If the Confederate flag is finally going to be consigned to museums as an ugly symbol of racism, what about the beloved film offering the most iconic glimpse of that flag in American culture?
I’m talking, of course, about “Gone with the Wind,’’ which won a then-record eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture of 1939, and still ranks as the all-time North American box-office champ with $1.6 billion worth of tickets sold here when adjusted for inflation.
True, “Gone with the Wind’’ isn’t as blatantly and virulently racist as D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,’’ which was considered one of the greatest American movies as late as the early 1960s, but is now rarely screened, even in museums.
The more subtle racism of “Gone with the Wind’’ is in some ways more insidious, going to great lengths to enshrine the myth that the Civil War wasn’t fought over slavery — an institution the film unabashedly romanticizes.
When I reviewed the graphically honest “12 Years a Slave’’ in 2013, I noted, “It will be impossible to ever look at ‘Gone with the Wind’ the same way.’’
Apparently someone at the motion picture academy — possibly president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is African-American — agrees. “The Wizard of Oz’’ got a special 75th anniversary tribute at the same Oscar ceremony where “12 Years’’ won Best Picture. “Gone with the Wind,’’ which beat “The Wizard of Oz’’ for Best Picture, barely rated a mention during an Oscar segment on 1939 movies.
Based on a best seller by die-hard Southerner Margaret Mitchell, “Gone with the Wind’’ buys heavily into the idea that the Civil War was a noble lost cause and casts Yankees and Yankee sympathizers as the villains, both during the war and during Reconstruction.
Producer David O. Selznick, a liberal Jew, did temper Mitchell’s vision somewhat, banning the N-word but allowing a lot of references to “darkies.’’ There is no direct reference in the film to the Ku Klux Klan, but it’s still pretty clear that the unseen “political meeting’’ that Rhett and Ashley attend after the attack on Scarlett involves the activities of vigilantes in white sheets.
Warner Bros., which has owned “GWTW’’ since 1996, resisted any analysis of the film’s problematic racial politics until a 26-minute featurette was included with last year’s Blu-ray set. In it, black and white scholars discuss the film’s embrace of the view propagated by (mostly Southern) post-Civil War historians that slavery wasn’t such a bad thing.
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SOURCE: NY Post – Lou Lumenick