It’s a good job they’re putting this ravishing new print of ‘Gone with the Wind’ in cinemas now – before Steve McQueen’s ‘12 Years a Slave’ arrives in January to show us what American slavery really looked like. Its stereotype of happy slaves and kindly masters has never been more wince-inducing (the writers thankfully deleted the novel’s pro-Ku Klux Klan references). But no one watches ‘Gone with the Wind’ for historical accuracy. What keeps us coming back is four-hours of epic romance in gorgeous Technicolor.
Slavery, the Civil War, the burning of Atlanta, a street knee-deep in dead soldiers – all just a backdrop to the main event, Scarlett ’n’ Rhett. The feminist jury is still out on Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh). Nothing but a serial husband-thief? Or a resilient modern woman doing what she can to survive? You decide. Rhett (Clark Gable) is the hard-drinking playboy who, when he looks at a woman, sees right through her petticoats. Scarlett: ‘You black-hearted varmint’ (store that one away for future use). Rhett: ‘You’ll never mean anything but misery to a man.’ Frankly, you’d have be as black-hearted as Rhett not to give a damn.