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Catherine Shoard, theguardian.com
Lou Lumenick suggests that the 1939 epic romanticises slavery and should be rejected along with the Confederate flag
‘Slavery is an institution the film unabashedly romanticises’ … Vivien Leigh and Hattie McDaniel in Gone with the Wind. Photograph from article: Everett Collection/Rex
The New York Post film critic Lou Lumenick has called for Gone with the Wind, the 1939 multi-Oscar-winning epic, to no longer be screened in cinemas.
“If the Confederate flag is finally going to be consigned to museums as an ugly symbol of racism,” writes Lumenick, “what about the beloved film offering the most iconic glimpse of that flag in American culture?”
The film, which is still the most lucrative of all time when figures are adjusted for inflation, screens on 4 July in New York’s Museum of Modern Art as part of its centenary of Technicolor celebrations. “Maybe that’s where this much-loved but undeniably racist artifact really belongs,” writes Lumenick.
Adapted from Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer prize-winning 1936 novel, Victor Fleming’s film stars Vivien Leigh as the daughter of a Georgia plantation owner who falls for her cousin’s husband before marrying Clark Gable’s gambler-turned-soldier. Set during the American civil war and told from the perspective of white Southerners, the film has long been felt to be one of America’s finest. It took 10 gongs at the 1940 Oscars, including one for Hattie McDaniel, who was the first black person to win an Academy award.
The book, as well as the film, says Lumenick, “buys heavily into the idea that the civil war was a noble lost cause and casts Yankees and Yankee sympathisers as the villains”. It also, he writes, goes to “great lengths to enshrine the myth that the civil war wasn’t fought over slavery — an institution the film unabashedly romanticises”.
Lumenick speculates that many in the Academy likely feel the same way, noting that The Wizard of Oz – which was defeated as best picture by Gone with the Wind in 1940 – received a special 75th anniversary tribute. But during the same ceremony (in which 12 Years a Slave was ultimately named best picture) Gone with the Wind was all but ignored.
The critic concludes: “What does it say about us as a nation if we continue to embrace a movie that, in the final analysis, stands for many of the same things as the Confederate flag that flutters so dramatically over the dead and wounded soldiers at the Atlanta train station just before the intermission?”