Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the WindAndrew Hamilton
Four years ago I reread Gone with the Wind (1936), the bestselling novel about the Civil War and Reconstruction South.
I hadn’t intended to, but I did. I’d loathed it in my teens, and deeply regretted the time I’d wasted reading the 1,000-plus page tome — Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and famous four-hour motion picture adaptation (which I also disliked) notwithstanding.
This strong aversion had nothing to do with race, which was not on my radar screen, or ideology, or North versus South, or slavery, or anything of that nature. It was because there were no likeable characters. The two protagonists, Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, were distasteful anti-heroes, and for different reasons the other characters weren’t much better.
Possibly, too — I did not know this at the time — it is a quintessentially woman’s book.
That raises the question: Is Gone with the Wind a romance novel? Oddly, this idea never occurred to me until I wrote “woman’s book” just now.
In a sense, it is. Even so, I have a hard time fitting it into that category in my mind. Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Wuthering Heights (1847) could be called romance novels, too, but that doesn’t seem appropriate, either.
Certainly, if one were writing an overview of the romance genre analogous to H. P. Lovecraft’s Supernatural Horror in Literature (1927; 1939), it would be necessary to touch upon all three as precursors, but still, they aren’t really “romance novels” per se.
In today’s tedious, narrow-minded environment, Gone with the Wind is Politically Incorrect from every angle. Not even its proto-feminism can save it.
I had a more favorable reaction to the book this time around. I understood it far better, and apprehended the compelling narrative power of Mitchell’s writing. Below I quote several passages from the novel as evidence to support selected points I make. Though they were not intended to illustrate her skill at narration, they do substantiate it.
Finally, Gone with the Wind is a novel you can’t really understand without some serious life experience under your belt.
In light of my recent harsh judgments about post-1930 Southern Gothic literature, the first thing to observe is that, like the novels of Thomas Dixon, and as far as I know virtually all Southern writers prior to the triumph of Jewish cultural hegemony in the mid-twentieth century (and resultant culture distortion), Gone with the Wind does not belong to that genre. (Much of Edgar Allan Poe’s fiction is Gothic, but not really Southern. Nor is Gothic writing intrinsically bad; Poe’s is exceptionally good.)
As a teenager Margaret Mitchell read and was influenced by Thomas Dixon’s novels, and saw D. W. Griffith’s classic film The Birth of a Nation. After Dixon wrote to congratulate Mitchell on the success of Gone with the Wind, she replied: “I was practically raised on your books, and love them very much.”
Thomas Dixon is a fascinating, colorful, resourceful, and instructive man to study but, like fellow Southerners D. W. Griffith and Margaret Mitchell, he was not a straightforward white advocate as we conceive the term today.
Jewish culture claims that the first two, and probably Mitchell as well, were thoroughgoing racists. White racialists consequently assume this must have been true. Unhappily, these malicious caricatures are lies. If such claims were close to being true, we wouldn’t be in the fix we’re in today.
Across the board, past white “racism” and “anti-Semitism,” so-called, were halfhearted at best. They never approached the burning, hostile fanaticism Jews and their galaxy of adoring orbiters display toward us. That is not a hopeful sign.
Margaret Mitchell’s attitude toward the Confederacy and Civil War probably approximated Scarlett and Rhett’s. If so, she was not a committed Southern partisan, despite her mild race consciousness (toward blacks only).
Scarlett and Rhett not only opposed the war (as did Scarlett’s beau ideal, Ashley Wilkes), but were literal Scallawags (Mitchell’s spelling), the Southern complements of Northern carpetbaggers. Both are fundamentally selfish and concerned primarily with their own well-being.
They particularly lust after money and the things of this world. Far more than the other characters in the book, they accommodated themselves to the Yankees both during the war (in Rhett’s case) and during Reconstruction. More than anything, Gone with the Wind is a tale of extreme individualism.
