Film Review: Gone with the Wind (1939)

Release Date: December 15th, 1939 (Atlanta premiere)
Directed by: Victor Fleming
Written by: Sidney Howard
Based on: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Music by: Max Steiner
Cast: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, George Reeves, Hattie McDaniel, Oscar Polk, Butterfly McQueen

Selznick International Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 238 Minutes, 223 Minutes (1969 re-release), 234 (1985 re-release), 233 Minutes (1989 re-release), 224 Minutes (1994 re-release), 226 Minutes (copyright length)

Review:

“No, I don’t think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.” – Rhett Butler

Gone With the Wind is considered one of the all-time greatest motion pictures ever made. However, everyone should already know that.

It also came under fire last year when it was announced that it would be featured on HBO Max. Why did it come under fire? Well, because people these days are offended by the art people made generations ago. In regards to this film, it had to due with racial stereotypes and how the black characters were used. I wrote about this retro-censorship crap back in July, though. That article can be found here, so I won’t harp on it too much again while reviewing this classic.

When it comes to this film, it is as good as people have made it out to be for over 80 years. In fact, it may be even better.

Sure, it’s a long, slow, very drawn out story but it covers a lot of ground and it certainly has a lot to say.

Women, historically, have loved the film because of its romantic side and how it doesn’t follow the beats of a stereotypical “happily ever after” story, which was definitely rare for its time.

Men seem to love it because of the war related parts of the film. Mainly, this picture focuses on a few key characters but it really showcases what life was like for those on the losing side of the American Civil War. Regardless of what the war was or was about, the message here is eternal, as it really gives the viewer a true understanding of the actual devastation of war, specifically after the fighting is over.

Beyond the great story, the movie has stunning and legendary performances throughout and it may be the best acted film up to its release. Clark Gable is an absolute man’s man and Vivien Leigh was absolutely incredible. The range of these two just in this film is fantastic and impressive.

The film is also superbly directed by Victor Fleming, who pulled these performances out of his cast while also displaying his phenomenal level of cinematic craftsmanship. Some of the shots in this are breathtaking and still hold up marvelously, all these years later. A lot of credit also has to go to the cinematographer, Ernest Haller.

Going back to Fleming, though, it’s hard to believe that he released both The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind in the same year! That has to be the greatest single year of work by any director. Sadly, though, he only made five more films after this and died ten years later.

It’s hard to really put into words how majestic and epic this film is. It really should be seen by all lovers of film. I can get why it might not appeal to many in the 2020s and because it’s so damn long but it’s hard to really experience the best that the art of motion pictures has to offer if you haven’t seen this.

It deserves its status and from a visual and storytelling standpoint, it still has a lot to teach future filmmakers and lovers of the artistic medium.

Rating: 10/10

Film Review: The Dark Mirror (1946)

Release Date: October 18th, 1946 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Robert Siodmak
Written by: Nunnally Johnson, Vladimir Pozner
Music by: Dimitri Tiomkin
Cast: Olivia de Havilland, Lew Ayres, Thomas Mitchell

International Pictures, Nunnally Johnson Productions, 85 Minutes

Review:

“Not even nature can duplicate character, not even in twins.” – Dr. Scott Elliott

For a B-movie film-noir, this motion picture is quite impressive. While I love a lot of B-movie noirs, there are many more that are just mediocre or outright shit. But I think that this film’s quality has a lot to do with its director, noir veteran Robert Siodmak, as well as its star, the great Olivia de Havilland, who won an Academy Award the same year for her role in To Each His Own.

Watching this film, I was kind of reminded of Brian De Palma’s Sisters from 1972. Both films deal with a good twin and a killer twin that tries to frame (or destroy) their better half.

The films are very different but I can see where De Palma may haven taken some cues from this picture. But honestly, which young filmmaker wouldn’t between the great split performance by its leading lady, as well as the visionary style of its director, a true auteur and master of the noir genre and visual storytelling.

This is a superbly acted film and not just by de Havilland, who plays two roles, but also by its top two male stars, Lew Ayres and Thomas Mitchell.

Everyone in this film is believable and pretty close to perfect. Siodmak got truly great performances out of the three top stars and they had immense chemistry.

I also love how this was shot and for a film from the mid-’40s, Siodmak did a stupendous job in the composite shots that feature both of the twins on the screen at the same time. These sequences go off without a hitch or any visual or audible hints that may wreck what you see on the screen. There’s no obvious Patty Duke Show trickery.

The film’s story is also really good. It pulls you in and you’re never really sure which sister you’re seeing from scene to scene. While the ending and the darker sister’s plot is kind of obvious, you still don’t fully know how it will conclude and whether or not tragedy will befall the good sister or the decent male characters that just want to help them.

That being said, the picture builds up suspense well. The movie does a great job of not coming off as too formulaic or cliche while telling a good, compelling tale that leaves you unsure till the final scene.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other classic film-noir pictures that were directed by Robert Siodmak.

Film Review: Captain Blood (1935)

Release Date: December 28th, 1935 (USA)
Directed by: Michael Curtiz
Written by: Casey Robinson
Based on: Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini
Music by: Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Cast: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Ross Alexander

Cosmopolitan Productions, Warner Bros. Pictures, 119 Minutes

captain-bloodReview:

Captain Blood is quite possibly the most important swashbuckling film in history. It is what really ignited the genre and turned it into a guaranteed money maker for years to come. It also launched the career of the great Errol Flynn, as it was his first, of many, leading roles. The film opened the door for his co-stars Basil Rathbone, who would have a legendary career, and Olivia de Havilland, who would win an Oscar for To Each His Own.

Directed by the quite accomplished Michael Curtiz, who also directed Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Mildred Pierce and a ton of other great films, Captain Blood might be the ultimate epic of his voluminous and impressive catalog.

The movie follows Dr. Peter Blood. It starts as he is arrested unjustly for treason while tending to an injured soldier of a rebellion. The story then follows his trial, his being sold into slavery in Jamaica, his escape and ultimately his metamorphosis into Captain Blood, leader of a band of pirates. A lot happens in the picture and thus, it moves along at a quick pace and fills its two hours nicely.

Flynn does a superb job as the uber cool and incredibly smooth Peter Blood. Basil Rathbone is tremendous as his ally then bitter rival, in what is one of my all-time favorite Rathbone roles. I honestly wish he had more screen time or even a spin-off film. However, spin-offs weren’t too common in 1935. Olivia de Havilland is alluring as the leading lady and even though her motivations aren’t the clearest, you feel as if she is a kind and genuine person despite being involved with slave owners and a corrupt government.

The cinematography, for its time, is beautiful. Often times, lesser-made swashbuckling films come off as too dark and grainy. Captain Blood was well lit and visually, came off as crisp and clean.

If you are into swashbuckling movies but haven’t given this a watch, you really need to. I’d rather be absorbed in this than another Disney Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

Rating: 10/10