Gone with the Wind is arguably the greatest motion picture ever made. Based on Margaret Mitchell's Pulitzer Prize winning novel of 1936, it tells the tale of Georgian Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) from immediately preceding the Civil War through Reconstruction.
Gable, in his most famous role and one he had to be convinced to play, portrays Charlestonian Rhett Butler, a handsome, devilish adventurer and ladies' man.
Scarlett resides with her parents, Gerald and Ellen (Thomas Mitchell and Barbara O'Neil), two sisters, Suellen and Careen (Evelyn Keyes and Ann Rutherford) and numerous servants, most notably Mammy, Pork, Prissy and Big Sam (Hattie McDaniel, Oscar Polk, Butterfly McQueen and Everett Brown) in Georgia on the beautiful plantation Tara.
Scarlett is entertaining the Tarleton twins Brent and Stuart (Fred Crane and George Reeves) on Tara's veranda, flirting and trying to get information from them about Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard), the man she loves obsessively.
She sees her father riding wildly and runs to meet him. She complains about life at Tara and her Irish father tells her "land is the only thing worth living for, worth dying for -- it's the only thing that lasts".
Scarlett dresses for the barbeque at Twelve Oaks, Ashley's father's plantation, and decides to wear a dress Mammy finds inappropriate, "you can't show your bosom before three o'clock". Scarlett wears the dress anyway.
Much takes place at the Twelve Oaks barbeque. Scarlett is surrounded by beaus with the notable exception of Ashley. She confronts Ashley in the library and discovers he's engaged to marry his cousin Melanie Hamilton (Olivia De Havilland). She slaps his face and he exits the room. Still in a rage she flings a vase at the mantel and Rhett sits up on the sofa where he had been concealed from Scarlett and Ashley and had overheard their entire conversation. Rhett immediately knows Scarlett for what she is and when she tells him he's no gentleman he responds, "And you, miss, are no lady".
The men have a heated debate about the prospect of war with the North and Rhett is the only one who thinks the South will lose, provoking Melanie's brother Charles Hamilton (Rand Brooks) to challenge him to a duel, which Rhett declines, not out of cowardice, but knowing he's a great shot and would certainly kill Charles.
A rider arrives at Twelve Oaks and announces the Civil War has begun. All the men, except Ashley and Rhett, are jubilant. Scarlett, meanwhile, has been flirting with Ashley's sister India's fiance, Charles Hamilton. Charles proposes marriage and Scarlett accepts after seeing Ashley kiss Melanie. Ashley and Melanie and Charles and Scarlett are married before the men go off to war.
Scarlett is soon a widow as Charles dies of pneumonia. To bring her out of her depression, Ellen suggests a trip to Aunt Pittypat's in Atlanta. Scarlett is more than happy to go and Mammy is the only one who realizes she only wants to go to Atlanta because Melanie is there and she'll get to see Ashley when he's home on leave.
In Atlanta Scarlett meets Rhett again at a ball and scandalizes the crowd when she dances with him while still in mourning.
Ashley comes home on leave and Scarlett begs him to tell her that he loves her. Being a weak-willed man, he complies with her request. He then returns to the war, which the South is losing badly, leaving Scarlett and a pregnant Melanie behind.
As Sherman advances on Atlanta, Melanie goes into labor. Scarlett goes to get Dr. Meade (Harry Davenport) at the railroad yard, which serves as a makeshift hospital to thousands of wounded Confederate soldiers, and is told he can't leave to deliver a baby. Scarlett goes back to Aunt Pitty's hoping Prissy, who bragged about being a midwife, will be able to handle the birth. Scarlett slaps Prissy when she finds out Prissy lied about her abilities, "I don't know nothin' about birthin' babies". Scarlett manages to deliver Melanie's son, Beau, with little assistance from Prissy.
Scarlett learns that the Yankees have entered Atlanta and sends Prissy to the local bordello run by madam Belle Watling (Ona Munson) to get Rhett. He arrives with a nag and a wagon and takes Scarlett, Melanie and Prissy out of a burning Atlanta toward Tara.
Rhett is touched by the bedraggled Confederate soldiers and ashamed he hadn't joined them in battle. He kisses Scarlett good bye against a fiery sky and leaves to join the Confederate Army.
Scarlett manages to get back to Tara, which has been ravaged by the war. She finds her mother dead of typhoid fever, her father gone mad, her sisters ill with fever and the only servants remaining are Mammy and Pork. There's no food and no prospects of getting any. Scarlett, starving, runs to the field, eats a root, vomits and standing with fist raised declares, "I'll lie, cheat, steal or kill, but I'll never be hungry again! As God is my witness!"