“I’m going to be a rich man when this war is over, Scarlett,” Butler presciently tells the book’s heroine, “because I was farsighted — pardon me, mercenary. I told you once before that there were two times for making big money, one in the upbuilding of a country and the other in its destruction.”
He many times neatly limns O’Hara as well:
You didn’t plump yourself down on your male relatives and sob for the old days. You got out and hustled and now your fortunes are firmly planted on money stolen from a dead man’s wallet and money stolen from the Confederacy. You’ve got murder to your credit, and husband stealing, attempted fornication, lying and sharp dealing and any amount of chicanery that won’t bear close inspection. Admirable things, all of them. They show you to be a person of energy and determination.
He’s not kidding or being insulting. Those are his values. He’s expressing genuine admiration and approval. You can see why his father, who he hates, righteously threw him out of the house without a dime.
Only secondary characters, some of whom are witheringly portrayed by Mitchell, exhibit group solidarity.
On one occasion strong kinship ties make an appearance — among the Wilkeses rather than the O’Haras:
So the gossip ran, tearing apart the close-knit clan of Hamiltons, Wilkeses, Burrs, Whitemans and Winfields.
Half of Atlanta was kin to or claimed kin with Melanie and India. The ramifications of cousins, double cousins, cousins-in-law and kissing cousins were so intricate and involved that no one but a born Georgian could ever unravel them. They had always been a clannish tribe, presenting an unbroken phalanx of overlapping shields to the world in time of stress, no matter what their private opinions of the conduct of individual kinsmen might be.
But now they were split in twain and the town was privileged to witness cousins of the fifth and sixth degree taking sides in the most shattering scandal Atlanta had ever seen.
At the beginning of the book, near the end of Chapter V, there is an attention-grabbing conversation, or monologue, by Mrs. Beatrice Tarleton, the strong-willed mistress of a large plantation and expert on horses, in which she expounds at length on “her favorite topic, breeding, whether it be horses or humans.” In brief, she thinks the Wilkes family has been weakened by inbreeding, having too often married their own cousins.
Though Tom Wolfe was making a slightly different point, I was nevertheless reminded of the horse-breeding scene on the plantation (again, in Georgia) of businessman Charlie Croker that takes place in the middle of his novel A Man in Full (1998).
For an extended “New South” take on Wolfe and that book, see “When Tom Wolfe Wrote Atlanta” : “When the renovated Margaret Mitchell House reopened in 1997, Wolfe was on hand in his white suit to address attendees. The Mitchell project and the book that inspired it must have influenced Wolfe as well.”
I naturally read Mitchell’s book with the political and cultural aspects of the North-South conflict, and race, foremost in mind.
Nordic Ashley Wilkes was more palatable to me this time around. In the motion picture he was portrayed by blond English Jew Leslie Howard (real name Leslie Howard Steiner), who was unsuitable for the part. This has doubtless colored our perception of the character.
Mitchell presents Wilkes as noble but weak — a loser.
Even so, Scarlett’s one redeeming virtue is that she deeply loved Ashley, the only person other than herself and her mother she ever truly cared about.
Ashley reciprocated her love, but possessed the wisdom, even when young, to realize that a marriage between them would not work. They were too different. So he married his cousin Melanie instead.
Scarlett had three husbands. She married the first, Charles Hamilton, when she was 16, and bore the first of her three children. The second was storekeeper Frank Kennedy, and Rhett, twice her age, was her third. The man she really loved, though, was Ashley Wilkes.
Butler hated Wilkes due to extreme jealousy because of Scarlett’s love for him, his lust for Scarlett, and his contempt for Ashley’s principled nature.
Indeed, the reader can’t help but view Ashley as fundamentally weak, too, because that’s how Mitchell saw him, even though his service in the Confederate Army and membership in the KKK belies this: “‘Of course, Mr. Kennedy is in the Klan and Ashley, too, and all the men we know,’ cried India. ‘They are men, aren’t they? And white men and Southerners.’”
The main problem with Ashley is the author rather than the character. Wilkes is too vaguely drawn. Mitchell did not have enough respect for or understanding of the man to create a well-rounded portrait.
