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.
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!
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:
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:
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...
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)