MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

HBO Pulls Gone With the Wind. Well, Fiddle-Dee-Dee.

Posted by M. C. on June 20, 2020

The movie was banned by HBO because of its portrayal of Blacks. This is ludicrous. The Blacks were treated with dignity in the movie.

There is almost no one to love in the movie, and almost no one to respect. Rhett had it right. The only person he respected was Mammy.

https://www.garynorth.com/public/21004.cfm

Gary North – June 20, 2020

Remnant Review

HBO has temporarily pulled Gone With the Wind from its streaming library. Read about this here.

I remember the first time I saw it. In the days before television got first-run movies, and long before cable TV, Hollywood would bring back its blockbusters to be shown in theaters. I saw Snow White (1938) and The Wizard of Oz (1939) this way in the late 1940’s. They brought back King Kong (1933) this way sometime around 1955. Frankenstein (1931) and Dracula (1931) were regular re-releases.

I saw Gone with the Wind (1939) in 1954. My mother took me to see it. She must have liked the movie. As I recall, it was in the upscale Los Angeles theater, Grauman’s Egyptian. I know it wasn’t Grauman’s Chinese, because I never saw a movie there. I was 12 years old.

I don’t remember whether I liked the movie or not. Over the years, I have seen the famous blockbuster several times. Each time I see it, I find new things to hate.

Mostly, I hate Scarlett O’Hara.

LUST AND MAMMON

The movie is mostly about unrequited lust and the worship of mammon. Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler are a couple of self-centered individuals who pursue money at all costs. They also pursue each other, with devastating personal effects on both of them. But Rhett’s character, as played by Clark Gable, is likable. He is a likable cad. He had no ethics, but he had a lot of charm. There is nothing likable about Scarlett.

If you want real-life personifications of these two characters, I suggest Bill and Hillary Clinton.

We are introduced to Scarlett when she is getting ready for a party that her father is hosting at their home. All that she can think about is impressing Ashley Wilkes. But she certainly enjoys the attention of a series of lightweight college boys who are home for vacation. She will be the belle of the ball, and she knows it. She delights in it.

We are introduced to a woman who is totally self-centered. She never changes. No moral light ever dawns in her mind. No moment of self-realization ever takes place in her life.

She is the kind of woman that mothers tell their sons to avoid. This is why women’s fascination with Scarlett O’Hara is one of the great examples of cognitive dissonance in American cultural life.

It is understandable that men are fascinated with Rhett Butler/Clark Gable. Rhett gets what he wants most of the time. He breaks the rules and gets away with it. He is also self-centered. What men cannot understand is what he saw in Scarlett O’Hara. There were younger women available, better looking women available, and less self-centered women available. He could have gone after some woman who might have worshiped him at least for a few years. Instead, he went after a woman who worshiped herself from beginning to end. He was bound to be disappointed.

Scarlett never got over the fact that Melanie married Ashley. She marries her first husband out of spite. He is portrayed as a weakling. She lusts after Rhett until he finally marries her, and then she treats him badly. One saving grace of the movie is this: the two of them keep each other away from anybody morally decent.

From the opening of the movie, she sees the Civil War as a threat to her social life. Then the war impoverishes her family. It drives her father to madness. She is reduced to poverty. At the end of the first half of the movie, we see her eating roots. She vows: “I’ll never be hungry again.”

As God is my witness … As God is my witness … They’re not going to lick me! … I’m going to live through this and when it’s over I’ll never be hungry again … No, nor any of my folks! … if I have to lie – steal – cheat – or kill! As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!

This really is a vow. I cannot think of any vow in any non-Christian movie that is more self-consciously a vow before God, as described in Numbers 30. The written script makes this clear. So does the camera work. There are two highly visual-symbolic emotional-religious scenes in the movie: at the end of the first half and at the end of the movie. This scene ends the first half.

She stands, her fist still clenched, as CAMERA DRAWS BACK on the determined figure outlined against the devastation of the plantation.CAMERA PULLS BACK FARTHER AND FARTHER – revealing Scarlett standing near an enormous ruined oak, backgrounded only by the sky.

THE CAMERA FINALLY PULLS BACK TO AN EXTREME LONG SHOT

A puff of early-morning wind stirs the trees and bushes – like a harbinger of a new day.

FADE OUT

It is one of those odd twists of providence that the Archdiocese of the Catholic Church of Atlanta owns half the royalty rights to the book and its associated trinkets. Margaret Mitchell’s nephew donated this.

This vow became her confession of faith. It announced her new way of life: money-grubber. She had always been a worshiper of mammon. What changed in the story were the objects of her faith: popularity, then Ashley, then Rhett, then money, and finally land.

I cannot think of any big-screen female character in the 1930’s who is still beloved who was a greater worshiper of mammon. Jesus warned: ” No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).

After the war ends, she turns into a consummate conniver. She persuades Rhett to marry her. She knows how to run a business. She uses convict labor. She builds a fortune on her own. She is relentless in the pursuit of money in order to fulfill her vow.