Unlike the two major protagonists, the other secondary characters likewise do not come fully alive because they were not as strongly conceived in Mitchell’s mind.
There are one or two exceptions, such as the minor characters Will Benteen, a “South Georgia cracker” who fought for the Confederacy, lost part of his leg, and married one of Scarlett’s sisters, and Scarlett’s coach driver Archie, a former Confederate soldier imprisoned before the war for murdering his wife.
Scarlett and Rhett are in essence one character, not two, the female and male halves of a single personality. I’m not suggesting that Mitchell consciously intended this, but it is what eventuated. The major departure from unity is that they belong to different sexes.
As part of this fantasy, Mitchell subtly projects onto Butler taboo Negro or mixed-race characteristics, especially in coloration, but also animal qualities of masculine dominance, selfishness, and a touch of cruelty. (One oddity: Rhett is thoroughly versed in the minutest details of women’s clothing, including intimate knowledge of correct apparel sizes and the fine points of the latest fashions.)
Butler is also a male feminist, and the owner and habitué of whorehouses.
Interracial Sex and Dirty Words
There is a key scene during Reconstruction in which a criminal white man and his Negro accomplice waylay and attempt to rob and rape Scarlett as she is driving her buggy alone, late at night, past Shantytown:
She always felt uneasy driving past this dirty, sordid cluster of discarded army tents and slave cabins. It had the worst reputation of any spot in or near Atlanta, for here lived in filth outcast negroes, black prostitutes and a scattering of poor whites of the lowest order. It was rumored to be the refuge of negro and white criminals and was the first place the Yankee soldiers searched when they wanted a man. Shootings and cuttings went on here with regularity.
In the darkness, “a big ragged white man and a squat black negro with shoulders and chest like a gorilla” stop her. The white man seizes the reins of her horse and orders the black to search Scarlett: “She’s probably got her money in her bosom!”
What happened next was like a nightmare to Scarlett, and it all happened so quickly. As the negro came running to the buggy, his black face twisted in a leering grin, she fired point-blank at him. Whether or not she hit him, she never knew, but the next minute the pistol was wrenched from her hand by a grasp that almost broke her wrist. The negro was beside her, so close that she could smell the rank odor of him as he tried to drag her over the buggy side. With her one free hand she fought madly, clawing at his face, and then she felt his big hand at her throat and, with a ripping noise, her basque [tight-fitting bodice] was torn open from neck to waist. Then the black hand fumbled between her breasts, and terror and revulsion such as she had never known came over her and she screamed like an insane woman.
There is a similar Reconstruction-era scene in The Birth of a Nation, where a Negro played by Walter Long in blackface, driven by lust, pursues young Mae Marsh. To avoid being raped, she leaps over a cliff to her death. The intertitle reads: “For her who had learned the stern lesson of honor, we should not grieve that she found sweeter the opal gates of death.” (Emphasis in original. Griffith’s forte was old-style melodrama, as you realize once you’ve watched many of his films.)
In Thomas Dixon’s novel The Clansman (1905), upon which Griffith’s toned-down scene was based, 15-year-old Marion Lenoir is gang-raped (while the “camera’s eye” closes) by four blacks in front of her tied-up mother. The two women then commit suicide by jumping off a cliff.
Fortunately for Scarlett, Big Sam, a “respectable darky” formerly owned by the O’Haras, rescues her.
A few pages earlier, Mitchell had described this savior as follows:
Sam galloped over to the buggy, his eyes rolling with joy and his white teeth flashing, and clutched her outstretched hand with two black hands as big as hams. His watermelon-pink tongue lapped out, his whole body wiggled and his joyful contortions were as ludicrous as the gambolings of a mastiff.
A few paragraphs later: “The big black face, stupid and as easily read as a child’s, looked up at her.”
Sam is a good black, like most Negroes in the book, despite the fact that he’s hiding out in Shantytown because he murdered a white Northerner.
