40. Gone With the Wind (1939)
Before anyone starts yelling at me as to why this is so low on the list (or, with some, why it is on the list at all), let me remind you of the purpose of this list. The list is of my personal favorite films which includes movies I love, movies I respect or movies that I just think are great. This film falls under the category of "movies I respect." Now, I must say, that if I were creating a list of the Greatest Films of All-Time (solely based on technical merit, cinematic quality and influential status; not personal taste or bias), then this film would most likely get into the Top 10. And believe me, when it comes to influential status, it doesn't get any grander than Gone With the Wind.
This movie just has an aura around it that cannot be denied. The novel, written by Margaret Mitchell in 1936, was the Twilight of its day. I mean, literally, it flew off the shelves. And when the film version was released in 1939 (after a notorious filming process), it was an event. The casting for its lead character of Scarlett O'Hara went through long lists of movie starlets at the time and countless auditions and screen-tests. This film is one of those that everyone has seen, or at least it was at one time. But it is a really good film from a year (1939) that was a banner year for cinema (other legendary films released that year included Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz and #48: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington).
The film tells the story of wealthy Southern belle Scarlett O'Hara (played to Oscar-winning perfection by Vivien Leigh) as she learns her best friend plans to marry one of the wealthiest men in town, a former beau of Scarlett's named Ashley Willkes (played by Leslie Howard). At a celebration, she meets a debonair Southern gentleman named Rhett Butler (charismatically played by Clark Gable) and the tempestuous love affair between them ensues. Set against the backdrop of the American Civil War (and the Burning of Atlanta), Scarlett and Rhett have a love that never seems to end (which is quite possible since the film is almost 4 hours!). Now, there are several reasons people might dislike this film (its length, the subject matter, the supporting characters like Mammy and Prissy, etc.), but this film is so epic and so grand that it really is a wonder to watch. Every time I see this film, I cannot help but get caught up in it. It is truly one of the most legendary films that won several Academy Awards (DUH!) including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (for Ms. Leigh) and Best Supporting Actress (for Hattie McDaniel as Mammy - the first African-American to win a competitive acting award).
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