Original /70mm Programs

         American/Japanese Programs

         Another Japanese Program 






Gone with the Wind is often referred to as a dutiful event. So much a part of our social and cultural fabric, we feel this obligation to see it and then later, preferably half-crocked, sit through it again with family and friends when annually shown on the box during the holidays. With the book a blockbuster, the making of the movie indeed became something everyone wanted a say in, especially the casting of Rhett and Scarlett. The American public had no doubts as to who Rhett must be played by, and there would be no rejection of the overwhelming popular vote. Scarlett was a different matter; when we watch some of the 160,000 feet of tests of the various actresses vying for the part, it’s very clear any firmly established performer would distractingly carry her own personality to the part, thus depriving the enormous readership of a fresh “vision” of who Scarlett is. Too risky for David O. Selznick, and for once we’re on his side (because those who knew him usually weren’t). Vivien Leigh is the miracle who arrived almost too late; so goes the legend, had she not appeared on the night Atlanta was burning for the cameras, we might have had Paulette Goddard or Tallulah Bankhead after all. Leigh’s beauty was relatively new to American moviegoers, and because the public knew next to nothing about her, the interest in her could build without much bias. That she was English was carped about, that she was Laurence Olivier’s love interest didn’t hurt. (The couple jointly soared in popularity when Wyler’s Wuthering Heights, in which Olivier played Heathcliff, was released the same year.) Though Selznick never stopped worrying, once filming started, dressed to the Tara hilt and speaking with a delicious Southern accent, Leigh convinced just about everyone else Scarlett had come to fruition. To exasperating, cloying being: Leigh never gets a break from Scarlett’s willed tantrums, her banquet of connivances, her shallowness preserving the South’s grievous egocentricities by waiting until tomorrow to think about how to resolve them. Rhett is nothing if not a masterful extension of Gable’s own screen image—even author Margaret Mitchell pretended to have him in mind all along despite fessing up she wanted Basil Rathbone—and he’s wrapped in what is easily the classiest wardrobe he ever strutted around in. Reportedly reluctant to play the part and unhappy with first director George Cukor, he settles in as amused absorber of Leigh’s screen-required petulance and puerile caprice. We sure miss him when Olivia de Havilland’s Melanie and Leslie Howard’s Ashley infringe with their insufferable “noblesse oblige” routines. Since the Black Lives Matter movement, HBO Max viewings of the Civil War epic now precede with the following black card prologue: “Gone with the Wind is a product of its time and depicts racial and ethnic prejudices that have, unfortunately, been commonplace in American society. These racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. To create a more just, equitable, and inclusive future, we must first acknowledge and understand our history. This picture is presented as it was originally created.” Yet, whether we read or avoided the potboiler, we’ve known for decades the basic shorthand rot of what’s being presented on screen is offensive to the historic moral issues, finally corrected in Roots and, as a more sweeping narrative of the impact of the war, the miniseries North and South and North and South II, based on the John Jakes novels, making up for what both Mitchell and Selznick sidestepped in making more palatable their melodramatic formulas. Gone with the Wind has been at least twice a “reserved seat” attraction—in major cities when it was first released, and in late 1967 when MGM blew up prints to 70mm. Purists called it 70 Mutilations Per Minute, with scene after scene of foreheads and chins cut off and exposing via exaggeration and distortion the supreme fakery of William Cameron Menzies’ color enhancements. However, this botch as curiosity became 1967’s twelfth highest grossing picture. Forgotten is the 70mpm wasn’t the first effort to widescreen the epic: in 1954, MGM expanded the original 1.37:1 Academy ratio to 1.75:1 and called it Metroscope.

Oscar wins: best picture, actress, director (Victor Fleming), supporting actress (Hattie McDaniel), screenplay, color cinematography, interior decoration, film editing. Special award to Menzies; Irving Thalberg Memorial Award to Selznick.

(Note: Over at Cinema Treasures, there’s debate about the 70mm version opening in the Loop at either the McVickers or the Michael Todd. After completing its initial run at the Cinestage, running for 24 weeks—here is the ad—the epic moved over to the McVickers in April, 1968, running for 27 more weeks. In June, 1968, it was the premiere attraction at the UA Cinema 150 in Oak Brook, running 27 weeks. The movie had at least four short-run engagements at the Michael Todd, sans hardticket.)

ROLL OVER IMAGE & POSTER  (Scrolling on screen from right to left, the title is four images combined.)



Text COPYRIGHT © 2002 RALPH BENNER (Revised 7/2022) All Rights Reserved.