The attempted rape is pivotal in that it triggers a retaliatory attack on Shantytown by the Ku Klux Klan led by Ashley Wilkes, who is seriously wounded, and Scarlett’s second husband Frank Kennedy, who is killed. “[Ashley Wilkes] and Mr. Elsing are under arrest for complicity in a Klan raid at Shantytown tonight,” a Union captain announces. “A nigger and a white man were killed. Mr. Wilkes was the ringleader in it.”
However, Ashley and the surviving KKK members are rescued from Yankee execution by the quick thinking and Northern contacts of Rhett Butler, who heroically (if inconsistently) risks his own life to save them.
Over the course of 1,000 pages, Mitchell uses variations of “nigger” about 100 times, “darky” 124 times, and “pickaninny” 10 times. I’ll leave it to Establishment personnel paid to ferret out and denounce such deviationism to discover and publicize other exciting sins of this nature.
Personally, I’m indifferent to them. I detested Establishment “comedian” George Carlin, but what the hell, throw it back in their faces: “nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger . . .”
The American Library Association and the press used to trumpet an annual list of banned books, typically comprised of titles they claimed conservatives wanted removed from library shelves (but were never able to). Even so, in recent decades Huckleberry Finn has always ranked near the top of the list due to its liberal use of the word “nigger.”
Today, America’s libraries doubtless strictly enforce a “Banned Books” list much like Amazon’s. Why? As Nancy Pelosi smirks, “It’s who we are.”
A decade ago, library administrators across the nation already used Anti-Defamation League software that efficiently blocked Jewish-proscribed websites on library computers. I tested it myself. A clear violation of the First Amendment, it was universally employed and no one cared, said, or did anything about it.
In short, if America’s zealous Captain Beattys haven’t already torched Gone with the Wind from library shelves and bookstores, they will.
Rhett Butler is described as physically “dark,” with a “swarthy face, flashing teeth and dark alert eyes,” a “scamp, blackguard, without scruple or honor,” and the “black sheep” of his (white) Southern family.
The male romantic lead is a swarthy Southerner.
He is not impliedly black or mixed race. Those exciting qualities are present only subliminally.
His first appearance in the novel is described as follows (my italics):
He looked quite old, at least thirty-five. [Scarlett was 16.] He was a tall man and powerfully built. Scarlett thought she had never seen a man with such wide shoulders, so heavy with muscles, almost too heavy for gentility. When her eye caught his, he smiled, showing animal-white teeth below a close-clipped black mustache. He was dark of face, swarthy as a pirate, and his eyes were as bold and black as any pirate’s appraising a galleon to be scuttled or a maiden to be ravished. But there was undeniably a look of good [that is, white and high-status] blood in his dark face.
In one scene, Rhett “rapes” Scarlett (during their marriage) before deserting her. As a result, she becomes pregnant with her fourth child, but suffers a miscarriage.
The fact that the (attempted) Negro rape scene outside Shantytown and Rhett Butler’s dark physical features are erotic elements in the story as far as Mitchell and her female readers were concerned jumped out at me, given the sweeping changes in white sexual attitudes and behavior that have occurred since the novel was written, and indeed since I first read it.
Furthermore, there is extra-textual evidence to support this contention.
Mitchell, her second husband, and their social circle had an interest in “erotica” (dirty books), of which she was an avid reader.
A novella she wrote at age 15 called Lost Laysen was set in the South Pacific and centered on a love triangle — or quadrangle, if the shadowy half-breed antagonist who desires the heroine is factored in. Lost for many years, it was published in 1996.
In the 1920s, Mitchell completed a second novella, Ropa Carmagin, said to have been about a Southern white girl who loves a biracial man. She submitted the manuscript to her publisher Macmillan in 1935 along with Gone with the Wind, but Macmillan rejected it.
This does not mean that Mitchell was a race-mixer. Rather, in hindsight, the suppressed fantasy of black male/white female interracial sex shared by white women, white men (Dixon, Griffith), and black men that Mitchell dealt with briefly in the attempted rape scene, and pervasively though elusively in the sexual tension between Scarlett and Rhett, has now become completely explicit.