Yet she is a consummate loser. She loses her daughter in an accident. She loses Rhett. He walks out with his famous line, which was so crucial to the movie that the Hollywood ethics board allowed the use of the forbidden word. Selznick convinced them that without this, the movie could not be faithful to the book. This was accurate. They let it stand.

Rhett walks out the door. This leads us to the consummate scene of the entire movie.

At this point, she shifts from the love of money to the love of land. She will go back to Tara. We hear the voice of her dead father, Gerald.

Suddenly on the sound track we hear Gerald’s voice:

GERALD’S VOICE Do you mean to tell me, Katie Scarlett O’Hara, that Tara doesn’t mean anything to you?

Scarlett’s sobbing quiets. She starts to lift her tearstained face slowly.

GERALD’S VOICE (continues) Why, land’s the only thing that matters – it’s the only thing that lasts.

ASHLEY’S VOICE Something you love better than me, though you may not know it – Tara!

RHETT’S VOICE It’s this from which you get your strength – the red earth of Tara.

Scarlett’s face lifts a little higher as she listens.

GERALD’S VOICE Why, land’s the only thing that matters – it’s the only thing that lasts.

ASHLEY’S VOICE Something you love better than me, though you may not know it – Tara!

RHETT’S VOICE It’s this from which you get your strength – the red earth of Tara.

Once again we hear the three voices repeating the same lines. The volume is still louder, the space between them still less, the speed of their repetition still faster:

GERALD’S VOICE Why, land’s the only thing that matters –

ASHLEY’S VOICE Something you love better than me –

RHETT’S VOICE The red earth of Tara.

CAMERA MOVES SLOWLY UP to a LARGE CLOSE UP of SCARLETT’S FACE as we hear:

GERALD’S VOICE Tara!

ASHLEY’S VOICE (louder than Gerald’s) Tara!

RHETT’S VOICE (louder than either) Tara!

A beautiful smile of hope crosses Scarlett’s face as the realization comes to her that she still has Tara.

SCARLETT (lifting her face) Tara! Home! … I’ll go home – and I’ll think of some way to get him back.

She lifts her chin higher. We see the stuff of which Scarlett O’Hara is made, and we thrill with the knowledge that she won’t be defeated for long.

SCARLETT After all, tomorrow is another day!

As the speech progresses, we see and hear her strength return – her voice accelerates in power and volume and we must believe completely that what Scarlett O’Hara wants to do, she can do.SLOW DISSOLVE TO:

FULL SHOT – TARA LANDSCAPE – SUNSET

With the huge tree where Gerald has spoken to Scarlett. From behind the hill comes the silhouetted figure of Scarlett until she stands outlined along the sky. She turns halfway and stands looking over the broad acres. Wind blows her skirts slightly.

CAMERA DRAWS BACK as we once did on Scarlett and Gerald, until the tiny silhouetted figure of Scarlett is outlined against Gerald’s Tara.

FADE OUT

The quest for land has been the supreme category of mammon worship in man’s history. This is no longer the case. That began to end around 1800 as the Industrial Revolution began. We have finally come to our senses. Knowledge is vastly more valuable than land. The old categories of classical economics – land, labor, and capital – are slowly being replaced by knowledge, innovation, and entrepreneurship. That’s where the categories of economic theory should have been. But mammon worship, in whatever form it appears, is always a threat to the souls of men.

Scarlett wants only one child. Otherwise, her waist will get bigger. The extent of her self-centeredness was monumental. It is hard to think of any heroine in the history of Hollywood movies who was more self-centered. She was not representative of the old South or anywhere else.

Scarlett O’Hara was to the old South what J. R. Ewing was to Texas in the 1980’s: a self-centered schemer the public loves to hate.

At the end of the movie, all she can do is dream about returning to the land. This is salvation by land ownership.

Before the war, it was salvation by land ownership made profitable by slaves. That was her father’s faith. For her, it would be simply land ownership. We are not told how this became profitable in the South: through sharecropping. Blacks worked the land, but they got a percentage of their crops. The system worked in a region devoid of physical capital other than land. There was nothing romantic about the arrangement, but it worked well for the next two decades.

This is a movie about the old South. But one crucial aspect of the old South is missing: the Christian religion. We never see anybody go to church. Formal religion plays no part in any of their lives. The O’Haras are Catholics, but we never see a priest. Rhett has no religion. Even the slaves have no formal religion.

The only time we see anyone inside a church is when it has been converted into a hospital for soldiers.

In times of warfare, there are no atheists in foxholes, and there are few atheists among the folks back home. But in the Hollywood version of Gone with the Wind, they were all atheists.

THE RACE ISSUE

The movie was banned by HBO because of its portrayal of Blacks. This is ludicrous. The Blacks were treated with dignity in the movie.

There is almost no one to love in the movie, and almost no one to respect. Rhett had it right. The only person he respected was Mammy.

Another minor figure in the movie who deserved respect is Big Sam. He had been the lead slave in Tara’s field slaves. He puts his life on the line to save a white woman who is being attacked by a sociologically unlikely duo: a lower-class white man and a black man. He does not save Scarlett because she is Scarlett. He saves her because she is a woman in distress. He comes running when he hears her screaming. Only after he has disposed of them does he learn who she is. The closest thing to a hero in the movie is Big Sam.

