Written by Margaret Mitchell, this film is an adaptation of the book which showcased in 1939. A top box office seller, the director looked and looked for the perfect herione before turning to his own wife, Vivien Leigh. It's hard to believe that anyone could ever portray Scarlett as perfect as she did. Although she wasn't in many other works, and none as memorable, Vivien Leigh has an energy and disposition that shines through this character.
It is said that the author based her book on her relationship with her husband, and her characterization which is legendary and intricate ties to early notes she had are a “thinly disguised astrological allegory,” down to the title Twelve Oaks which is the plantation Ashley Wilkes lives on.
Although the novel provides luscious back story and descriptions of both the inner worlds of Scarlett and company, I prefer the film. There are great historical references (which usually bothers me when history is mixed in with fiction, but here it doesn't), and both the book and the film are chalk full of some of the greatest and plentiful quotations.
“As God as my witness, I will never go hungry again.” --Scarlett O'Hara
I wince when people both completely adore Scarlett and completely despise her. Most people know her as her movie self which deprives them (mostly the naysayers) of the rich, inner life of Scarlett's mind. Yet a more in depth look reveals that Scarlett is one of the first strong, independent female characters. While she has help from men from time to time, Scarlett is a survivor, and she vows that she will prevail.
In the beginning of the book, Scarlett is a sixteen year old who looks and acts like a Southern belle—someone straight out of a beauty pageant. She's young, vibrant, and boy crazy. Like any teenager, she pines for someone who may or may not love her back.
|Scarlett at Tara|
Scarlett finds out the love of her life is about to marry another woman. The object of her affection, Ashley Wilkes, is bound by tradition to marry his cousin Melanie Hamilton, but her father tells her that he specifically told Ashley's father that Ashley would not marry Scarlett. The typical teenager, Scarlett wants to know why her father is ruining her life, to which Mr. O'Hara echoes a sentiment that will continue throughout the movie, “Because I want my daughter to be happy, and you'd not be happy with the likes of him.” It states in the book but is also clear in the film, that Scarlett, the oldest of three, is clearly Gerald O'Hara's favorite. The moments between them are truly sweet, and Scarlett may have her mother Ellen's good looks and practicality, but she has her father's Irish spirit (except for the horse riding—must skip a generation).
An ongoing topic is compatibility. While opposites may attract, Ashley uses likeness as his reason for marrying Melanie and Rhett uses it as his for loving Scarlett—“bad lots, both of us.” Everyone seems to know better than Scarlett about who and what makes her happy. Her father, Ashley, and Rhett all point to Tara, her plantation, as a literal and metaphorical place of strength for her. It takes her from childhood into adult to realize what she really loves—one of those things being Tara.
Our heroine is surrounded by strong women—her mother, Mammy, and Melanie. Rhett even goes out of his way to earn Mammy's respect. She's raised Scarlett, and Rhett wants to prove he's worthy of Scarlett's love.
“With enough courage, you can do without a reputation.” --Rhett Butler
Captain Rhett Butler has to be hands down one of my favorite characters consistently throughout the film. From the moment he appears, he is mysterious and interesting to the moment he exits which is strong and credible. Though the book and the movie stray to convey the age gap between him and Scarlett.
Although he's charming and arrogant, Rhett speaks the truth in the most hilarious fashion. Gone with the Wind is worth watching for him and Scarlett alone, but even if you don't like Scarlett, you're bound to have some affection for Rhett. He's probably the most relatable character in the entire film, and his intentions are good. Even when he does something damaging, he goes back to try to repair it. He cares not about reputation, but he does care about the people he loves and good people at that. Although he's not as apt at Melanie for always seeing the good in others, he very dearly loves Scarlett and wants to spoil her regardless of what it costs him in any sense. He adores his daughter and sees her as a reflection of all the things he loves in Scarlett without any of the nastiness.
Despite his inability to put into words, Rhett likes that Scarlett is firy and can take care of herself. Even when he sees Scarlett out of the city, and turns back, he doesn't understimate her ability to take care of herself—something that sets both her and Belle Watling apart from other women in the film and of that time era.