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With a total of ten Academy Awards, including one for Best Picture, GONE WITH THE WIND ($25) stands as one of the true classics of American cinema. The American Film Institute placed GONE WITH THE WIND at number four on its list of the 100 greatest films. So, is GONE WITH THE WIND being sold short by landing in forth place? The answer is yes and no, depending on one's own personal opinion about the film. Personally, I see GONE WITH THE WIND as grand entertainment containing the best of everything that Hollywood has to offer. However, one does have to admit that the story contains many elements that one would find in a melodramatic soap opera, despite being set during the Civil War and reconstruction period.

This is not to say that the Margaret Mitchell's Pulitzer prize-winning story is anything less than entertaining, however there are films with stories that have an intellectual superiority to GONE WITH THE WIND. There are those fans who think GONE WITH THE WIND is the greatest film of all time, and I am not here to dispute their opinion. In fact, I've seen GONE WITH THE WIND at least a dozen times, and am sure I will see the film at least a dozen more times. So, if I side with those who say CITIZEN KANE is the greatest American film of all time, it does not diminish my love for GONE WITH THE WIND, nor should it diminish anyone else's love for this magnificent accomplishment in American filmmaking.

For the uninitiated, GONE WITH THE WIND is the story of the spoiled daughter of southern Plantation owner who lives through the horrors of the American Civil War. The story then follows her as she does whatever is required to regain her wealth and position during the reconstruction. British actress Vivien Leigh was given the coveted role of Scarlett O'Hara after every American actress, both known and unknown, tried out for the part. There is no question about it, Vivien Leigh was perfect for the role of Scarlett, and at Oscar time she received the Academy Award for Best Actress. Leigh brings humanity and vulnerability to a character whose self-centered nature could have left audiences indifferent to the plight of Scarlett and doomed GONE WITH THE WIND to failure.

Equally responsible for the success of GONE WITH THE WIND is screen legend Clark Gable. Gable was the only actor the movie going public wanted to see portray Rhett Butler, and despite his initial reluctance, the public was right. Clark Gable was, is and forever shall be Rhett Butler. His magnetism and personality ideally suited the roguish hero of Margaret Mitchell's novel. Olivia de Havilland cannot be praised enough for her portrayal of the selfless Melanie Hamilton. Melanie could have become saccharin in the hands of a less accomplished actress, but Ms. de Havilland perfectly embodies a woman who exudes both love and compassion for everyone around her. Leslie Howard perfectly portrays Ashley Wilkes, the last of a dying breed- a genteel southerner plantation owner and the object of Scarlett O'Hara's misguided love.

Hattie McDaniel delivers another of the film's standout performances as Mammy, Scarlett's faithful servant who isn't afraid to tell anyone what's on her mind. McDaniel delivers just the right combination of tenacity and humor to the role that brought her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The cast of GONE WITH THE WIND also features Thomas Mitchell, Barbara O'Neil, Evelyn Keyes, Ann Rutherford, Butterfly McQueen, Carroll Nye, Laura Hope Crews, Ona Munson and Harry Davenport. Victor Fleming took home a well-deserved Oscar for directing GONE WITH THE WIND, however some parts of the nearly four hour film were directed by George Cukor and Sam Wood (uncredited of course).

MGM Home Entertainment has done a terrific job bringing GONE WITH THE WIND to DVD, although I've heard some complaints about the film being split onto two sides. Since the side break comes at the intermission point, MGM can't be faulted. A dual layer presentation has less storage space than one that is dual sided, therefore MGM was able to lessen the level of MPEG-2 compression and produce superior image quality. I can say without hesitation that this GONE WITH THE WIND is the absolute finest video incarnation of the film. MGM has mastered GONE WITH THE WIND from the restored materials used for the 1998 theatrical reissue of the film. A previous restoration desaturated the film’s Technicolor hues, rendering GONE WITH THE WIND a pale imitation of its former self. The 1998 restoration has brought the colors as close to the vibrancy of an original IB Technicolor print, as it is currently possible. Additionally, the restoration has cleaned up many of the minor imperfections in the sixty-year-old film, making it appear virtually brand new. The DVD offers a very detailed image and strong colors without a hint of color noise or distortion. Digital compression artifacts were almost never visible.

GONE WITH THE WIND was given a new Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack as part of its theatrical re-issue. The new mix adds breathing room to the soundtrack and enhances Max Steiner’s musical score. Except for the attack on Atlanta, there are no distinct directional effects. Dialogue reproduction is clean and intelligible. A monaural English soundtrack is also available for those who want to hear GONE WITH THE WIND the way it was originally presented. Subtitles are available in English and French.

The interactive menus have full motion video and contain music. Through the menus one can access the standard scene and language selection features, as well as a theatrical trailer.

GONE WITH THE WIND is an undisputed classic that belongs in every DVD collection. Absolutely recommended.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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