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slaytonf

The south is a woman.

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It's not surprising Margaret Mitchell chose a woman as the central character of Gone With the Wind to personify the destruction and rebuilding of the south during and after the Civil War.  Not many authors have done a good job depicting the internal workings of the opposite sex.  Not having read the book, I will have to take it as a given David Selznick faithfully translated Miss Mitchell's work to the screen.  So what can we see she was saying through the person of Scarlett O'Hara?  She is a strong-willed and determined person.  She knows what she wants, and is clear-headed going about getting it.  Practical, and unsentimental, even to the point of being mercenary, she doesn't hesitate using any tactic to accomplish her goals.  It's understandable, the hardships she faced drove her to make fearsome resolutions.  Scarlett's progress represents the destruction and revival of the southern economy, its agriculture, commerce, and industry.  She's quite a busy person, managing Tara, then becoming a retail queen, and building a lumber empire.  Her marriage to Rhett Butler rounds out the picture with trade.

 But combined with that is a curious and contradictory irrational obsession with Ashley Wilkes.  He is the old order, destroyed in the war, that stood for slavery, nobility, honor.  He was the flower of the social order, its full realization, but also weak, attenuated.  He's a dead end, but in this instance, she blinds herself to reality--out of pride, or conceit, or something, until she realizes (only too late) how misguided she was.  Her preoccupation with him ruins her relationship with the one she ought to hanker after, Rhett Butler, as the south preoccupied with the past hurts its recovery.  He's the future, practical, sensible like Scarlett, unhindered by outmoded ideals, or nostalgia for what's lost.  He's obviously presented as an alternative to the enervated Wilkes.  At the end however, Scarlett remains as she was, a combination of realistic, and irrational.  She rightly recognizes her source of strength is Tara.  But her freedom from her obsession with Ashley Wilkes, alas, is only replaced with another futile hope, getting Butler back.

Margaret Mitchell's efforts to appraise people of the dangers of worshipping the dead past went unheeded, dragging down states, and hindering peoples' advancement for too many decades.  To the contrary, her work is even now not looked on as a cautionary tale, but as a celebration of what she argued should be left behind.  A prime example of people seeing what they want to see, and not what is there.

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I don't know anything about Margaret Mitchell or her politics, and I haven't read the novel. I'm going to assume you know what you're talking about. The scroll of text that opens the movie indicates that even in 1939, the focus was going to be on the romantic passing of a noble era, much less how people feel about it now. I do find Gable's Rhett refreshing. I feel like maybe much of his dialogue was lifted directly from the book, based on what you say about Mitchell. He's the only one who ever seems to address any situation with any realism. Well, maybe also the broken, post-war Ashley occasionally.

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1 hour ago, sewhite2000 said:

I don't know anything about Margaret Mitchell or her politics, and I haven't read the novel. I'm going to assume you know what you're talking about. The scroll of text that opens the movie indicates that even in 1939, the focus was going to be on the romantic passing of a noble era, much less how people feel about it now. I do find Gable's Rhett refreshing. I feel like maybe much of his dialogue was lifted directly from the book, based on what you say about Mitchell. He's the only one who ever seems to address any situation with any realism. Well, maybe also the broken, post-war Ashley occasionally.

I always liked one Exchange in the movie between Scarlett O'Hara and Ashley Wilkes.

Scarlett has acquired the Mills and Ashley is reprimanding her for over -working the men.

To which Scarlett sharply retorts - - paraphrase here-- 'You never bothered about us  overworking the slaves.'

For someone who lived in a lot of romantic fantasy - - Scarlett could come up with some very realistic statements at times,

as her life became more and more real with personal tragedy and financial hardship.

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That's an interesting scene, for sure, maybe one of the most interesting in the movie, as it's one of the very few or only that really addresses what slavery was like. I feel like I should add Ashley tells Scarlett that he was going to free his slaves after his father's death had Twelve Oaks not collapsed, and also he tells her, "We didn't treat them like that". I don't know how to feel about that statement. I mean, maybe we're supposed to believe the Wilkses didn't treat their slaves like that, but certainly most Southerners treated them as badly as these convicts.

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2 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

That's an interesting scene, for sure, maybe one of the most interesting in the movie, as it's one of the very few or only that really addresses what slavery was like. I feel like I should add Ashley tells Scarlett that he was going to free his slaves after his father's death had Twelve Oaks not collapsed, and also he tells her, "We didn't treat them like that". I don't know how to feel about that statement. I mean, maybe we're supposed to believe the Wilkses didn't treat their slaves like that, but certainly most Southerners treated them as badly as these convicts.