Alien Jewry discerned this sublimated predisposition, formerly harmless and socially prohibited, and gradually (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, To Sir, With Love, etc.) converted it into the massive flood of explicit sex trafficking (street prostitution), interracial pornography, Hollywood entertainment, celebrity culture (Lindsey Vonn, Heidi Klum, Tiger Woods’ partners), and widespread interracial sex, marriage, and reproduction that engulfs us today.
It is pointless to beat Margaret Mitchell over the head with a cudgel for this aspect of her work. Despite her relatively plain looks, she apparently had healthy heterosexual instincts. Though definitely a proto-feminist, she wasn’t a crazed, manhating, antifa virago.
Perhaps the first sentence of Gone with the Wind describes its author rather than the heroine: “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm.”
As far as Scarlett is concerned the statement is untrue, given the male characters’ universal physical attraction to the Southern belle’s otherwise highly distasteful self.
It is necessary nevertheless to explicitly identify such preexisting, subconscious, or repressed elements to better understand innate human traits that Jewry and its Left-wing and government retainers seized upon and twisted to destroy the most advanced civilization on Earth, a feat they accomplished without serious resistance in short order.
Blacks and slavery figure only marginally in the book, which focuses on relationships between Southern whites. Ethnically, it has a noticeable Irish Catholic tilt.
Because the author was an affluent fourth-generation Atlantan of primarily Irish Catholic descent (the O’Hara family in Gone with the Wind is likewise Irish Catholic), she displays a detectable minority mentality within the overwhelmingly Anglo-Protestant South. Anglo aristocrats, the Scotch Irish, and “white trash” are sometimes explicitly deprecated. In other instances, it comes across as Irish pride and consciousness.
Because Margaret Mitchell was childless, when her nephew died in 2012 he left a multi-million dollar bequest to the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta that included a 50% stake in the trademark and literary rights to Mitchell’s international bestseller, and personal items that had belonged to his aunt.
Yankees naturally come in for a drubbing despite Rhett’s and Scarlett’s constant profitable social and financial dealings with them. In one three-page segment Mitchell skewers the anti-black attitudes of Yankee women, contrasting them unfavorably with sentimentalized Southern tolerance and broadmindedness:
“My nurse has gone back North. She said she wouldn’t stay another day down here among the ‘naygurs’ as she calls them. Do tell me how to go about getting another nurse.”
“That shouldn’t be difficult,” said Scarlett and laughed. “If you can find a darky just in from the country who hasn’t been spoiled by the Freedmen’s Bureau, you’ll have the best kind of servant possible.”
The three women broke into indignant outcries.
“Do you think I’d trust my babies to a black nigger?” cried the Maine woman. “I want a good Irish girl.”
“I’m afraid you’ll find no Irish servants in Atlanta,” answered Scarlett, coolness in her voice. “I’ve never seen a white servant and I shouldn’t care to have one in my house. [Sarcastically:] I assure you that darkies aren’t cannibals and are quite trustworthy.”
“Goodness no! I wouldn’t have one in my house, and as for letting them handle my babies . . .”
Scarlett thought of the kind, gnarled hands of Mammy worn rough in Ellen’s service and hers and Wade’s. What did these strangers know of black hands, how dear and comforting they could be, how unerringly they knew how to soothe, to pat, to fondle?
The Yankee women become even more cruel and scornful toward Scarlett’s black driver as the passage proceeds.
But other sections contradict this sunny picture, including several pages in Chapter 37 that spiritedly excoriate black behavior during Reconstruction. There the author draws a sharp distinction between “lowly,” “trashy” field slaves and “house servants, the highest caste in the slave population,” “yard negroes,” and “many loyal field hands.”
