“Gone With the Wind” is back on HBO Max, with two additional videos discussing the historical context of the classic movie. WarnerMedia had released the film two weeks ago, citing the need to address its “racist portrayals.”
In the first video, TCM presenter and film scholar Jacqueline Stewart discusses “why this 1939 epic drama should be seen in its original form, contextualized, and discussed.” The second is an hour-long video recording of a panel discussion, “The Complicated Legacy of ‘Gone With the Wind'”, from the TCM Classic Film Festival in April 2019, moderated by author and historian Donald Bogle.
Stewart, in the 4:26 minute intro segment now added as a bonus feature for “Gone With the Wind” on HBO Max, calls the movie “one of the most popular movies of all time.”
At the same time, “The film has been repeatedly protested, since the announcement of its production,” says Stewart. “Producer David O. Selznick knew very well that black audiences were deeply concerned with the film’s handling of slavery and its treatment of black characters.”
Despite Selznick’s assurances to the black community that he would be responsive to their concerns, “Gone With the Wind” presents “Antebellum South as a world of grace and beauty without acknowledging the brutalities of the chattel slavery system in which build this world. ” “Says Stewart.
She continues: “The film’s treatment of this world through a nostalgic lens negates the horrors of slavery, as well as its legacies of racial inequality.”
Stewart, a professor of film and media studies at the University of Chicago, also notes that members of the black cast were unable to attend the movie’s premiere due to Georgia’s Jim Crow segregation laws. Also, Hattie McDaniel, who was the first African-American person to win an Academy Award for her portrayal of the Mammy maid in the film, was not allowed to sit with the other cast members at the Oscars.
“Watching ‘Gone With the Wind’ can be uncomfortable, even painful,” says Stewart. “Still, it is important that classic Hollywood movies are available in their original form for viewing and discussion.”
“Gone With the Wind” stars Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Hattie McDaniel and Olivia de Havilland. The film, adapted from Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel, takes place during the Civil War and the Reconstruction era. HBO Max’s description of the film reads: “Scarlett O’Hara’s battle to save her beloved Tara and find love during the Civil War.”
The film won eight competitive Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress for Leigh, Best Director for Victor Fleming and Best Supporting Actress for McDaniel. The American Film Institute ranks “Gone With the Wind” as the best American film number 4 of all time, after “Citizen Kane”, “Casablanca” and “The Godfather”.