Saturday, November 12, 2011

Speaking to Scarlett O’Hara

Why, Ms. Scarlett (Vivien Leigh), I do declare that you are one of the greatest female characters, both in film and prose, in American history.  You might be calculating but oddly still stupid at times, but I still like you and your 18 inch waist (pre Bonnie, rest her dear soul). Perhaps I often found myself hoping that Ms. Melly (Olivia de Havilland) would slap you or that a Yankee soldier would defile you—both to teach you a lesson—but I still hoped beyond hope that you would triumph in the end.  Alas, your god and creator, Margaret Mitchell, got it right in the end—let the reader/viewer decide how  your tomorrow turned out.  Of course, had Mitchell known that her money-grubbing descendants would allow Alexandra Ripley to write a trashy sequel (I won’t name the title, but the title is the most creative thing about it…and that’s all you need to know, Ms. Scarlett), perhaps she would have relented about writing the end of your story.  So, what makes you and your film merit a four-star rating, Ms. Scarlett? 

GWTW_3lgStar one: your theme music.  Dramatic and memorable—just like you Ms. Scarlett. Whenever I hear it I immediately think of the lush green gardens of Tara (and the burning of Atlanta, too—damn those Yankess, Miss Scarlett, damn them!),  Ah, and just like you were robbed by those damn Yankees, composer Max Steiner was robbed by the Academy when he lost the Oscar to some silly guy named The Wizard of Oz—now you know that’s not a decent, Southern gentleman’s name, Ms. Scarlett. Of course, it only makes sense that you would have one of the most memorable film scores ever, Ms. Scarlett, as you are the most memorable female film character in history.  Every badass needs a badass theme song, Ms. Scarlett, and rest assured, when your overpriced barouche is cruising the streets of Charleston (or Savannah, Atlanta, etc.) people know what badass is coming. 

Star two: your clothes.  With a figure like yours, Scarlet-OHaraMs. Scarlett, you would look good in anything.  While I don’t know how wise it is to wear a green and white dress to a BBQ, I still think you make it work—and that green ribbon that attaches your hat to the rest of you could be used as a napkin if need be. What I’m saying is, you know how to make any dress work.  Take for example the white ruffle dress—some people would look like a roll of toilet paper gone wrong, but somehow it looks flouncy on you.  Another example is the red garnet gown that you look ultra-fierce in.  Some people just couldn’t work those feathers and the gauze-veil thingy, but you rock it. And, who but you could make a dress out of green velvet drapes seem stylish (sort of)?  Granted, it was because of those damn Yankees that you had to rip those curtains down and wear the tassels as an accessory belt, but we can’t blame the dress for the circumstances into which it was born. 

gone_with_the_wind_movie-11469Star three: your crew. Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) may have left you in the end, but while he was with you he was the man in charge.  Your scenes together alone could have burned down Atlanta—damn Yankees.  I have to admit, I just couldn’t understand why you were always after that loser Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) when you had a man like Rhett around. Was it that he rejected you, Ms. Scarlett?  You were just too much woman for that weak man!  He needed a calm woman like your cousin Ms. Melly, so he could continue the cycle of inbreeding. Melly, now there was a woman who knew how to endure, Ms. Scarlett.  Just think of all the insufferable things Aunt Pittypat (Laura Hope Crews) said over the years to that poor girl!  And you thought listening to Prissy (Butterfly McQueen) and Mammy (Hattie McDaniel) all the time was almost too much to bare.

Star four: your attitude.  There’s one thing that makes a person memorable, and that’s their attitude.  Sometimes things don’t go the way you want, but that doesn’t mean you give up. And, Lord knows, Ms. Scarlett you never give up.  Ashley married Melanie, so you married Charles (he was better looking anyway, plus he died and ScarletonStaircaseleft you some worthless Confederate money—damn Yankees!). When you didn’t have the money to pay the taxes on Tara you and your drape dress found Frank Kennedy.  When the damn Yankees came calling you shot one dead. To me, this is a can-do attitude.  Plus, you always know you are the most interesting woman in the room.  Of course, you do have a touch of willfullness and a rather nasty temper, but Irish blood runs hot!  Now, if I had to make one constructive suggestion to you it would be this: get over your procrastination issue. Tomorrow might be another day, but sometimes that day can turn out to be really crummy. Still, I like the can-do attitude about getting your man back. 

And, that, Ms. Scarlett, is why you and your film are so memorable.


  1. Why, ah declare you have gotten the allure of our Miss Scarlett down pat!She is the embodiment of the all-powerful beautiful adolescent who is dragged kicking and screaming into adulthood. I know she's a handful, but ah just love her!

  2. Kim, I'm not a huge fan of GONE WITH THE WIND, but nonetheless enjoyed your letter to Scarlett. You did a fine job in explaining why the character and the film have a legion of fans. Of the four reasons you listed, I think most the most relevant is Scarlett's attitude. Her Civil War era spunk separated her from most other heroines. There were plenty of other spunky heroines in the 1930s, but they were mostly contemporary ones (played by actresses such as Barbara Stanwyck). Scarlett was feminine and glamorous, but surprisingly tough. By the way, I enjoyed the letter format--very clever.

  3. Kim,

    Very enjoyable. Great way to present the reasons why GWTW is so memorable. An exaordinary achievement in filmmaking for that most magical of years in movies.

    But back to Scarlet - she remains unforgettable, enjoyable, exasperating and gorgeous. It's no wonder most of Hollywood fought to play here. BITCH! Er...I mean,...well, I am a varmint, a Yankee after all.


  4. Kim, I loved reading your letter to Ms.Scarlett. I felt very sorry for her, but on the other hand.. if she did not become so hardend and concerned for her family and the Wilkes family. They all would have been homelessness and faced with starvation. I did not see anyone else stepping up to the plate.

    I love/love this movie.

  5. Thanks everyone for the kind remarks. I thought I'd try something different with this review, since GWTW is so well known. She was a ball of fire for sure!

  6. Kim, I loved your ode to a Scarlett woman. I, too, never quite understood her pining for Ashley Wilkes but, when a Southern lady loses her heart, well, that is just the way it is. What a wonderfully creative post and truly enjoyable read!