Scarlett, determined to revive Tara, puts everyone to work picking cotton, much to the dislike of her family. One day a Yankee deserter appears and attempts to steal Ellen's jewels. Scarlett shoots him and Melanie and she hide the body and keep the shooting a secret.
The Civil War ends and Ashley comes home. Scarlett wants them to run away to Mexico, but Ashley won't leave Melanie and Beau.
Scarlett owes $300 in back taxes on Tara and has no way to pay the debt. Tara's former overseer Jonas Wilkerson (Victor Jory), now a rich carpetbagger, offers to buy the plantation and Scarlett throws dirt in his face. Jonas drives away screaming threats and Gerald takes off wildly on horseback, is thrown and dies.
Scarlett, desperate to save Tara, gets Mammy to make her an outfit from the living room drapes and is off to Atlanta to convince Rhett, who's being held prisoner by Union soldiers, to give her the tax money. Rhett believes her act until he sees her hands, roughened from hard work. He refuses to give her the money.
Outside the jail Scarlett spots Suellen's beau Frank Kennedy (Carroll Nye), a successful businessman. She plays up to him and gets him to marry her and save Tara.
Ashley plans to take Melanie and Beau to New York, but Scarlett complains to Melanie that Ashley is being mean not wanting to stay and help her build a lumber business in Atlanta. Melanie chastises Ashley and, of course, he gives up his plans and stays.
Scarlett builds a thriving lumber mill and becomes quite brazen, driving her buggy alone through Shantytown where she's attacked and saved by Tara's former foreman, Big Sam.
Ashley, Frank and some other men carry out a vigilante raid on Shantytown. Ashley is wounded and Frank is killed. Rhett saves them from arrest by telling the Union officer that they were with him at Belle Watling's.
Rhett proposes to Scarlett while she's between husbands and they get married and go to New Orleans on their honeymoon. Rhett spends a fortune to restore Tara to its original grandeur and builds a lavish mansion in Atlanta. They have a daughter, Bonnie Blue (Cammie King), but afraid of spoiling her figure, Scarlett doesn't want more children and refuses to sleep with Rhett.
At the lumber mill Scarlett comforts a depressed Ashley by holding him which is seen by onlookers and reported back to Rhett, who believes it was a lover's embrace. Rhett gets drunk and forces himself on Scarlett, then goes to London taking Bonnie with him. Bonnie has nightmares and wants her mother, so Rhett brings her back to Atlanta.
When they arrive, Rhett remarks that Scarlett isn't looking well and she informs him she's pregnant. They have a vicious argument and Scarlett falls down the stairs causing a miscarriage. Scarlett calls for Rhett after the accident, but no one hears her ask for him.
Adding to this tragedy, Bonnie is killed in a horseback riding accident. Rhett takes her body to the nursery and refuses to allow anyone in or for her to buried because she was so frightened of the dark. Mammy asks Melanie to speak to him and she convinces Rhett to permit the burial. After talking to Rhett, Melanie collapses and asks to be taken to her own home to die.
Scarlett visits Melanie on her deathbed and Melanie asks her to look after Ashley and little Beau.
After Melanie's death Scarlett realizes, too late, that she's really loved Rhett all along. Rhett is no longer in love with her and plans to leave for Charleston. Scarlett asks him, "But if you go what'll I do"? As Rhett exits he says, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!". A distraught Scarlett comforts herself with thoughts of Tara, her source of strength, and says, "Tara ... Home ... I'll go home ... There must be some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day".
Nominated for Best Actor of 1939 - Clark Gable
Nominated for Best Supporting Actress of 1939 - Olivia De Havilland
Nominated for Best Score of 1939 - Max Steiner
Nominated for Best Sound Recording of 1939 - Thomas T. Moulton
Nominated for Best Special Effects of 1939 - John R. Cosgrove, Fred Albin, Arthur Johns
Winner Best Picture of 1939
Winner Best Actress of 1939 - Vivien Leigh
Winner Best Supporting Actress of 1939 - Hattie McDaniel
Winner Best Director of 1939 - Victor Fleming
Winner Best Screenplay of 1939 - Sidney Howard
Winner Best Art Direction/Set Direction of 1939 - Lyle Wheeler
Winner Best Color Cinematography of 1939 - Ernest Haller, Ray Rennahan
Winner Best Film Editing of 1939 - Hal C. Kern, James E. Newcom
Winner Honorary and Other Awards of 1939 - William Cameron Menzies
Producer - David O. Selznick
Director - Victor Fleming, George Cukor and others.
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