Being from Atlanta, I’ve seen Gone WITH THE WIND (1939) on the big screen a number of times. That includes the 50th Anniversary celebration in 1989, with cast members Butterfly McQueen, Ann Rutherford and Evelyn Keyes in attendance. So you might think I’ve been there done that when it comes to GONE WITH THE WIND. But when I heard TCM was planning a 75th Anniversary screening at the shrine of cinema, the TCL Chinese Theatre, I imagined it just might be a near religious experience. Of course, I was right.
Let’s face it, if you love movies, just seeing a film at the Chinese is a pleasure in itself. But add to that the closing day festival atmosphere—seeing a favorite movie, one many of us could basically reenact we’ve seen it so many times, surrounded by a full house of your fellow classic movie fans—and you’ve got a truly transcendent experience. Today’s digital presentation of GONE WITH THE WIND was introduced by Ben Mankiewicz who rolled out his best southern to ask “how ya’ll doing?” Ben briefly touched on some of GONE WITH THE WIND’s noteworthy points—its use of Technicolor; winning a record eight Oscars (including one that broke the color barrier, Hattie McDaniel as Best Supporting Actress); and its pushing the production code with Rhett’s closing dialogue.
We then launched straight into the film’s overture. With a run time of almost four hours, GONE WITH THE WIND is a tough sit on day four of a film festival. Personally, I had intended only to stay until intermission—so as to bring you this blog post in a more timely manner. But I have to admit, as always, the film drew me in. When the opening strains of the score began—with the titles moving past—I knew I was hooked. I believe it’s still one of the most powerful movie opens ever. And you have to love a TCMCFF audience. They applauded every star credit, the director, even the screenwriter. The updated TCL Chinese showed off the film in a spectacular fashion. The huge screen really brings you into the action. Watching it at eye level felt like a completely different and more intimate experience.
One point I was curious about going into today’s screening—would the Yankees (being the “villains” of the story) get the same reaction they do in Atlanta? In my hometown, they get hissed like the Nazis in Casablanca or the Baroness in The Sound of Music. As expected, that part played a little differently to this crowd. But some things, it seems, are universal: like Overseer-turned-Carpetbagger Wilkerson who apparently receives the same treatment everywhere (“that’s all of Tara you’ll ever get,” must draw applause in every city); everybody starts crying when the trifecta hits (i.e., Bonnie dies, Rhett goes slightly mad and Melanie collapses); and Mammy (who gets the best lines) is everyone’s favorite.
After 75 years and $3.3 billion (when adjusted for inflation), GONE WITH THE WIND still brings the romance, a surprising amount of laughter, great acting and unforgettable characters. Happy 75th Gone With the Wind.