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« Linkman & Emmywoman | Main | Best Shot Collection: Gone With the Wind (Pt. 2) »

Gone With The Wind's Glorious Ensemble

Entr'acte After last week's screening of the first half of the gargantuan Gone With the Wind. I realized that three fourths of my memories of the movie come from its first half. What would this screening of Act 2 reveal? We return now to wind-swept Georgia and rejoin Scarlett O'Hara and her servants, kin, and husbands.

Scarlett summed up: Surrounded in Rhett's wealth and love (the future) but still focused on her self and past girlish ideals (Ashley Wilkes in her hand). Perpetually vain and unhappy.

Part 2 The first act of GWTW is, largely, a Civil War film albeit one that's told brilliantly off the battlefield. The second act shifts gears to Reconstruction. While the South is being rebuilt, Scarlett is doing her own life remodelling. It's now a romantic melodrama, but pleasantly also a rich ensemble film as each character comes into sharper focus (Hattie McDaniel's Mammy and Olivia de Havilland's Melanie in particular - both just superb). 

Ashley Wilkes, simpleton that he is, still doesn't get Scarlett, assessing her strength like so: 

You never have trouble facing reality."

Oh, Ashley! Our semi-delusional Southern Belle is still continually fantasizing about you, a man she can't have and wouldn't want if she had him, while denying her love for the one she has and does actually want... in her own way. All the way she's hoping to recapture or clinging to her obsession of former glories of the Old South: Tara with its lush lands and easy wealth, the cheap labor force (ahem), and even her girlish waistline which alarming grows to a (GASP!) 20" and she cannot figure why. 'Childbirth? Fiddle-dee-dee!'

If Ashley Wilkes, who idolizes Scarlett, were choosing Part 2's Best Shot, I know just what he'd choose.

Mammy, Rhett, and Melanie's choices for Best Shots are after the jump!

Ashley's Choice For Best Shot

If we asked Rhett Butler, who has an easier time understanding her and a cheeky sense of humor, he'd still go with her hand (which he wins) but the image he'd choose reads quite differently:

Rhett's Choice for Best Shot

In fact, if this were "Best Cut" (Tim has often smartly stated in his write-ups that that series would usually result in different image choices, as juxtapositions can be so potent), that would absolutely be my choice as well, paired with the shot that preceeds it. The shot that Mammy, who loves to be shocked by Scarlett, would choose: 

Mammy's Choice for Best Shot and also Kacey's

It's my favorite beat in the film, Scarlett shamelessly making her intentions known "Would you mind if I put my hand in your pocket?" to snag a rich man she doesn't love to get the money she needs. Rhett Butler sums up her eternal appeal as one of the great literary and cinematic characters perfectly:

You're a heartless creature but that's part of your charm.

As for Melanie's choice...

Melanie's Choice for Best Shot (and my own)- and also Tim's, Abstew's, and Shane's

The seemingly naive Melanie Wilkes proves less and less dumb and gullible as Gone With the Wind's epic narrative unfurls. Her choice is to forgive Scarlett anything. And Melanie does more than all the others, even doomed Bonnie Blue, to grow a heart inside of this most gloriously charismatic defiant creature.

And, like Melanie, moviegoers will forgive Scarlett anything. She's too rich a creation to deny, from whichever angle you're looking at her. The Old South is long gone but Vivien Leigh's perfect realization of the world's most famous maddening Southern Belle will be with us forever.


Thanks for reading and watching along with us.
Next Tuesday's Season Five Finale: THE MATRIX (1999)



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Reader Comments (11)

God that woman was breathtaking! Great choice and I really enjoyed your picking of shots for all the different characters.

It was great to revisit the film as always but as I watched this time I kept thinking how really wrong Leslie Howard was as Ashley. Too old and while he was too professional to phone it in his heart didn't really seem to be in the part as the others were. Even Gable who was none too happy to be cast as Rhett gave it his all once the cameras turned. It too bad that 20th Century Fox refused to loan out Selznick's first choice Tyrone Power for the role. He would have been perfect.

