    3. You have Lux Soap ads lining your bathroom walls? Why have I never thought of that? It’s perfect!

    Thanks.

    - Java

  12. Count me in on the “what does Scarlett O’Hara see in Ashley Wilkes?” question. Seriously, if you were to look up the definition of “fop” in the dictionary you’d see his photo.

    Great write-up…I think GWTW has been a starting point for many classic film fans (it’s one of my Mom’s favorite movies and a few of my friends as well).

  13. Absolutely fascinating! I loved learning about your journey via “Gone With the Wind.” It goes to show how one movie can spark a lifelong journey!

  14. Lydia says:

    What a wonderful post!

    Gone with the Wind absolutely changed my life as well. I’d read the book first and then I saw GWTW in the movie theatre as a teenager living abroad with my American family in The Netherlands. The Dutch subtitles seemed to underscore the film’s broad, worldwide appeal. I was completely swept away by the movie but I didn’t completely understand it at first. Like you, I was so naive about the adult relationships I saw in GWTW. I remember asking my dad whether Rhett really loved Scarlett because Rhett had told her he didn’t love her any more than she loved him. Why did adults say such contradictory things?

    I’d grown up watching the same classic movies that my parents loved but I didn’t like them nearly as much as they did. GWTW changed all that. I’d never, never seen an actor like Gable. I had to see more of him. And of Leigh. And what other movies did that Selznick guy make? Hey, Anne Edwards has just written a biography of Vivien Leigh — I want to read that! The rabbit hole of classic movies — and its accompany history — indeed!

    Today, if you’d asked me what my favorite movie is, I’d say It Happened One Night. I’m not lying when I say that. But casually citing GWTW as merely my favorite film seems so inadequate. Seeing Gone with the Wind is a central life event that changed everything for me.

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