Blu Ray Film Reviews – Gone With The Wind

A blu ray film review of Gone With The Wind.

Classic scene from Gone With The WindGone With The Wind was made in 1939 and is a classic love story set against the backdrop of the American civil war, when you adjust for inflation it is the biggest box office hit of all time.

Gary Cooper was wanted for the part of Rhett Butler but turned it down believing the film would be a massive flop.

Victor Fleming replaced George Cukor as the director of The Wizard Of Oz and Gone With The Wind, both films were of course made in 1939.

Despite being replaced as director of Gone With The Wind, Cukor continued to coach both Vivien Leigh and Olivia De Havilland at weekends, Leigh in particular was very upset when Cukor was replaced as director and she did not get along with Fleming.

The script was toned down from the novel.

The Ku Klux Klan appeared in the novel but was written out of the script. In the novel Scarlett's second husband Frank Kennedy turns to the Klan after she is attacked in the shantytown, indeed in the novel Ashley Wilkes is also a Klan member. Scarlett finds the Klan abominable although she also thinks thoughts in the novel which could be construed as racist, these thoughts were not in the film version. She also defends black people in the novel though and thus i believe this shows she is an open minded character and not racist. Certainly opinion has been divided on this film.

David O. Selznick did not want to include the Klan in the film version and made sure they were written out, indeed his exact words were "I do hope you will agree with me on this omission of what might come out as an unintentional advertisement for intolerant societies in these fascist-ridden times" he aso had to contend with pressure from the black press who hated the novel.

it is believed Margaret Mitchell's original novel was based on her own life experiences and of people she actually knew, indeed Mitchell's grandmother Annie Fitzgerald Stephens was born in 1845 and an Irish immigrant who owned a plantation on Tara road in Clayton County, South Of Atlanta, clearly the novel was no work of fiction and is based on people she knew.

Martha Bulloch Roosevelt who was the mother of President Theodore Roosevelt is believed to be the inspiration for the character of Scarlett O. Hara.

Many actresses were screen tested for the part of Scarlett O' Hara but it came down to a clear fight between Joan Bennett, Jean Arthur, Paulette Goddard and Vivien Leigh, Leigh was told she won the part on Christmas day and the rest is history.

Clark Gable was not keen on the part of Rhett Butler and it took a $50,000 dollar down payment to entice him, he used this money to divorce his wife Maria Franklin Gable and marry actress Carole Lombard, Lombard died in an airplane accident three years later.

In the novel Scarlett has one child by each of her husbands but in the movie she only has a child by Rhett and this was changed for the film due to moral standards of the time.

The film won 8 Oscars including Best Actress for Vivien Leigh and Best Actress in a supporting role for Hattie McDaniel, other Oscars were Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Director for Victor Fleming.


Film Plot

Scarlett O' Hara is a spoiled daughter of an Irish immigrant planatation owner, she is in love with Ashley Wilkes but Ashley is marrying his cousin Melanie Hamilton, this upsets Scarlett who marries Melanie's brother Charles but civil war breaks out in America and North and South are pitted against one another, in the war Charles dies of disease at Gettysburg and Scarlett feels nothing at all, having never loved him, she only married him in haste due to her jealousy.

Scarlett moves to Atlanta and lives with her sister in law Melanie and attends a party where she dances with Rhett Butler, a visitor from Charleston, Rhett is a womaniser but is also in love with Scarlett who cannot see past Ashley and what she feels is love for him.

An epic love story that spans 12 years in the life of Scarlett O' Hara, from the American Civil War to the forging of a new union and the rebuilding of Tara and the bonds in life that can never be broken, the end of the story is only the beginning, after all, tomorrow is another day.


Positives

Vivien Leigh is Scarlett O' Hara in Gone With The WindGone With The Wind has many things going for it, the actors were all carefully hand picked and are superb in portraying their characters, in particular i felt Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Olivia De Havilland and Hattie McDaniel were excellent, McDaniel was the first African-American actress to win an Oscar and she plays Mammy the house servant with great authority and holds her own among a great cast.

The acting by Olivia De Havilland who plays Melanie was for me the best in the film and it's a shame she didn't also win an Oscar but she was up against co-star Hattie McDaniel for the award and only one could win, i felt her acting was more subtle than Vivien Leigh who at times perhaps overplayed her role although Leigh was playing the part as asked of her so if she overplayed then it's because she was directed to do so. Olivia would go on to win two Oscars for To Each His Own in 1947 and The Heiress in 1950.

Although the film is almost four hours long the time just passed by quickly, this may be because i am a film buff and enjoy classic cinema but i also enjoy good cinematography and fab music scores and this has a lot of really good cinematography, the music score by Max Steiner is very recognizable and i'm sure most people have heard the main theme music at least once in their life.

I'm a sucker for love stories set against big events in history, i enjoyed Titanic and Pearl Harbor and i really enjoyed Gone With The Wind and it's backdrop of the American Civil War, this is classic cinema and i think that anyone who enjoys film should watch this at least once.


