The premiere of Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939) was a historic and cultural event. At a time when television was in its early stages of development, cinema conquered the people. If we add a very expensive production, a face as well known as Clark Gable, Scarlett O’Hara’s unique outfits and a promotion never seen before, the result is extraordinary.
The event was such that, in Atlanta, a parade, dances and an endless number of events were organized to celebrate the premiere of the film. The state of Georgia was overturned with the festivities and the day of its premiere, on December 15, 1939, was declared a holiday throughout the state. Thus, Gone with the Wind began to build a myth that would lead to a total of 10 Oscar awards. In short, a cinematographic event never seen and unrepeatable. In Spain, it was released 11 years later, but its success was also overwhelming.
However, although the film is still a classic and its impact has been studied from different perspectives, the truth is that the values it transmits have been somewhat outdated. The image that he gives us of the black characters – totally stereotyped – of the slavery and the values of the time do not have the same depth at present. But Gone with the Wind is not only a 1939 film, but it takes place in the 19th century.
But if there is a character that, from my point of view, deserves to be rescued and is quite timeless, this is none other than the exceptional Scarlett O’Hara played by Vivien Leigh. Scarlett is one of the most remembered female characters in film history. How to forget the dazzling curtain dress? How to forget his excessive love for Ashley Wilkes and his relationship with Rhett Butler?
Neither heroine nor lady in trouble
The magnitude of the film and its length – no less than 4 hours – allow us to witness the evolution of an unprecedented character. Scarlett O’Hara presents herself as a vain, selfish young woman, aware of her beauty and her ability to get what she wants. He has lived a comfortable life, but he does not conform to the role that society has given him.
Both in the novel of the same name and in the film, Scarlett breaks with all the molds of her time. She is not submissive, she does not allow herself to be manipulated by men and she does not want to live in her shadow. It is not a heroine, because its values are far from what dictated the moral of the time, is interested and very selfish; but neither is a ‘lady in distress’ looking for a man to rescue her. In the face of adversity, Scarlett O’Hara is a strong woman, determined and able to take her family forward.
It is irreverent, even mourning can not quench your desires and your desire to have fun as any man would. When feminism was not yet talked about, when women were relegated to the home, Scarlett O’Hara showed that she could do everything, that nothing was going to stop her and that no man was above her. She is not sympathetic, nor endearing, nor does she want to be; On the contrary, it is superb, irreverent and very independent. Even war can not defeat it.
But Scarlett’s intentions are selfish, we know her in love-almost obsessed-with Ashley Wilkes, the man who is going to marry her cousin Melanie. Melanie is the opposite of Scarlett, she is naive, sweet and angelic, so much so that sometimes we would like to awaken her from that wonderful dream in which she seems to live. He does not believe in evil and is unable to see that Scarlett, in fact, feels no compassion for anyone and cares little about breaking a marriage.
This relationship with Melanie will be a constant throughout the film, in parallel, another love triangle will begin to take shape from the intrusion of Rhett Butler. Scarlett likes the impossible, so she falls in love with Ashley; while Butler, a businessman of dubious morality, will be fascinated by the undisciplined young woman. However, the war will break into their lives, breaking the comfort of Scarlett and her family.
In the face of danger, she is the one who takes the reins, who manages to resurrect her beloved Tara – the family plantation. Without Scarlett, most of the characters that accompany her would not have survived. Marriage after marriage, widow, something that would have been devastating for a m
She is a nonconformist person and always manages to get ahead. She becomes an entrepreneur in a world dominated by men and, like the phoenix, manages to rise again and again from her ashes.
Scarlett O’Hara: a different woman
Yes, Scarlett O’Hara is different, she is a woman who stands out in her time -both in fiction and in reality-. The cinema has given us a host of ‘domesticated’ women, obedient, who follow the example of what a woman ‘should be’. Devout women for their children and their husbands who seem to have no greater aspiration in life. On the contrary, the protagonist of Gone with the Wind stands as the true queen of her story, men and the rest of the stories revolve around her.
She is far from being a good mother and a good wife, her marriages and practically all her actions are driven by her own interest. Scarlett O’Hara must adapt, as she can, to a world dominated by men. Rhett Butler is an opportunist, something that is not a mystery for Scarlett, but if he is an opportunist, she can be. We can make a reading of this character from the ambition that moves his actions, however, its complexity is infinitely greater.
At times, we see that she can become compassionate, that she is protective of her family and that she dares to ‘wear the pants’ of the house, to make important decisions. Melania, on the contrary, despite her ingenuity, is quite intellectual, but, above all, kind. She will always be grateful to Scarlett for helping her survive and for resurrecting a family legacy that seemed doomed to disappear.
The young and flirtatious Scarlett who was introduced to us at first seems to have vanished, among ragged dresses she gets food from a land that seemed doomed. It manages to survive those who surround it and faces any adversity. Nothing can stop her, not even scarcity, if she can not have a dress in a position to visit Rhett Butler and achieve her more than interested purpose, she will make curtains a dress for the occasion.
Throughout the film, we see it descend from the top to the very hells, however, never lets anything, absolutely nothing, end up sinking it. His arrogance and ambition can show absolute coldness, but deep down, the blows have ended up being devastating. Scarlett O’Hara puts on an armor that will protect her always, that will keep her distant. Only the death of Melanie will make her connect with reality, with the pain that could have caused and, finally, know the value of kindness and love.
Undoubtedly, Scarlett O’Hara is one of those characters who endure over time, who are timeless and who, even today, are current. It is a truly interesting character, which deserves a more detailed and in-depth analysis. It allows us to see a constant evolution from adolescent happiness to the maturity of a woman who has suffered, but has never been crushed. We can love her, even hate her, but there is no doubt about her great impact. Indomitable, superb, beautiful, flirtatious … but, above all, a fighter, an authentic survivor impossible to defeat.
“Even if I have to kill, cheat or steal, I make God a witness that I will never go hungry again.”
-Scarlett O’Hara, Gone with the Wind-