Well, it is a pretty hard case to sell that this American classic from 1939 is anything but. Is it as bad as Birth Of A Nation, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year? I very much doubt it but it is guilty of the casual, patronising racism common place in pre-war America, with the whole notion that playing Jazz music and being comically thick, yet lovable was what being black was all about. This brand of comedy was even present in Looney Tunes cartoons!
All this has come about after reading an article published on TheGuardian.com this morning…
US critic: ‘undeniably racist’ Gone with the Wind should be banned from cinemas
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?”
To be honest I would generally agree with this case, except for the simple fact that I whole heartedly DO NOT believe in film censorship. It should not be hidden or lost, it should be praised where praise is due and criticised appropriately and there is plenty to criticise about this film besides its obvious racism. But it was not racist at the time. There was no such thing as racism in the modern sense in the 1930’s so to be fair, it was the product of a time in which a countries views where what they were and audiences lapped this up, helping to make Victor Fleming’s, Gone With The Wind one of history’s biggest and most lucrative blockbusters.
We cannot rewrite or re-record history and nor should we try. Our only duty is to learn from it. Hence I doubt that we will ever see a film like Gone With The Wind again and in the case of its patronising racism, good!
Happy 65th Birthday Mum! x