David O. Selznick, who was famous mainly for having produced the movie, made this point to his screenwriter in 1937. “In our picture I think we have to be awfully careful that the Negroes come out decidedly on the right side of the ledger, which I do not think should be difficult.” That is exactly how it was written.

Mammy loves Scarlett. She loves Scarlett’s daughter. She even likes Rhett. That took some doing.

Hattie McDaniel won the Academy award as best supporting actress for that role. She deserved it.

SHALLOW WHITE SOUTHERN WOMEN

Blacks may have a chip on their shoulder about how the movie portrays Blacks. I have a chip on my shoulder about how the movie portrays upper-class white women.

The movie makes upper-class white Southern women look shallow and even empty-headed. The main exception is Melanie. (The madam who gave gold coins to help the hospital was not upper class.)

The extreme model was Aunt Pittypat. She was the white equivalent of Prissy.

We see these women at a fancy wartime ball. It was a fund-raiser for the troops. But there was no sense of sacrifice among them. In the Civil War, there was an enormous level of sacrifice by women in the South. In the film, they passed the hat for baubles. They did toss in some jewels, but that’s the extent of the wartime sacrifice of the upper-class white women that we see in the movie, except for Scarlett at Tara. That sacrifice was forced on her. She was hungry. There was no one else to run Tara. It was a matter of necessity. It was clearly not a matter of choice.

Women who see their sons go off to war are not shallow. The grim reality of that war was visible to every woman at the ball. They were reaching out to live for an evening in a world that already was gone with the wind. There was nothing empty-headed about that.

Upper-class women in this old South were made of sterner moral stuff than what is portrayed in Gone with the Wind. They proved it during the war and Reconstruction. The hotheads of South Carolina seceded in December 1860. The leaders of the South followed. The women paid the price. There were no medals or statues for them.

The women of the South would not have been silly enough to secede — not even Aunt Pittypat. They would have counted the cost.

Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace (Luke 14:31-32).

INCOMPARABLE MISCASTING

Then there was the casting. It was ghastly.

There was nothing southern about Vivian Leigh. She was British. But, far more important, she was 25 years old, and she looked 30.

If this was a romance of the old South, and the college boys at the beginning of the movie were coming around to court Scarlett, then she was a cougar. Of course, they didn’t call them cougars in those days. Why would a bunch of college boys be circling around Scarlett O’Hara? I can think of only one good reason: they wanted to inherit Tara.

Then there was the actor who played Ashley Wilkes: Leslie Howard. By the time they shot the movie in late 1938 and early 1939, he was 45 years old. He was one year younger than Thomas Mitchell, who portrayed Scarlett’s father. Howard looked every day of 45. Why would this ageing wealthy man have been unmarried in 1861? His family owned a plantation. By the time the eldest son in a plantation-owning family was 45 years old in 1861, he was probably a grandfather. Furthermore, as with Leigh, Howard was British. He had a British accent.

In 1938, Clark Gable was 37 years old. He also looked it. Why was somebody his age trying to woo a southern belle who didn’t seem to have a brain in her head? In real life in 1861, she would have been half his age. To imagine that anyone who looked like Clark Gable was still single at age 37 is to imagine that Rhett was a cad, which he was.

The women in the audience loved him. They still do.

It could have been worse. It almost was worse. Selznick’s first choice to play Rhett was Gary Cooper, but Cooper turned him down. Imagine for a moment the final scene when Rhett walks out. Gary Cooper is playing Rhett. Whenever I think about this, I mentally giggle. “Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a durn.”

CONCLUSION

I have never understood why Southern partisans like this movie. Or do they?

This was a Hollywood movie designed to appeal to urban women at the tail end of the Great Depression. They fantasized about being like this belle of the ball who became an independent, financially successful woman who could not get the man she wanted before the war, and who could not keep the man she accepted as a substitute after the war.

This was an unhappy woman. This was a woman who, by the standards of Christian morality, was a moral failure and a personal failure.

Scarlett O’Hara was a loser. So was Rhett Butler.

So, while I don’t like to see this movie banned, I am happy to say that I will never sit through another showing of it.

If you want to watch a movie about the Civil War in the South, watch Shenandoah (1965). It’s about a man who does not want his sons to go off to fight in a needless war. He is not a cad. It stars James Stewart.

________________________________________________As soon as the public heard that HBO had canceled the movie, people began paying Amazon $4.95 to watch it. That really upset HBO’s senior executives. So, they have relented. They are going to put the movie back online. But the movie is going to have an introduction explaining the race issue. The introduction will be presented by a black academic lady.

I don’t think most Americans will be watching that introduction. The fast-forward buttons will be in heavy use as soon as the introduction begins. I think HBO understands this. HBO can buy off annoying Black activists by editing in an introduction that nobody is going to watch for more than about 20 seconds. This is good business.

Be seeing you

 

 

 

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