Monday, August 29, 2011

Devin Wachs: Why I Love GONE WITH THE WIND

We all have films we love here at BMFI, and Wednesday we're showing Gone with the Wind. Read why this 1939 classic makes Public Relations Manager Devin Wachs believe in time-travel. Check back for additional posts by other BMFI staff and community members that explore the movies we love.

By Devin Wachs, Public Relations Manager, BMFI

I first saw Gone with the Wind on Thanksgiving when I was eight or nine years old. The film took my breath away (and still does). Even seeing it on our 24” TV set with the holiday buzz going on all around me, Scarlett captured my heart with her spirit and spunk in the face of the Civil War and its aftermath. What a character! What passion! What resilience! She’s not “nice”—she uses people and is petty and self-serving—but she is a survivor, very human and surprisingly sympathetic, thanks in large part to Vivien Leigh’s Oscar-winning performance. For the next few years, it seemed like Gone with the Wind was on TV every Thanksgiving morning, and as God as my witness, I’d always watch as much of it as I could. It became kind of an unofficial holiday tradition.

Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) was a frequent Thanksgiving "guest" as I was growing up. BMFI is showing Gone with the Wind on the big screen this Wednesday, August 31.
But nothing beat seeing it on the big screen a few years later. It was re-released to theaters in the summer of 1998 and my friend’s mom drove us to Portland, OR, an hour-and-a-half drive, to see it on the big screen. It was worth the trip. The name of the theater escapes me, but I do remember red velvet curtains and plush seats. I felt like I was going back in time.   
Because that’s what this film does for me. The story sweeps me up in a bizarre, manufactured nostalgia for the lost Antebellum South, a place that I can never really go, unless Doc Brown shows up in a DeLorean. Realistically, I wouldn’t want to—hoop skirts are overrated and my modern, “Left Coast” mindset would not go over well in that social and political climate. But because the film tells the story of the era by focusing on Scarlett’s individual struggles and the forces that shape her, even a modern viewer is permitted to look beyond the outdated politics and racial injustice (both of the Antebellum South and 1939 Hollywood) to appreciate the character and the way the war changes her life. You connect with her, even if you don’t like her. Even a Yankee girl like me can identify with Scarlett’s sense of loss over the life she’s known, her fear of poverty, and the human suffering that she was never prepared by education or birth to witness, even if we don’t hold the same values. Scarlett is a product of her time, just like the film is a product of 1939, for better and for worse.

The film's vision of the Old South pulls in the viewer because we see it through Scarlett's eyes.

When I see Gone with the Wind, I’m not just taking a trip to Tara, but also to an important era in Hollywood. 1939 is widely considered to be Hollywood’s best year. Yet people were so excited for this all-star adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s bestselling novel that the film received a three-day premiere in Atlanta. It stayed in theaters for two years upon its original release. Even with such stiff competition as The Wizard of Oz, Ninotchka, and Goodbye Mr. Chips, Gone with the Wind was nominated for thirteen Oscars in twelve categories and won eight (plus two honorary awards). By watching the film—especially in a theater like the original audiences would have done—I am connected to the other people who have shared this cinematic treasure over the years.

Gone with the Wind's Atlanta premiere was a three-day event drawing thousands.

Gone with the Wind reminds me why I love cinema, for all it was and can be. It reminds me of the power of cinema to transport the viewer and how it connects the audience with a story. That’s why I’m going to be lining up with some of you (hopefully) on August 31, to see it for the second time in a theater. I hope the film means as much to you as it does to me.

Devin Wachs is the Public Relations Manager for Bryn Mawr Film Institute. She joined BMFI in 2005, following her graduation from Bryn Mawr College. If you send BMFI a message on Facebook or Twitter or are interested in onscreen sponsorships, she's the one who'll be in touch!

Gone with the Wind is showing on Wednesday, August 31 at 7:00pm at BMFI. You can get your tickets now at the Box Office or online here.

Bonus: Bake 425 will be offering free sample slices of their pizza in the arcade from 6:30pm to 7:00pm.

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