Gone With the Wind (1939)
Gone With the Wind (1939)
One could scarcely gather more extensive and miscellaneous information about the past if one spent the whole afternoon at home in the library running through all the old bound volumes of the Illustrated London News. For three or more hours curiosities and marvels, panoramas and bibelots are spread before us, and at one moment there is the whole of a battlefield in the American civil war or a vast monument of Colonial domestic architecture, at another a perfectly authentic bottle of eau-de-cologne of about 1870: the producer has even gone to the expense of having what seems to be a genuine daguerreotype taken of Mr. Leslie Howard. Everything is in colour and this added means of verisimilitude is especially valuable when we are shown a really fascinating reconstruction of American interior decoration at its most opulent in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
But more is added: when the film is over not only have we run through all the old illustrated newspapers but we have also, or so it seems, read the complete works of Mrs. Henry Wood and at the same time a lively and melodramatic history of the American Civil War. The history is mostly collected in the earlier half of the film–there is an interval between the two halves–and this is at times really well done: the great house in Georgia, the bombardment of a town, the interior of a military hospital, the destruction of great estates after the war, are all admirable and sometimes even imaginative reconstructions. There are, moreover, several accidents and hairbreadth escapes in the best tradition of the American cinema: no one could quarrel with such luxurious entertainment.
In the second half of the film the story contracts to describe the fortunes of the heroine, the noble self-sacrifices of people who had previously been thought intensely selfish, and a whole succession of agonizing death-beds. The chief consolation for this is that the background is still very elaborate and the acting almost always very efficient. Miss Vivien Leigh takes the part of the heroine and acts with genuine gusto and sustained vitality; Mr. Clark Gable is one of those dark, dissolute men with a mysterious appeal and looks well in the part; Mr. Leslie Howard has too faint and self-effacing a part to give his talent an opportunity, and Miss Hattie McDaniel, as an old Negro servant, almost acts everybody else off the screen when she is allowed to appear in the foreground.
(The Times, April 18, 1940)
Producing Gone With the Wind – Web Exhibition – Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin
Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes (Gone With the Wind stills)
On set and between takes