Jews, despite their prevalence and significant economic, social, and political influence in the South before and after the Civil War and in Mitchell’s own time, do not appear in the novel at all. There is one reference to “Jew him down,” and Butler tells Scarlett, “Ah, Scarlett, how the thought of a dollar does make your eyes sparkle! Are you sure you haven’t some Scotch or perhaps Jewish blood as well as Irish?” But that’s it.
Margaret Mitchell’s mother was a suffragette, and possibly a feminist. (In theory, the two can be distinct.)
After her second marriage, Scarlett establishes herself in the lumber trade and is hard-nosed to the point of callousness in her business dealings.
She suddenly exhibits a keen commercial sense and head for figures, although she was earlier described as not applying herself in school, and her Irish immigrant father Gerald O’Hara, a heavy drinker and horse lover who won their plantation, Tara, in a card game, displayed no such natural gifts.
Mitchell harbored a low opinion of men, thinking them foolish and easily manipulated by femininity and sex. This hardly made her a genius, yet she could be quite condescending.
From husband Frank Kennedy’s point of view:
Now he saw that she understood [his business firm] entirely too well and he felt the usual masculine indignation at the duplicity of women. Added to it was the usual masculine disillusionment in discovering that a woman has a brain.
From Scarlett’s point of view:
A startling thought this, that a woman could handle business matters as well as or better than a man, a revolutionary thought to Scarlett, who had been reared in the [Southern — yes, Mitchell is saying that, though she would extend it universally for sure] tradition that men were omniscient and women none too bright. . . . I believe women could manage everything in the world without men’s help — except having babies, and God knows, no woman in her right mind would have babies if she could help it.
Margaret Mitchell married twice and died childless at age 48, at which point she was beyond reproductive age.
Contrast her attitude and life choices in this regard with those of her grandparents. Both grandfathers served in the Confederate Army. One had 13 children by two wives, the other 12 children by one wife.
Mitchellism, thoughtlessly embraced by men and women alike, will with mathematical certainty erase an entire race and civilization in short order, especially when combined with everything else that’s going on.
Scarlett O’Hara, the selfish, scheming Scalawag and hardnosed businesswoman, is no more appealing at the end of the novel than Scarlett the teenaged flirt at the beginning. I’m referring to her inner self, not her good looks and sex appeal, which, though powerful, do not come across strongly to the reader, who sees her in-side rather than her distracting out-side.
The Motion Picture
I will not critique the movie here, but instead mention some hidden facts about the American rather than Jewish nature of its production.
It is a fascinating fact that two of America’s greatest and most popular motion picture classics, The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Gone with the Wind (1939), were about the Reconstruction South. According to a 2015 Time magazine assessment,
Released on the 50th anniversary of the last full month of the Civil War, Griffith’s monument became a groundbreaking popular, technical and critical success. Birth was the seminal blockbuster of the silent-film period and the most widely seen of all motion pictures until it was eclipsed by another Civil War epic, Gone with the Wind, in 1939. Griffith’s film is estimated to have earned $18 million in its first few years — the astounding equivalent of $1.8 billion today.
The Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind each spent 25 consecutive years as the highest-grossing motion picture of all time, jointly encompassing a half-century of Hollywood’s history.
Yet Margaret Mitchell’s runaway bestseller might never have been filmed, at least not so sumptuously, if LA’s leading moguls had had their way. Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Pandro Berman of RKO, Jack L. Warner of Warner Brothers, Darryl Zanuck of Twentieth Century-Fox — and even the ultimate producer, David O. Selznick of Selznick International — all passed on the book.
Instauration magazine noted that Zanuck (“a Jewish fellow traveler,” according to Jew Neal Gabler), who is commonly identified as white, “always protested that he was not Jewish, although his style and modus operandi did nothing to support this allegation.” A Freemason (according to his unusually wordy gravestone), he looked Jewish, at least in old age.
At any rate, all the others were Jews.
In the public mind, David O. Selznick’s name is invariably associated with the movie’s fabulous success. It was he who trooped to the podium many times, beaming on Oscar night to collect several of the highly-coveted statuettes. Emcee Bob Hope quipped that the event was “a benefit for Dave Selznick” and that Selznick should have worn roller skates.
