At the beginning of this month, I announced that I’d be reading Southern literature and started with Gone With the Wind. As I said when I reviewed the book, before I started this adventure I didn’t have a clue what was coming.
Not only is the book Gone With the Wind the one of the biggest selling American books of all time, it spawned the definitely best-selling movie of all time when adjusted for inflation. After reading the book, I had to see this 4-hour monster of a film, and here I’ve stacked it up against what I recently read.
There will be some spoilers spread throughout the review.
I was, overall, impressed with how the movie handled the intense, detailed story contained within the book. It still conveyed a good sense of the character of Scarlett, and I thought Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh were perfect choices for casting.
Because I read the book just before watching the movie, I was able to remember a few details that the movie did right. I was impressed with how well they represented the architecture, fashions, and overall aesthetics of the different settings. Often in old movies, scenes don’t have quite the right lighting for the mood. Perhaps this had to do with camera technology, or perhaps the budgets, but Gone With the Wind did it very well.
One of the scenes I thought was the most vivid was when Scarlett witnessed the soldier getting his arm cut off without any painkillers or anesthetics. Though the camera just showed shadows, the shadows clearly indicated what was happening, and the screams and audio hints were dreadful. This scene felt even more powerful than it did in the book.
I was also impressed by the burning of Atlanta scene. I have no idea how much that must have cost for them to do in the thirties, but I can’t imagine them being able to afford doing it in more than one take.
Now, “The Bad” mostly has to do with the stuff they deleted to get the story to fit within 4 freaking hours. Yes, the book had so much more that the movie skipped over, and I did think what it skipped could have enhanced the movie. However, I can see why they chose much of this to excise, and I don’t think it would have been easy to pare the book down in a different way.
First, the two children Ella and Wade Hampton (who were from Scarlett’s first two husbands) were entirely absent. Though they didn’t appear too often in the book, their spectres and the hatred Scarlett held for them was palpable and important. If they’d been in the movie, Scarlett’s evil would have been even more apparent.
Probably the biggest thing they missed out on were some of the roles the people of color played. As I mentioned in my book review, the book was pretty racist, but several of the characters who had speaking roles were very good. Pork, Uncle Peter, Dilcey, and Sam were all either cut entirely or pared down to only a sliver of what they had been. Miss Prissy, who remained in the show, was the biggest idiot that has ever existed. Without the stronger characters of color to offset stupid Prissy, the movie’s racial undertones were somehow even more egregious than the book’s. Even Mammy, who I think was done well in the movie, wasn’t enough to make up for these excisions.
It’s a brand new month, and we’re going to explore a few more indie books! Stay tuned!