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M A R C H   1 9 7 3

Glorious Excesses
by Judith Crist

THE difference is, of course, that thirty years later, as with all things, one squints the eye a little, puts all thoughts of the purity of its kitsch aside, and consciously relaxes before being swept up in all the glorious excesses of Gone With the Wind, undoubtedly still the best and most durable piece of popular entertainment to have come off the Hollywood assembly lines.

One is still swept up and one wallows (of course in a nostalgic glow) in the pace, the variety of scenes and personalities, the enriched and particularized stereotypes, and the somehow archetypal clichés which only that moviemaking rarity, a showman with taste and intelligence, could have produced out of Margaret Mitchell's total diminution (intellectual as well as structural) of War and Peace. For my moviegoing generation, the Russians' 1968 433-minute film of the Tolstoy work certainly underlined its Americanization and minimization by Selznik et al -- but until then certainly GWTW stood as our spectacular.

And therefore there's generational nostalgia, recall of an adolescent wonder at the opulence of cinematic magic (how the liberal-intellectual critics of that day scorned the $4-million cost and the publicity attendant on the star selection -- while in our critical day we scarce batted an eye at Cleopatra's $40 million and its star shenanigans!), scorn of today's lack of glamour and superstars (and who's around to beat the Gable-Leigh-Howard-de Havilland combo, with a supporting cast that would merit stardom in today's talent-scarce market?), and wonderment at the relative realism of character amid the mush-mouth Southernisms and Civil War Weltschmerzisms.
Return to Flashback: "Gone With the Wind."
All that glows. But so does the film, because it's the stuff our movie dreams were made on -- and mighty durable stuff it proves to be.

Copyright © 1973 by Judith Crist. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; March 1973; "Glorious Excesses"; Volume 231, No. 3; page 67.

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