The true story is not so simple.
Selznick changed his mind about making the picture only because his then chairman, John Hay “Jock” Whitney and assistant Kay Brown, pressured him to do so. Whitney, not Selznick, put up most of the money to purchase the rights to and lavishly film Mitchell’s book. Brown, who was listed in the New York Social Register, came from New York high society.
Jock and his cousin Cornelius Vanderbilt “Sonny” Whitney, descendants of the New England Whitneys who settled in Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early 1600s, were low-profile but influential Hollywood producers for a time. (Cornelius was a Vanderbilt on his mother’s side.)
Among the ten Academy Awards Gone with the Wind received, two were honorary Oscars for the pioneer use of Technicolor. Gone with the Wind was the first color feature film to win an Academy Award, though the Whitney-produced Technicolor short La Cucaracha had previously won in 1935 for Best Short Subject (Comedy).
In 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, the cousins co-founded Pioneer Pictures (an interesting choice of name). Their objective was to make color rather than black-and-white films, so they purchased a 15% stake in Technicolor, Inc., a separate company, at the same time. That’s why Gone with the Wind is a color film.
In terms of innovation, the Whitneys were far ahead of their time. Most movies continued to be made in black-and-white into the 1960s.
David O. Selznick had worked under his father-in-law Louis G. Mayer at MGM before founding Selznick International Pictures in 1935.
The Whitneys supplied 70% of the money to finance the new firm. The following year they merged their own Pioneer Pictures into Selznick International, with John Hay Whitney as S.I.’s Chairman of the Board and Cornelius as a board member. Jock Whitney ran the New York operation, handling bookings, advertising, foreign distribution, and story acquisition, while Selznick led the Hollywood division.
Gone with the Wind was Selznick International’s greatest success.
At its Atlanta premiere, a crowd of 300,000 people lined the streets for seven miles to watch the star-studded parade of limousines, and participated in three days of festivities including receptions, thousands of Confederate flags, and an elaborate costume ball. December 15, 1939 was declared a Georgia state holiday, and President Jimmy Carter later called it “the biggest event to happen in the South in my lifetime.”
Another Selznick picture financed by the Whitneys was Rebecca (1940), starring Joan Fontaine, which launched British director Alfred Hitchcock’s American career and won two Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Two other famous Selznick Technicolor productions, A Star Is Born (1937) starring Frederic March and Janet Gaynor, and Nothing Sacred (1937) starring Carole Lombard and March, were copyrighted to the Whitneys’ Pioneer Pictures.
For tax reasons Selznick International was liquidated in 1942, with the principals dividing the proceeds among themselves. Jock Whitney and his sister Joan Whitney Payson sold the rights to Gone with the Wind to MGM in 1944 for a 460% profit. Jock Whitney also sold Becky Sharp, Dancing Pirate, A Star Is Born, and Nothing Sacred.
It is not surprising that white audiences prefer and strongly respond to white books, movies, and other entertainment media — when they can get them. This was vividly demonstrated during the four or five years of independent content creation on the Internet during the mid-teens of the twenty-first century.
When whites can’t obtain such material they settle for Jewish and other substitutes, having no freedom of choice and nothing to compare them with. They do not know what they’re missing.
* * *
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Plato’s Phaedo, Part II
Meet the Hunburgers
Plato’s Phaedo, Part I
Three Episodes from the History of Racial Politics
Prioritizing Prestige Over Accomplishment: Britain from 1950 to 1956
Counter-Currents Radio Podcast No. 535 Ask Me Anything
Counter-Currents Radio Podcast No. 534 Interview with Alexander Adams
[Dr. Johnson has an unerring instinct for putting behind the paywall nearly all the articles I most want to read. lol.]
