Gone with the Wind - Success and Ethics
Gone with the Wind (1939)
- The biggest box office success ever.
- The two year search for someone to play Scarlett O’Hara. The English actress,
Vivien Leigh, was chosen.
- The final line of Vivien Leigh’s co-star, Clark Gable (as Rhett Butler): “Frankly, my dear, I don’t
give a damn” – voted by the American Film Institute as the best line in cinema history.
American Margaret Mitchell’s (pictured right) 1936 novel, Gone with the Wind.
1861-3 in Georgia, USA, just before and during the American Civil War.
The Southern states (like Georgia) formed the Confederacy to fight for slavery against the
Unionists, led by Abraham Lincoln (pictured
Victor Fleming (pictured right below).
- best actress (Vivien Leigh).
- best supporting actress (Hattie McDaniel) as Scarlett’s housemaid – the first African
American Oscar winner.
Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), beautiful plantation owner’s daughter - pictured
Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), her husband and businessman.
Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard), her neighbour.
Melanie Wilkes (Olivia de Havilland), Ashley’s wife.
Mammy (Hattie McDaniel), Scarlett’s slave housemaid.
Scarlett O’Hara is the daughter of Gerald O’Hara (pictured right), the
owner of Tara, a large slave cotton plantation in Georgia.
She is beautiful but hot-tempered and spoilt. At a barbecue she slaps Ashley
Wilkes (from the neighbouring Twelve Oaks plantation) after he announces his engagement to
Melanie Hamilton, his cousin.
Scarlett castigates the roguish businessman Rhett Butler for witnessing her outburst and
then spitefully marries, Charles, Melanie's brother. He dies of pneumonia after (like Ashley)
joining the Confederate army as the American Civil War begins.
Scarlett moves to Atlanta, where she:
- dances with Rhett at a fund-raising ball.
- returns home for Christmas.
- tells Ashley (on leave, pictured right) that she loves him.
- grudgingly helps Melanie nurse wounded troops (back in Atlanta).
During Atlanta's destruction by the Union army, she
- flatly refuses to help with the amputation of a soldier's leg.
- delivers Melanie's baby boy.
- ensures their safe return to Tara.
- is slapped by Scarlett (after giving her a goodbye kiss).
- joins the Confederate army.
Scarlett finds Twelve Oaks burned down, and, despite her mother’s death and Tara’s pillage and destruction
(pictured right), she vows to re-build it and “never be hungry again”.
At the end of the war, Ashley:
- returns to work (unsuccessfully) at Tara.
- refuses Scarlett’s offer to run away with her.
After her father’s death, she marries Frank Kennedy, her sister's fiancé and the rich
owner of a lumber mill. She runs this successfully (even trading with the despised Yankees from the North), so
she can pay Tara's property taxes.
She persuades Ashley to help her, but she is attacked. Trying to find the attackers, Frank is killed
and Ashley wounded in a fight with Union troops. Rhett saves Ashley.
Soon after Frank’s funeral, Scarlett:
- marries (the now wealthy) Rhett who promises to restore Tara (pictured right together).
- builds a mansion in Atlanta.
But they are driven apart by Scarlett’s pining for Ashley and her refusal to have no more children.
At the lumber mill Scarlett consoles Ashley with an embrace after he yearns for the pre-war past. His sister,
India, sees this and spreads malicious gossip about them. But Melanie won’t believe it, but it
makes Rhett very jealous.
After Ashley’s birthday party, a drunk Rhett tells Scarlett that he will make her forget Ashley and drags her up
to the bedroom. The next morning Rhett apologizes and offers her a divorce.
On his return from a trip to London with Bonnie, she says that she’s pregnant. After he tells her:
“Cheer up. Maybe you’ll have an accident”, she lunges at him, falls down the stairs and loses the
They attempt a reconciliation but are devastated by Bonnie’s death in a riding accident, both blaming each
Just before dying in pregnancy, Melanie asks Scarlett to:
- be kind to Rhett (pictured right).
Ashley is devastated, making Scarlett realize that she could never have meant anything to him. She:
- says she really loved him (not Ashley).
He decides to leave anyway, and she asks him what she will do without him.
“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”, he replies (pictured right).
Weeping after his departure, she gains hope and resolution from her love of Tara (the family plantation),
“Tomorrow is another day”.
Lessons for success and ethics
1. Be positive and optimistic
When Rhett finally leaves her, Scarlett finds optimism and resolve from remembering her:
- fantastic achievement of re-building it.
She refuses to be daunted by the wartime devastation of Tara.
“They're not going to lick me!”, she says defiantly.
2. The greatest certainty is uncertainty
The film shows how unpredictable the future can be. The Civil War destroys:
- the plantation owners’ old life.
- slavery that made them rich.
3. Love change
Ashley finds it difficult to adjust to the new post-war America, unlike Scarlett who sees it as an exciting
- trades with the Yankees to make the lumber mill successful.
- resurrects Tara with hard work and determination.
Rhett also makes a fortune by adapting to the changing world.
4. Keep your principles
Melanie and Mammy (Scarlett’s housemaid, pictured right together) are the film’s happiest people, because
- stay true to their principles (love, forgiveness and virtuous living).
Scarlett and Rhett are both unprincipled and prepared to do anything (however immoral) for what they want.
Scarlett even steals her sister's fiancé!
Ashley suffers because he is
- weak and doesn’t tell Scarlett to back off.
- destroyed by guilt and remorse (caused by Melanie’s death).
5. Purpose is paramount
Scarlett is determined to keep Tara alive, while Melanie finds purpose in her devotion to Ashley and her
6. Accept reality
Scarlett won’t accept that Ashley doesn’t want her, until it’s too late to save her marriage to Rhett.
But she wisely stays at Tara (the real love of her life) rather than run away with Ashley. This would have
been a disaster because of Scarlett's selfishness and idealization of Ashley into
something he wasn't.
7. Family first
Unlike Melanie (pictured right), Scarlett is more interested in work than her family. She:
- uses her husbands for her own advantage.
- only fully appreciates her daughter, Bonnie, when she dies.
Ashley refuses to:
8. Selfishness stinks
Scarlett’s relationships (and so happiness) are destroyed by her selfishness. She:
- always wants her own way.
Rhett is similar.
“I believe in Rhett Butler. He’s the only cause I know. The rest doesn’t mean much to me”, he
But he does redeem himself by
- rescuing Scarlett and Melanie from Atlanta.
- joining the Confederate army (when it's on the point of defeat).
9. Keep your
Ashley's self-respect is destroyed by
- dependence on
- failure to stand up to her
(and give his undivided attention to
Fight for a fabulous future
Don't dwell on the
past but look to the future.
another day!”, as Scarlett says at the end of the film.
Key quote on positive thinking
After all, tomorrow is another day!, Scarlett (the film’s last line).
Key quote on motivation
As God is my witness, they're not going to lick me! I'm going to live through
this, and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again, Scarlett (on returning to
Key quote on love
There's one thing I do know, and that is that I love you, Scarlett...Because we're alike - bad lots both of us,
selfish and shrewd, but able to look things in the eyes and call them by their right names,
Key quote on money
Land is the only thing in the world worth working for, worth fighting for, worth
dying for, because it's the only thing that lasts, Gerald O’Hara (Scarlett’s
Key quote on ethics
I believe in Rhett Butler. He’s the only cause I know. The rest doesn’t mean much to me”,
Key quotes on relationships
Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn, Rhett (to Scarlett).
What a gentleman says and what he thinks are two different things, Mammy.
Two film websites to recommend
1. filmsite.org (run by Tim Dirks).
2. aveleyman.com (run by Tony Sullivan)