1939 was the high water mark for The Old Hollywood, not only in terms of making 650 films, but in the quality of the films that year. Among the films made that year were such classics as The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach, Ninotchka, Wuthering Heights, and, of course, Gone With The Wind. A winner of ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Gone with The Wind is one of the most iconic American films ever made. Based on a huge best-selling novel, the film has sold more theater tickets than any film in history (yes, even including Avatar and Titanic) and will last forever as a truly monumental film achievement.
One of the hallmarks of any film that stands the test of time and still resonates with audiences decades after it first release is that it must always feel relevant and timely. That’s why some films can be huge hits when they are first released and then disappear from the public consciousness and why some films like Gone With The Wind will be with us forever.
Gone with The Wind includes many classic scenes. One of the two most memorable moments occurs at the end of the film when Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) pleads with Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) about will become of her if Butler leaves and Butler responds, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
For me, however, the most memorable moment of Gone With The Wind, and the reason that the film still resonates and will always resonate, is the last scene before Intermission. Scarlett has returned home to her beloved home of Tara only to see that it has been ravished by war, leaving her impoverished, hungry, alone, and desperate. With a fierceness in her eyes and voice, she bellows to the universe: “As God is my witness, as God is my witness they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”
Those words were first heard by movie audiences in 1939 as America was just emerging from The Great Depression and about to be engulfed in World War 2. Throughout the years, Scarlett’s words have echoed down the halls of time as each generation has faced its own “Tara moments”, leading up to and including the challenges we all face today.
And that’s why we are still moved and inspired by a young woman’s determination 70 years later.