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Frankly, My Dear

Frankly, My Dear: "Gone with the Wind" Revisited

Molly Haskell
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Frankly, My Dear
    Book Description:

    How and why has the saga of Scarlett O'Hara kept such a tenacious hold on our national imagination for almost three-quarters of a century? In the first book ever to deal simultaneously with Margaret Mitchell's beloved novel and David Selznick's spectacular film version ofGone with the Wind, film critic Molly Haskell seeks the answers. By all industry predictions, the film should never have worked. What makes it work so amazingly well are the fascinating and uncompromising personalities that Haskell dissects here: Margaret Mitchell, David Selznick, and Vivien Leigh. As a feminist and onetime Southern adolescent, Haskell understands how the story takes on different shades of meaning according to the age and eye of the beholder. She explores how it has kept its edge because of Margaret Mitchell's (and our) ambivalence about Scarlett and because of the complex racial and sexual attitudes embedded in a story that at one time or another has offended almost everyone.

    Haskell imaginatively weaves together disparate strands, conducting her story as her own inner debate between enchantment and disenchantment. Sensitive to the ways in which history and cinema intersect, she reminds us why these characters, so riveting to Depression audiences, continue to fascinate 70 years later.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15565-5
    Subjects: Film Studies, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xvi)

    If ever there was a film that needed no introduction, it would beGone with the Wind. Yet that may be just why it does. Seventy years old and still running strong, thanks to television, DVDs, and revivals that roll around as regularly as national holidays, the movie has acquired both the contempt and the indulgence of familiarity. Its characters have lodged in our unconscious like family members. Its images (the staircase, the green velvet curtain dress) and dialogue (“I don’t know nuthin’ ’bout birthin’ babies”) are the stuff of parody and late-night comedy, part of our hearts and funny...

  4. ONE The American Bible
    (pp. 1-38)

    David O. Selznick, Hollywood’s self-appointed reader-in-residence, was convinced audiences would sit still for adaptations of famous books, preferably from the nineteenth century and preferably British. The producer had proved it withLittle Women, David Copperfield, andA Tale of Two Cities, three certifiable winners, and what wasGone with the Windbut a nineteenth-century novel in twentieth-century covers . . . or a twentieth-century novel in nineteenth-century clothing? His other article of faith was fidelity to the source, especially when the work was as widely read and fresh in people’s minds as Margaret Mitchell’sGone with the Wind. To Sidney...

  5. TWO Boldness and Desperation
    (pp. 39-85)

    Margaret Mitchell, accident prone, with a sprained ankle that laid her up for months, beginsGone with the Windin 1926. Depressed, she starts with the ending, pours her whole life into the story, hammers away for ten years, squirreling sheaves of barely readable manuscript into manila envelopes, correcting and revising, torn between panic at the thought of publishing—lawsuits, critical scorn, self-exposure—and an equally desperate need to justify her existence as a writer. David Selznick, risking his reputation and career, takes on a project that most of Hollywood reckoned as sheer folly, coasting on a continual high from...

  6. THREE Finding the Road to Ladyhood Hard
    (pp. 86-151)

    A child of the century, Margaret Mitchell was born in November 1900—quite literally in the backyard of the Civil War. The battle had ended only thirty-six years before she was born, and its remnants—those ghostly Confederate entrenchments at the bottom of Jackson Hill—could still be seen from her grandmother’s house. That would be Annie Fitzgerald Stephens, real-life progenitor of Scarlett and mother of Mary Isabelle “May Belle” Stephens Mitchell. On the porch of her old Victorian mansion, which had been left miraculously intact when Sherman’s troops swept through a burning Atlanta, Margaret heard stories of uncles and...

  7. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  8. FOUR E Pluribus Unum
    (pp. 152-187)

    The opening scene, when Scarlett bewitches the audience and the Tarleton twins on the veranda of Tara, was, after the burning of Atlanta, the first scene shot. That was on January 26, 1939. And at the end of August, it was also the last. Cukor’s initial take had to be scrapped because in Technicolor the hair of the twins (played by Fred Crane and the future Superman, George Reeves) came out a lurid orange, a hue suitable for flames and sunsets but not the hair of men or even simpering swains of the Tarleton type. The twins’ curly carrot-top coifs...

  9. FIVE Beautiful Dreamers
    (pp. 188-228)

    The year 1939 was a culminating moment of classical cinema. Sunlight and shadows were in equal balance, an equilibrium due at least in part to a sense of gender harmony, of male and female stars sharing the screen and getting along. It was a golden age in the sense that the studio system was operating in a world not yet overshadowed by a second world war and the Holocaust, not yet grown unduly pessimistic. In the forties and fifties, movies would grow darker and more ominous, the relationship between the sexes more strained. In noir and the woman’s film, destructive...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 229-232)
  11. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 233-234)
  12. Index
    (pp. 235-244)