Frankly, my dear, people actually still give a damn about the classic movie, Gone with the Wind, even 80 years after it premiered in Atlanta, Georgia. This year, theaters across the country have been presenting special 80th anniversary screenings of the epic film, based on Margaret Mitchell’s best-selling saga of the Old South.
For those who somehow haven’t read the book or seen the film, Gone with the Wind follows the beautiful, but headstrong Southern Belle Scarlett O’Hara (played by Vivien Leigh) who will stop at nothing to win the heart of the man she loves, Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard), and preserve her family’s Georgia plantation known as Tara. Complications ensue when she meets a handsome rogue named Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), who knows that he and Scarlett are truly meant for each other. Oh, and then the Civil War breaks out and turns their whole world upside down.
Despite predictions of its failure and complications in production, the film was an instant box office smash, winning eight Academy Award and two special achievement Oscars. With its iconic performances, lush backdrops, immaculate wardrobe, sweeping story and some unforgettably classic lines, Gone with the Wind remains one of the most beloved films of all time, raking in $1.8 billion over its 80-year history and its cultural influence has endured. In fact, film critic Roger Ebert wrote in 1998, “It is still a towering landmark of film, quite simply because it tells a good story, and tells it wonderfully well.”
Since the story took place in Georgia very close to Sunshine’s Creekside Pines community in Dallas, Georgia, Life Enrichment Director (LED) Brandi Limbaugh thought it would be fun to have an anniversary showing for residents. Though none of the residents attended the 1939 premier along with Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh at the Loew’s Grand Theatre in Atlanta, Brandi found that the vast majority of the 18 who came to opening night of the screening (a record crowd for movies at Creekside Pines) had seen GWTW before.
“The most interesting thing about watching this film with my residents is that many of them are not from the South,” said Brandi. “So, to see not just the Civil War, but the aftermath and Reconstruction of the South is what really gets to them. Most thought that the movie presented an accurate depiction of mid-19th Century life in the South, but did not show just how severe the war was and exactly how hard it was to rebuild afterward.”
Lily Parks, a Creekside Pines resident who grew up in California, said she knew only a moderate amount about the War from her school education. She commented:
“When I moved to Atlanta in the 1950s, I really learned a lot about the Civil War and tried to go to all of the museums and historic places. Raising my family here, I really tried to teach my children as much as I could about it as they grew up.”
Lily noted that unlike most war movies today, GWTW didn’t actually show any intense battle scenes, other than Rhett and Scarlett making a dramatic escape from Atlanta as it went up in flames.
“I’m sure the actual battle sites were much worse than we could imagine,” said Lilly. “Also, life at Tara probably was not the norm. I doubt most women walked around in fluffy dresses all day attending parties, while the men smoked cigars. The parties were few and far between, as living on a plantation required a lot of work, not just from the slaves.”
Brandi enjoyed a lively conversation with Lily about the film.
“Lily and I have discussions about all sorts of things,” said Brandi. “She loves to go to art and history museums, and I love that she still has a passion to learn new things.
“We both agree that slavery was the primary – though not the only – cause of the War. Lily pointed out that the South’s economy was based on agriculture that required many laborers, since there were no tractors or heavy equipment yet to do the work. While at the same time, the North’s economy was based on industry and factory production that required fewer workers.”
Lily also pointed out that when the slaves were emancipated, many of their old plantations failed during Reconstruction, because they did not have the labor to keep them up. Indeed, the film showed how Scarlett’s family had great difficulty trying to handle all of the work on their plantation. To complicate matters, the slaves that stayed with them did not know how to tend to the crops or the farm animals because they had been trained to work inside the house.
In addition to the serious discussions about the War and the film, all of the residents enjoyed the GWTW trivia that Brandi shared before the screening. Here are a few noteworthy items:
Then of course, there’s the trivia question for the ages: How did Rhett’s famous last words, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!” get past the censors, which forbad swearing in G-rated 1939?
Unfortunately, our time is up and that will have to be answered tomorrow. For, as Scarlett would say, “tomorrow is another day.”