Negatives

At times you may find Vivien Leigh's portrayal of Scarlett to be slightly over the top, taken in context of the year the film was made i can say it was never a problem for me but some may disagree and find her annoying, some of you may also object to the fact there are black slaves in the film but to object to this would be to deny history, the film is portraying a time in history when slavery existed and you cannot just wipe that out, it's understandable though that these may be negatives for some people though so i must mention them.

I felt they could have shown more of Rhett Butler's actions during the Civil War as these events could have been used to add a touch of action into the story, perhaps even add some battle scenes from the war into the story and show Tara being overrun by Yankee soldiers.


Image Quality

Rhett Butler as played by Clark Gable in Gone With The WindPresented in it's original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 Gone With The Wind uses around 43GB of the disc and all the extra content is put on a second disc, this is something i would like to see happen more often as i would rather the main disc is used just for the film.

The image looked faithful to the source elements, it looks like film to me and i was happy with the presentation as seen on my projection screen, if i am to be critical then i must mention two instances of compression artifacts, one was on a fade out and the other came late in the film when Rhett and Scarlett leave a room, this is very minor nitpicking though and those moments are isolated and don't detract from what i feel is an excellent job by Warner in restoring a classic piece of cinema for the home video market.

There is a light grain structure to the film which is faithful to the original look the movie had in 1939.

Many people mistakenly believe that because it's an older film it should have more grain in the image, they are wrong as Technicolor prints from this era had very light grain and it was really only later on during the sixties and especially the seventies when considerably inferior film stock and cheaper film processing methods began to get used that much grainier footage was seen in films, this film looks excellent on the blu ray format and is faithful to the way it was shot.

The cinematography has intentional softness in it, it's not like some modern films where everything must be super sharp and have the "looking out of a window approach," i actually prefer this old style cinematography as it's moody and atmospheric and beautiful to look at.


Sound Quality

The sound quality on Gone With The Wind is good, speech was clear and easy to understand and the music score sounds fabulous, the pops and crackles and hiss that old age brings on these films is gone, i watched the film with the 5.1 remix after watching the restoration extra and they have been faithful to the original and merely opened the soundstage a little, thus you will not get lots of rear split surround effects or subwoofer action, instead you get a very good representation of the original mix spread across the three front channels with the surrounds occasionally being used for ambience during sequences such as the burning of Atlanta.

Scarlett O' Hara and her beautiful eyes in Gone With The Wind

For purists there is the original mono 1.0 track included on the disc, this will play the sound through your centre channel only, it's worth giving the 5.1 track a go though as it is faithful to the original sound elements and does not add anything new to the mix.


Final Thoughts

Gone With The Wind is very much centred around the character of Scarlett O' Hara, all the other characters are incidental and only there because they form part of her life and that includes Rhett Butler, this is a story of one woman and her change from a selfish ignorant young woman to a slightly less selfish more worldly woman who by the end of the film knows who she truly loves.

In 1939 widescreen 70mm was not widely in use, early widescreen 70mm processes included Fox Grandeur and Magnafilm, the cost of these systems were expensive though and not many films used these formats, i mention this because it's a shame the development of widescreen 70mm didn't really happen until the 1950's as a movie like Gone With The Wind would have been perfect for such a film format. At one point they even toyed with the idea of shooting the burning of Atlanta sequence in widescreen but decided against due to cost issues.

Rhett and Scarlett escape the burning of Atlanta in Gone With The WindChris Cookson who is chief technology officer at Warner Bros originally viewed a digital projection of Gone With The Wind, when he paused the film and went up to the screen, he saw there was a 5 pixel error on the red, he realised that if they could get the red, green and blue channels to align perfectly they could come up with a level of detail never before seen and thus a new process called edge detection was born. Edge detection is software written using computers which takes each individual frame of the film and starts at the centre of the frame working it's way to the outer edges of the frame and gets everything in perfect alignment for a clearer sharper image. 

They utilized Warner's proprietary ultra resolution process on this film to do the above noted work, the black and white negatives of three strip Technicolor productions were always protected by black and white fine grains and these fine grain negatives produce an accurate record for each colour and can be composited using the ultra resolution technique and i believe that is what they did for this film.

Forget what some people say about Gone With The Wind being a racist movie, it is not, they took great care in writing the script to remove elements featured in the book which may have been perceived as racist in the film and Hattie McDaniel is a strong character and deserved her Oscar, there is no getting away from the fact that slavery existed in the USA and plantation owners had slaves but they handle this delicately in the film without making the African-American characters into caricatures, i will repeat once again that this film is not at all racist.

Warner deserve a lot of praise for this release and the edge detection software they use to align the images for sharper detail is being used to great effect on their classic catalog titles, i look forward to Ben Hur and Singin' In The Rain, both of which will use this technology.

Click to view Gone With The Wind Movie Screencaps.