Nobody Cares About the 75th Anniversary of Gone with the Wind


Terrible news if you’re all dressed up in your drapes with nowhere to go: It’s the 75th anniversary of the premiere of Gone with the Wind, and there’s little fuss being raised besides a flurry of think pieces. Thank God.

The Washington Post tracked down one of the last surviving cast members, 82-year-old Mickey Kuhn, who played Beau Wilkes. He reports there’s not much happening this year: “A good many of the people in charge, they have no earthly idea what ‘Gone With the Wind’ was.” Warner Brothers sent him a Blu-Ray but “They don’t have anything planned. We thought perhaps Ted Turner might have something planned, but he didn’t.”

Given that Gone with the Wind is, for all its immense glamour, is a mouldering pile of racist Lost Cause nonsense, this is probably for the best. Before you challenge this claim, please sit down and watch some clips on YouTube. Literally any portrayal of an African American will do, but I’ve always found the character of “Pork” especially dismaying. Oh, and that scene where Ashley gets shot? Yeah, the book makes clear that Scarlett’s husband Frank was literally riding with the KKK to “clean out” that shanty town. They ditched that little detail from the movie, but once you know that the postwar South was crawling with paramilitary outfits dedicated to repressing newly freed slaves which paved the way for Jim Crow, well, it doesn’t exactly fix the scene, now does it?

Yes, the dresses are very pretty. But you won’t be able to enjoy them without a queasy feeling once you watch this AP video about race and the Atlanta premiere. (Selznick wanted Hattie McDaniel invited but Atlanta, which wholeheartedly embraced the film, didn’t approve.) African American churches were enlisted in the festivities and a young Martin Luther King found himself performing at a charity event with a choir in costume as a slave in front of a mockup of Tara. That’s pretty fucked, y’all:

(The accompanying article has more detail.)

Of course, it’s not that American culture is rejecting Gone with the Wind, specifically. As the Washington Post points out, movies like Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and The Wizard of Oz all turned 75 this year, but the anniversary celebrations have died down because, well, most of the people originally involved are dead:

The 50th anniversary [of the movies made in 1939] was marked by a barrage of books, symposiums and celebrations. Atlanta hosted an elaborate week-long festival for “Gone With the Wind” in 1989, and Jimmy Stewart turned out that year to see “Mr. Smith” honored at the Virginia Film Festival.
And then, the commemorations quickly got smaller. Actress Claire Trevor gave interviews to promote “Stagecoach’s” 60th; she died the following year. A dwindling group of Munchkins made the rounds of “Oz” conventions; the last surviving one, Jerry Maren, now 94, stopped making appearances a couple years ago.

And as the LA Times points out, people are damn sure still watching the movie. But the truly over-the-top balls and celebrations and fetes are falling out of favor, and that at least is something to be thankful for. I guess attrition is one way to get rid of simplistic glorifications of this fraught and complicated cultural text.

Shit, even 98-year-old Olivia de Havilland knows it’s time to move on. (Though she can still be persuaded to sit down for the occasional interview with, ahem, Garden and Gun.) Kuhn told the Post that, “She doesn’t like to talk too much about the movie,” and “She likes to talk about current events.”

Image via AP

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