Leslie Howard has always been one of my favorite actors and certainly my favorite actor in this movie.

He really didn't want to take the part of Ashley Wilkes, but only did it for a picture deal with Selznick,  to get to do some of the movies he wanted to do, like Intermezzo with Ingrid Bergman.

I think this conversational exchange is the only truly weak acting on his part in the film He gives a lukewarm explanation that you really can't believe and the explanation doesn't even seem to convince the actor either.

Otherwise, Leslie Howard did an unbelievably sincere portrayal of this character. He was especially moving in those scenes where Olivia de Havilland is dying and it's just all coming back to him--he's seems to be trying to take it all in.

I would challenge anyone to go back and look at this movie in its entirety--

the objective being who had the most difficult male role to play and how it was acquitted.

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I've always sort of thought that the manner in which Leslie Howard plays Ashley Wilkes could almost be thought of as the "grandfather" of another character he was noted for playing in another and earlier made film...his Alan Squier character in The Petrified Forest, as both characters were basically disillusioned and melancholy idealists. And, the very reason Selznick insisted upon Howard taking the role of Wilkes in his film, as he knew Howard was very very good at playing that type.

(...I've also always thought that the primary reason Scarlett obsessed over Ashley was not so much the idea that he represented any sort of "code of honor" or "southern ideals", but more the idea that if she could have him as her own, by association she'd then possess or at least project to others an image of "class" and/or "refinement", and something deep down inside she knew she lacked)

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It's an interesting take.  One I never considered, but giving it more thought, does offer some similarities.

For as long as I can remember, the South( generally) did always seem to be steeped in an obligatory pride in it's long gone past, and like Scarlett, a too obsessive longing for the Antebellum days gone by when she and those in her particular social circle were considered the center of the social universe and really mattered to people. The South too, always seemed to be longing for the "good old days" when the n****rs were slaves and the textile mills were industrial giants.  Anyway, Southerners always seemed to take more of a peculiar pride in being from the South than Northerners spent time feeling any particular pride in being Northern. 

At any rate, I would at first consider there might be nothing of Ms. Mitchell in her Scarlett character, as many writers do base many main characters on amalgams of many similar people they've known in their personal "real" lives.  That Scarlett might have been representative of the Antebellum South entirely and it's populace and attitudes is one angle I've never considered.  But is one to consider.

Sepiatone

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22 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

I'm going to assume you know what you're talking about. 

Ah, well, now that's your first mistake.  All I know is what I see on the movie screen.  

22 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

 The scroll of text that opens the movie indicates that even in 1939, the focus was going to be on the romantic passing of a noble era, much less how people feel about it now.

That can be taken two ways.  It is either a framing device, reflecting the common (erroneous) conceptions, which are debunked by later events, or it serves as an ironic counterpoint to it.

 

13 hours ago, Sepiatone said:

It's an interesting take.  One I never considered, but giving it more thought, does offer some similarities.

For as long as I can remember, the South( generally) did always seem to be steeped in an obligatory pride in it's long gone past, and like Scarlett, a too obsessive longing for the Antebellum days gone by when she and those in her particular social circle were considered the center of the social universe and really mattered to people. The South too, always seemed to be longing for the "good old days" when the n****rs were slaves and the textile mills were industrial giants.  Anyway, Southerners always seemed to take more of a peculiar pride in being from the South than Northerners spent time feeling any particular pride in being Northern. 

At any rate, I would at first consider there might be nothing of Ms. Mitchell in her Scarlett character, as many writers do base many main characters on amalgams of many similar people they've known in their personal "real" lives.  That Scarlett might have been representative of the Antebellum South entirely and it's populace and attitudes is one angle I've never considered.  But is one to consider.

Sepiatone

I can't claim credit for being the only one to interpret it this way, though I did come up with it on my own.  Even a quick search on the internet can turn up similar views.  It's not surprising that I either didn't think of it till now, or that I did at all.  Social indoctrination can blind you to many obvious things.  There are a lot of things we are conditioned to accept unthinkingly.  But if you look at them with an objective eye, you may find the conventional story about things ain't necessarily so.  

Regarding Miss Mitchell, I may not have been clear in my op.  She personifies the south in Scarlett O'Hara.  What she experiences represents what happened on a larger scale.  I didn't mean to say she put any amount of herself into Scarlett.  If she did, I couldn't say how much.  I would guess she made use of her personal experiences for material as much as any other author.

