The full title of America’s
most memorable movie, the way I heard it as a tyke, was Gone With The Will You
I was maybe six when my
mother frogmarched me to the cinema to watch again her all-time favorite: Gone
With The Wind with La Leigh and Le Gable. She inched forward in her seat whenever
Clark the Charmer was onscreen. I squirmed in mine for three hours and 58
minutes, all the time requiring a weewee or an ice cream or something, just
anything to get away from being so bored. I wanted to be Gone From The Theater.
Once the Overture was
over it was all swooning, rustling petticoats and female chit-chat through those
folding fans, interspersed only occasionally with a decent explosion. And no
cartoon characters at all. Apart, that is, from those twin twits the prancing Tarletons
Today it’s vastly
different. When Wifey slips this timeless classic into the player I simply jump
up and leave.... to get popcorn, so we can both munch while we watch.
Turns out it’s not
only the memsahib’s favorite movie of all time it’s also one of mine (as I keep
reassuring her in order not to be branded “insensitive”). Given a choice without
the invisible arm-twisting maybe I’d prefer to watch Predator or perhaps Teenage
Waitresses From Hell, which I kinda suspect was eminently enjoyable. Can’t be
absolutely certain even about the title of that one, since a fair amount of ale
was taken the night it was rented by my Budweiser buddies, the jolly boys.
But back to the scene
at Jonesboro. Ever noticed how any house with halfway decent columns out front
is automatically dubbed ‘Tara’ by Southerners and otherners?
After he moved away, Burt Reynolds’ 11,000-square-foot Loganville
palace on Route 81 was given that handle too. Taras are plentiful, blanketing
Dixie. The real one, much of it a facade made of papier-mâché and plywood, rotted way on the old Selznick movie lot, then RKO
Pictures. In1959 the hulk was sold for $5,000 to Betty Talmadge, wife of the Georgia governor. There was also a plan to make it the centerpiece
of a theme park. Never happened.
The missus and I afford
Gone With The Wind such reverence that we never abbreviate it to GWTW except
that I just did to show that we never do and now I wish I hadn’t. But we dubbed
our house with the white columns Rata. By pure happenstance, Wifey has always
been a Vivien Leigh/Wonderwoman doppelganger of sorts, so she’s Harlot O’Scara.
And I, of course, am the lovable rogue Butt Rhetler.
“Oh, Butt, Butt”
she’ll coo on occasion when we re-enact some scene or other for a moment. And a
moment is all, because I can’t remember any of the hero’s quotes other than
“getting still drunker” so I end up parroting something like “fiddle-de-dee”. Which
is a her line, not a his.
We wonder what it
would have been like if, instead of playing a suave and gallant Charleston
Confederate, Ohio-born Clark Gable had over-Yankee’d himself and said: “Frankly
my dear... bleep you!” But that’s really South Bronx, isn’t it, not Ohio – and it’s
hardly us here in pretty Walton County.
All the above claptrap is my way of saluting ‘Wind’ on its 75th birthday – not
the flick but Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer prizewinning book, which preceded
the 10-Oscar screen blockbuster by two years. I haven’t read this classic tome yet.
People assure me it’s “better than the movie”, a phrase that surely should be
classed with imponderables such as “wish you were here” and “tastes like
chicken”. So I can only assess the characters as seen moving and talking and
the plot as depicted on celluloid. And it’s all vivid.
So vivid that this
remains in America’s top five of all-time movie greats, up there with The
Godfather and... Teenage Waitresses From Hell, was it? Am I mistaken?
Some African Americans
are indignant about Gone With The Wind for the way it portrays Prissy, played as
a total ditz by naturally squeaky-voiced Thelma “Butterfly” McQueen who earned a
BA in political science. True, it does, but I recall that some of the twittering
white women were portrayed almost equally unsympathetically. As indeed were Brent
and Stuart Tarleton, soppy fops that they were.
So Ms Mitchell’s house
that she’d nicknamed The Dump was burned twice by irate folks whose protest
could have been more persuasive had they not allowed base emotions to take
over. The building is now on the National Register of Historic Houses.
But I remain baffled
as to why some black Americans would identify with Prissy anyway. If you feel
the need to correlate with one of the characters then why not Hattie McDaniel’s
Mammy, who effectively ran the O’Hara household. This was the wise lady who
warned Scarlett not to go after Cousin Melanie‘s beau, berating her for plotting
to pounce on him “like a spider”. She was the Common Sense Queen who pulled the
impetuous heroine back from the brink on so many occasions.
Ms McDaniel won an
Academy Award for that role and gave a short, tearful and immensely moving acceptance
speech that surely would have made all Americans proud. I was.