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.
This will sound corny and somewhat cliché, but…
Gone with the Wind changed my life.
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.
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…
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.
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…
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.
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