By Dennis Hartley
Gone With the Wind (70th Anniversary Edition) – Warner (2-disc)
1939 was a good year for director Victor Fleming. Even if he had been hit by a bus after helming The Wizard of Oz, his rep would have been secured; but he also delivered a little sleeper you may have heard of called Gone With the Wind that very same year. If you want to get technical, he “inherited” the project from director George Cukor, who dropped out over differences with producer David O. Selznick (who in essence co-directed). At any rate, no matter who actually called the shots, the end result is generally considered the quintessential American film epic. You know the story (based on Margaret Mitchell’s sprawling novel); spoiled, narcissistic Southern diva (Vivien Leigh) has unrequited love for dashing Confederate war hero (Leslie Howard) who is betrothed to her saintly rival (Olivia deHavilland) and takes 2 hours of screen time to realize she really belongs with the roguish (and equally self-absorbed) Clark Gable.
The burning of Atlanta (and other Civil War distractions) provides an occasional sense of release from the smoldering passion and sexual tension (which finally reaches torrid consummation about 3 hours in). That’s a lot of foreplay, but in the meantime you are treated to a visually sumptuous feast and mythic performances by all four leads. While it is hopelessly “of its time” in its unfortunate characterizations of African-Americans, it is ahead of its time in one respect-it features some very strong and self-sufficient female protagonists. This is one film that transcends its own medium. Warner’s 2009 transfer is breathtaking.