Sunday, October 5, 2008

Scarlett O'Hara and Bill the Butcher: Two of a Kind

Bink queries why anyone loves Gone with the Wind (GWTW), which is a dreadful movie, and Poodle responds it's the clothes. Surely she's right, in part.

For my money, this red dress is the sexiest dress Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) wears. Rhett (Clark Gable) makes her wear it to a party after she has been caught in a compromising position with Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard).  You can watch: on youtube.

_________The look of defiance on her face as she enters the party, alone, expecting to be crucified socially, is my further answer to Bink's question:
Because Scarlett has guts.

Because Blogger stats alerts me that people keep searching for "Scarlett O'Hara red dress" let me add this photo of  costume designer Walter Plunkett fitting Vivian Leigh in the red ball gown:

And here's the link to an article about the restoration of the burgundy ball gown with ostrich trim:

As I was saying....

Scarlett does what she has to do--including murder--to protect her and hers, and what she loves most is her turf, the plantation, Tara.
I can't think of a female character in the movies to match her.

Her match is more like Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day Lewis, below), from Gangs of New York. They even like the same color.

  (The stories both take place in the Civil War era, and are both about the fall of an old order. Scarlett's people--remember she's the daughter of an Irish immigrant father--are the ones who take down Bill.)

To call Scarlett racist is insufficient. Sure she's racist.
The only person in GWTW who suggests slavery is wrong is Ashley Wilkes, and he's shown up as a boob, a useless intellectual. 

He and his gracious world view will not survive.
Scarlett and hers will.
She doesn't care who she screws or who she exploits--race is the least of it. The only thing she respects is strength.
She is a pure American industrialist, the ancestor of Dick Cheney.

People think of GWTW as a romance.
It is; but not the romance, such as it is, between Scarlett and Rhett. She doesn't even want him until the very end, after he rapes her (i.e. finally proves he's stronger than her).

Gone with the Wind is about the love of power (represented by land and money) and the security it brings, and the length people will go to get and keep it.

Americans worship success, and we're suckers for glamor.
I suggest we love GWTW because it is success garbed in red velvet.

Or green velvet, if you prefer the dress Scarlett makes out of drapes.
Or rather, as an astute reader points out, that Mammy makes.
  P.S. Of course there's a lot more to it--there's an underlying tragedy to it all--but I'll let it rest here.

[GWTW Screencaps]


momo said...

Ha! I've been reading up on Dick Cheney this morning, and this is right on.

Bill the Butcher and Daniel Plainview. Wow, have to see those two movies as chapters in the saga.

fresca said...

Ha! back attcha--can you imagine Cheney in one of Scarlett's dresses? (Somehow, I can!)

I haven't seen "There Will Be Oil" yet because I'm not up for more brutality, but one of these days I will, because D. D. Lewis is always, always worth it.

My all-time favorite DDL role is Cecil the Aesthete in "Room with a View." Oh god, to die for...!

Anonymous said...

Hey!! Wait!1 I'm pretty damn sure, m' dear, that Scarlett didn't sew that dress. Didn't someone else sew it for her??...Or, did she actually put her hand to manual labor after ripping down those drapes? I can't recall and don't think I'll be viewing GWTW anytime soon. Gonna send this now, just for fun and to see if sending works tonight! Love your musings and your mind and all the rest of ya!


fresca said...

Good point, Stef--I don't remember who actually sewed the dress of green curtains. Maybe her sisters, who she treated as slaves...
I haven't seen the movie in years either. Maybe I'll look it up in the book at the library--it has all the details.

bink said...

I do see the attraction of the dresses...and Scarlett and other characters have some good moments... but talk about a movie that needs editing! I still think it's long and boring...and that undermines the rest of it for me.

fresca said...

I agree: Cut, baby, cut!

Anonymous said...

Ok, these comments are really old but I just found them...Mammy sewed the green velvet dress for Scarlett, only her father was Irish, mother was from Charleston SC and was of French decent.

Fresca said...

Thanks for the clarification, Anonymous!
I'd totally forgotten about Scarlett's mother being French--I haven't read the book in.... mmm... thirty years? It's on my list, though--I really want to revisit it.