August 27, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Tyrone Power for which role, joel6? Rhett?
I read the novel before I saw the film, and of all the actors in the actual ensemble, Gable was the only one I could immediately visualize (and hear) in his role while reading. It was uncanny how well he was cast. For Scarlett, I saw Bette Davis and Barbara Stanwyck.

August 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Paul Outlaw-Selznick wanted Power for Ashley Wilkes, and there I think he would have been perfect.

Nobody but Gable would ever have been right for Rhett even though both Gary Cooper and Errol Flynn were floated as possibilities and Margaret Mitchell stated that she had Basil Rathbone in mind when she was writing the character.

August 27, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

joel6 -- i didn't know this. Tyrone Power would have made more sense as a rival for Scarlett's affections.

August 27, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I confess to only having the movie characters as my guide, never having read the book. Joel6, I do smile at the thought of Tyrone Power as Ashley; it would certainly solve the problem of “what does Scarlett see in him” issue that so often comes up.
But I don’t think that Power would have done well as the post war Ashley; the broken Ashley with only the love of Melanie to persevere at that stage in his life. Leslie Howard was one of my mother’s favorite movie stars and I think that it has been hard, since the coming of the anti-hero to movies, for other generations to understand the appeal of the Ronald Colemans and Leslie Howards of the 30’s.
1930 movies were the best antidote to a terrible downtrodden time. Movies were the ultimate escapism, a slice of glamor well beyond the reach of any moviegoer. The 30’s male stars were often British, and had the manners and the gentleness that came with the accent. Words like debonair and breeding are not used anymore, but they so greatly described these Hollywood actors (David Niven , even Larry Olivier were hired to the movies because of their voices, accents and manner, and often artificially waved hair ) .
I am not sure who would be a perfect Ashley Wilkes, but Leslie Howard provided gravitas. If Mr. Howard is so misplaced and maybe even that horrid word “wimpering” after the war, so would not have Mr. Wilkes been also?

August 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie19

nathaniel, absolutely love your idea of having the other character's from the film pick their favorite shots! of course, they would all be of Scarlett! and she would approve.

August 27, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterabstew

I loved Leslie (The Scarlet Pimpernel) Howard as Ashley, because his casting made Scarlett seem all the more obsessive and delusional. He was so wrong for her (Vivien Leigh as Scarlett), but what he represented--in her learned worldview--was so right. And he was a great temperamental match for de Havilland.

August 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Leslie & Paul - i don't actually dislike Leslie Howard in the role and I like him well enough in general. Agree with Paul that his "off" casting gives Rhett more impetus for seeing right through Scarlett's delusions.

August 27, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Oh Paul,
You are so right ..........and said with much more brevity!

August 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie19

Though Flynn -with his irresistible bad boy vibe - would've made a fine Rhett Butler, every bit as good as Clark Gable, I certainly don't have any problem with Gable in the role. He's a fine fit. But I'm definitely in the "Recast Ashley Wilkes" club. Leslie Howard - actorly voice , anemic looks - has never been a favorite of mine. Tyrone Power certainly could've pulled it off. But he was 20th Century Fox's golden boy by that time; so I'm not surprised Zanuck didn't want to loan him out to play what was essentially a second banana role. Lesser Fox names (at the time) like Henry Fonda, Richard Greene and Don Ameche probably could have pulled it off , but apparently, among the Fox contractees, Selznick wanted Power or no one. I've read that Margaret Mitchell and a lot of fans pushed for Randolph Scott ( a real Southerner) as Ashley. I think he'd have been excellent. But the late 30's woods were full of handsome, talented young actors (James Ellison, Richard Denning, Phillip Reed, Thomas Beck,William Lundigan, John McGuire - anyone of whom, I think, could have made appropriate Ashleys. All sufficiently sensitive to convey the character's wistful, idealistic nature - but also bright and shiny enough to make us understand why Scarlett's buzzed around him so tenaciously.

August 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKen

But Gable, to my mind, was a better actor than Flynn, who was nonetheless a great star and a charismatic physical performer. Of course, it would have been interesting to observe a different dynamic between Melanie and Rhett.

August 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

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