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5 hours ago, slaytonf said:

 

Regarding Miss Mitchell, I may not have been clear in my op.  She personifies the south in Scarlett O'Hara.  What she experiences represents what happened on a larger scale.  I didn't mean to say she put any amount of herself into Scarlett.  If she did, I couldn't say how much.  I would guess she made use of her personal experiences for material as much as any other author.

Well, there IS at least ONE big difference between Margaret Mitchell and the character of Scarlett O'Hara she created, ya know slayton.

Yep, ya see all those times I've watched GWTW in the past, I don't EVER recall seeing Scarlett NOT looking both ways before crossing the streets of Atlanta! ;)

(...ooooh, sorry, but you know ME...just couldn't resist this one)

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1 hour ago, Dargo said:

Well, there IS at least ONE big difference between Margaret Mitchell and the character of Scarlett O'Hara she created, ya know slayton.

Yep, ya see all those times I've watched GWTW in the past, I don't EVER recall seeing Scarlett NOT looking both ways before crossing the streets of Atlanta! ;)

(...ooooh, sorry, but you know ME...just couldn't resist this one)

Dargo--

 You've done good research.  Because I can remember telling that story in a French magazine report from " Paris Match " in high school.

But if I may say so-- you hit it a little bit below the bustle. LOL

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I haven't seen this in so long and I cannot participate but I will certainly keep all this in mind if I should watch again. Great idea and quite an astute discussion. Impressive.

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2 hours ago, laffite said:

I haven't seen this in so long and I cannot participate but I will certainly keep all this in mind if I should watch again. Great idea and quite an astute discussion. Impressive.

Me too. I've read the book and all I remember is that is was dull in comparison to the movie. The most amazing part to me is when the camera pans back, back, back to show the injured and dead soldiers.

I can't imagine anyone else playing Rhett Butler. Gable is in top form. And it is all about Scarlette. 

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I mentione before that when I read a book, my mental images of certain characters are taken up by familiar, well established actors and actresses, all based on the general description by the author.  Whether or not the author intended a character to resemble some particular actor I don't think was ever really done, and maybe just coincidence that some description (in one case for example) of some guy in a book I read was described in a way that conjured up a mental image of DAVID NIVEN.  But it's different when I read a book AFTER it was turned into a movie I saw BEFORE reading the book, and therefore my mental images are strictly aligned with the actors who played the particular characters.  And since I've yet to read the novel GWTW, I'll probably picture Gable as Rhett anyway, so I wouldn't be able to suggest WHO ELSE might have been a better choice.

Sepiatone

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Saw parts of the film last night (of course I have seen the entire film many times), and it reminded me again that Scarlett has two different personas;

One is of the strong independent,  hard women as it relates to keeping her family's estate,  running the post war lumber business and ensuring she and her family are financially sound.    

The other one is how she conducts her love \ sex life: Here she is like a 13 year old silly girl.  Weak,  stupid, and unable to accept reality. 

   

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16 hours ago, Dargo said:

Well, there IS at least ONE big difference between Margaret Mitchell and the character of Scarlett O'Hara she created, ya know slayton.

Yep, ya see all those times I've watched GWTW in the past, I don't EVER recall seeing Scarlett NOT looking both ways before crossing the streets of Atlanta! ;)

(...ooooh, sorry, but you know ME...just couldn't resist this one)

O don't make me think you're as weak willed as Ashley Wilkes, Dargo.  A supreme disillusionment.

As for the reference, can't say I know it.  But I think I can figure it out.  It doesn't look good for someone.

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13 hours ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

Saw parts of the film last night (of course I have seen the entire film many times), and it reminded me again that Scarlett has two different personas;

One is of the strong independent,  hard women as it relates to keeping her families estate,  running the post war lumber business and ensuring she and her family are financially sound.    

The other one is how she conducts her love \ sex life: Here she is like a 13 year old silly girl.  Weak,  stupid, and unable to accept reality. 

   

:(

How many families did she have, anyway?  I mean, post-war it would be hard to keep ONE family's estate intact, let alone the status of a few EXTRA families.   ;) 

And also, she had, even as the strong, independent and hard edged woman, trouble accepting reality.  I mean, she clearly REALIZED the reality, but still found it unacceptable to her standards anyway.

Sepiatone

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2 hours ago, Sepiatone said:

And also, she had, even as the strong, independent and hard edged woman, trouble accepting reality.  I mean, she clearly REALIZED the reality, but still found it unacceptable to her standards anyway.

Yes, she has multiple facets to her personality, which can be contradictory.  This is after all, human.  It is her irrational preoccupations which damage her life.

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