Blu-ray Review: Gone With the Wind (75th Anniversary Edition)

The year 1939 saw a record number of films that have become classics, such as Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz, Gunga Din, Ninotchka, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. So many of the films during that year have endured and are still just as loved today as they were when they were released. In fact, that year is well known as being the best year for films in history. But even still, none can match the scope and grandeur of Selznick’s Gone with the Wind.

The film is a glimpse inside the prestigious lifestyle of a plantation owner in the Old South before, during, and after the Civil War. Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) is the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, and is the belle of every ball in the county. She woos every man in sight, yet has her sights set on neighbor Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) who has just announced his engagement to Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland). Ashley and Melanie marry, but that doesn’t sway the stubborn Scarlett. She marries two other men in order to make Ashley jealous, and her plan backfires. Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), a blockade runner from Charleston with a bad reputation, has had his eyes fixed on Miss Scarlett and tries, unsuccessfully, to convince her to marry him.

But of course that’s just the romantic story line of the film. The rest of Gone With the Wind is about how the Civil War ravished the South, and Atlanta in particular. Scarlett has always known a life with servants; Mammy (Hattie McDaniel, in the role that won her an Oscar) has been Scarlett’s personal servant since Scarlett was a baby. When the war breaks out and the slaves leave their posts on the plantations for serving in the Army, the privileged are left to fend for themselves on their plantations. Scarlett returns to her home at Tara, her family’s plantation, and she must make ends meet on her own.

The four hour running time of Gone With the Wind moves surprisingly fast. So much happens in the film that there is not one single minute that feels boring. For those unfamiliar with the story, it is highly recommended to seek out a copy immediately. Take one single rainy, lazy Saturday to watch the film in its entirety, or break it up over two evenings, stopping at the Intermission.

This edition may be for hardcore fans, but rare is the person who sees the film without becoming a hardcore fan. The keepsake 75th Anniversary Edition comes with a book about Southern fashion of the Civil War time period and highlights Scarlett O’Hara as a fashion icon. It also comes with a collectible handkerchief with Rhett Butler’s initials, and a San Francisco Music Box Company music box that plays “Tara’s Theme”. It’s amazing that Warner Brothers was able to top their beautiful 70th Anniversary edition. This edition does not have some of the same extras, so it is the perfect companion piece for a collector. Both editions will be forever cherished by every Gone With the Wind fan.

The film is just as gorgeous as ever on this blu-ray edition. The sound is typical of films of this era, with the occasional pop and crack that adds to the nostalgia.

Disc 1 – The full feature film with optional commentary track by historian Rudy Behlmer

Disc 2 – Special Features:

The Making of a Legend: Gone with the Wind – This is a two hour long making of that is narrated by Christopher Plummer. It outlines the entire process of making this film from obtaining the rights to the book to the Oscar ceremony where the film was nominated for 14 and won 9. (02:03:00)

Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Presents 1939: Hollywood’s Greatest Year – A really fun documentary about the amazing films that graced the silver screen in 1939. Imagine trying to make Oscar predictions during that year!

Melanie Remembers: Reflections by Olivia DeHavilland – The famous actress who played Melanie Hamilton gives stories from the film, from auditioning for the part, and decisions she made about how her character was portrayed onscreen. (38:40)

Gable: The King Remembered – A documentary about the actor that chronicles his entire life. His young life, how he became an actor, his marriage to Carol Lombard, and his war efforts. A very nice tribute to the iconic actor. (01:05:00)

Vivien Leigh: Scarlett And Beyond – This documentary about the actresses life is hosted by a very ’80s-looking Jessica Lange. This was very fascinating as it shows more of the films that Leigh did and her affair and marriage to Laurence Olivier. (46:05)

Dixie Hails Gone with the Wind – An old news reel of the footage from the premiere in Atlanta. (04:01)

Historical Theatrical Short: The Old South – Although it never mentions the film, this short was created to introduce audiences to the culture of the times depicted in the movie. It is actually a very informative short about cotton production in the South. (11:19)

Atlanta Civil War Centennial – This is footage from the 1961 theatrical re-release of the film, again held in Atlanta. David O. Selznick, Vivien Leigh, and Olivia De Havilland were in attendance. This is video footage, no audio. (03:41)

International Prologue – This was added to the international release of the film to explain the Civil War to foreign audiences. (01:17)

Foreign Language Versions – Different scenes from the film in French, Italian, and German. (02:27)

Theatrical Trailers – The 1939 Announcement Trailer with no shots from the film, the 1961 Civil War Centennial Trailer, the 1967 70 mm Re-Issue Trailer, the 1968 Re-Issue Trailer, and the 1989 50th Anniversary Trailer

Awards – List of the Academy Awards, and NY Film Critics Circle Awards

Disc 3 – All New Special Features:

Old South/New South – A documentary about how the South has changed since the Civil War.

Gone With the Wind: Hollywood Comes to Atlanta – Historical news reel footage of the cast and crew arriving in Atlanta and given a tour by the mayor.

Disc 4 – Bonus DVD

MGM: When the Lion Roars – A six hour documentary of the golden age of cinema and MGM.

Gone With the Wind is a classic that every film buff should have in their collection, and every Gone With the Wind fan will treasure this 75th Anniversary Edition.

Warner Home Entertainment presents Gone With the Wind: 75th Anniversary Edition. Directed by: Victor Fleming. Starring: Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Olivia DeHavilland, Leslie Howard. Written by: Sidney Howard. Running time: 233 minutes. Rating: NR. Released: September 30, 2014.

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