Gone With The Wind – tape 904

From BBC2, here’s the classic tale of how great olde time racists were, with Gone with the Wind. This was presented in two parts on consecutive days. I recorded the first part in Long Play, probably because I didn’t tend to use 4 hour tapes at this point. So the first half is even worse quality than VHS usually is.

I can’t remember if I tried to watch this before. I might have done, and got bored with it.

The opening introduction is rather puke-making, painting the ‘Old South’ as a bygone era, of ‘Knights and their Ladies Fair… A civilization gone with the wind.’

And beautifully framed shots like this, of a bell being rung, rather takes on a sinister aspect when you realise the little boys ringing the bell are all slaves.

The story revolves around Scarlett O’Hara, and her desperate search for a husband. She wants to marry a neighbour’s son, Ashley Wilkes, but ‘The Wilkes always marry their cousins’ apparently.

At a party at the Wilkes’, Scarlett is surrounded by ‘beaux’, but is still unhappy that Ashley is marrying someone else. She also sees, for the first time, Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) who has ‘a reputation’. He also appears to be thirty years older than her. (In fairness, he’s only 12 years older than Vivian Leigh).

There’s talk of the coming war. The men are almost excited at the thought, and are outraged when Butler points out that the North is far more equipped than the South. “All we’ve got is cotton, slaves and arrogance” he says. The other men practically scream “Fake News” at him. I guess racists never change.

War is announced during the party, and Scarlett, picqued at Ashley’s marriage to his cousin, accepts an offer of marriage from the nearest chinless wonder who asks her. In short order, she’s widowed when he dies of pneumonia.

But mourning doesn’t stop a party. Rhett Butler is at the party too, currently a hero as a blockade runner, although he admits to Scarlett he’s only in it for profit. I hadn’t realised how much of this was cribbed for Han Solo. To raise money for the war effort, the party asks the men to bid for the first dance with the woman of their choice, and Butler outrages the party by bidding for a dance with Scarlett, still in mourning.

After the battle at Gettysburg, the people of Atlanta receive news of their dead. The ragged left margin of this list is annoying me.

Atlanta is attacked, and Ashley’s wife, Melanie (Olivia DeHavilland) is having a baby. Scarlett can’t find a doctor, as they’re all a bit busy tending the hundreds of wounded. The baby is delivered safely, with Scarlett’s help and the help of their slave girl (whom Scarlett slaps when she admits she doesn’t know anything about childbirth – so much for the tolerant right). Then she enlists Rhett’s help in escaping the city in flames.

He gets her out, then leaves her to get to her home, Tara, as he leaves to enlist in the army, and she whines at him for leaving her. She really is the most awful screen heroine. I really hope there’s some redemption coming. It doesn’t come when she finally reaches Tara, whips her horse one last time and it drops dead. No really, she kills the bloody horse.

And the emotional mid-way break sees her scrabbling around in the dirt for what little food is left. “If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.” She really sounds like a Republican. I wonder why.

BBC Genome (part One): BBC Two – 28th December 1989 – 18:00

She doesn’t improve in part two. She’s still moping after Ashley Wilkes, and she marries a man who was intended for her sister, when she discovers he’s got a business after the war. She buys a lumber mill, and staffs it with convicts, because ‘free darkies’ are too expensive.

Her husband dies, and Rhett returns to ask her to marry him. Since she’s between husbands, she agrees, and they even have a daughter. But she’s still mooning after Ashley, and he can’t stand that.

They have a big argument, after which he carries her up to the bedroom and (I presume) rapes her. But in this world that’s a grand romantic gesture, and she wakes up looking radiant and happy.

Then, after he’s been away on a trip with their daughter, he returns to the news that Scarlett is pregnant again. She tells him she doesn’t want the baby, and immediately falls down the stairs, leading to a miscarriage.

As she’s recovering, their daughter is riding her horse, and she tries to jump a fence, is thrown from the horse and killed – a scary looking stunt, it has to be said.

The death toll continues with Melanie, Ashley’s wife, who’s taken Ill and dies, begging her to look after Ashley for her. But then she talks to Ashley, and when he tells her he can barely live without Melanie, Scarlett then accuses him of keeping her hanging on all these years, despite it being her who’s been unable to let go of him, ignoring all the evidence of his happy marriage. It’s always all about her.

But Rhett has had enough, and leaves her, which she’s suddenly sad about, and the film ends with her resolving to return to Tara, her family home, and find a way to get him back.

This is one of the worst ‘best’ films I have ever seen.

Almost everyone in it is awful.

Adjusted for inflation, this is the most popular film in history.

People are idiots.

Although I can’t help but reflect that Gone with the Wind perfectly explains modern America. Every Trump supporter is the Scarlett O’Hara of their own little world, imagining themselves the romantic hero(ine) rather than the selfish racist they really are.

BBC Genome (part two): BBC Two – 29th December 1989 – 18:00

After this, recording continues. There’s a trailer for Heavy Metal Heaven featuring Guns n Roses and Def Leppard.

Then, the start of Bookmark, with a biographical portrait of Iris Murdoch.

The recording stops after ten minutes of that programme.


  1. I am not a fan of this either. The “Mad” satire in the 1990s (which ends with Rhett leaving Scarlett for someone who’s waited for him for years- Ashley – is a lot better, even with the borderline homophobic jokes about “Ashtray Wilts” and his effeminate demeanour).

  2. Longest film I ever saw in a cinema! Not on its initial release, obvs. I’m always surprised when people attack it for featuring unlikeable characters, because it seems to me they’re there to be punished for their flaws and misdemeanours. It’s a lot more judgemental than it appears. Plus Hattie McDaniel plays the only character with a brain in her head.

    1. Of course, Hattie McDaniel won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. I’m sure that’s partly because she was the only decent character there. When she received the award, she had to sit on a segregated table for two. She’s lucky she was let in at all because the hotel had a strict no blacks policy, which was relaxed on this occasion.

      1. Yeah, when Hollywood pats itself on the back for giving an Oscar to an African American way back for a 1939 performance, there are a LOT of caveats. Still, she was a pioneer in her way, and she is excellent.

  3. She did give an unarguable reason for why she kept playing maids in movies – she’d get paid a lot more for playing a fake maid than for being a REAL maid. Even back then it was all about the Benjamins.

  4. Just remembered, when BBC2 were doing their centenary of film celebrations where they got a bunch of movie folks and celebs to pick their favourite film scene, Julian Clary chose Gone with the Wind, and the scene he most liked was when Bonnie dies, “because I don’t like Bonnie”. Can’t imagine that being broadcast today!

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