I recently saw GWTW offered for sale for a steep discount. I thought of buying it, but balked, given the length. I know it won the Pulitzer (which means something, but not always that much … did Celine win the Nobel?), but it seems like a large investment of my dwindling life-time. Is it the contention of this author that it’s worth reading (I think the sale price remains)?
I think it is well worth reading. From my perspective it is in the same vein as “War and Peace” and Waugh’s “Sword of Honor” trilogy. All three are fictional war epics that provide profound insights that “nonfiction” history is incapable of.
I agree, MacB, about Waugh’s Sword of Honor. Waugh is outstanding in multiple ways, in comedy, in serious fiction and in his views of the world. And he knew first-hand what he was writing about.
I found his Brideshead Revisited to have a lot of profound insights too. The book and the faithful early 1980’s British TV series moved me very much.
After enjoying the movie several times, I finally read the book Gone With the Wind, and was impressed by it also. I especially liked how it incorporated a lot of historical and cultural background. The portrayals of the class structures of the slaves and whites were fascinating and, based on my reading of historical material, quite accurate.
The book also was filled with fascinating little details. For example, it describes how one of the older ladies in the community had witnessed the horrible slaughter of her family by Indians when she was a girl.
Scarlett, despite her major character flaws, shows an admirable tenacity. And although she is a bit of a Scalawag, she is also sometimes fiercely loyal to her heritage. This is exhibited in a movie scene when, after the war has devastated the community, she and her sisters are working outside, trying to raise crops–work that such Southern belles were not accustomed to. She refuses to accept when one of her sisters makes a disparaging remark about their family home, Tara: “Don’t you ever dare say you hate Tara again. It’s the same as hating Pa and Ma.”
Rhett also shows decency at times, as when he decides to join the Confederate Army, even though things seem hopeless. And, in the way that he and Mammy eventually relate to each other.
It begins with a novel which is often made into a movie and the movie is almost always worse than the novel. Consider Tom Wolfe’s “The Bonfire of the Vanities” which is a great novel. The movie sucked even though Tom Hanks (a pretty good actor in my opinion) had the lead role of Sherman McCoy. Two exceptions that I know to this rule are GWTW where the movie starring Clark Gable has to be one of the 5 best movies of all time and is better than Mitchell’s book. The other exception is “The Right Stuff” also by Tom Wolfe. The movie is also certainly in the top 10 of all time and the second best aviation movie ever; the first is “The Spirit of St. Louis” starring Jimmy Stewart as Charles Lindbergh.
Tops blooby, superb, classic Andrew Hamilton! I really enjoyed this analysis of film and book. I always thought the character of scarlet owed a creative debt to the anti heroine of vanity fair as well. The only quibble I might have is the gratuitous anti Semitism. There are ways of saying without saying.
I was most intrigued by the discussion of Thomas Dixon and Mitchell’s debt to him. Has the author read much of Dixon? What would be the single most representative and enjoyable work by Dixon if I were to read just one?
No, I haven’t had an opportunity to read much Dixon, so I can’t make a recommendation, though I should think that The Clansman or any of his early novels would be good. He was very prolific, and accomplished in many areas, a fascinating man we could doubtless learn a great deal from, both positive and negative. I’ve considered writing about him.
At the moment–or at least the last time I checked–Wikipedia’s long biographical entry, despite its underlying hostility, is well worth reading. Unfortunately, it will be bowdlerized over time.
The one Dixon novel I read years ago was The Black Hood (1924), which I found tremendously exciting. He was talented, that’s for sure.
However, it illustrates the traps WNs fall into when they credulously accept as fact that this or that white person from the past was a racist or anti-Semite just because Establishment functionaries yammer on and on endlessly that they were.
I’ve mentioned that Dixon was philo-Semitic.
But he was fiercely opposed to the second Klan as well.
Despite being set in 1871, The Black Hood was an anti-Klan novel, intended as a warning to “the five million members of the new Ku Klux Klan.”
I enjoyed this piece, Mr. Hamilton, and I appreciate your use of the text to make your argument. As for its literary type, I would be comfortable calling it a “romance” in the old-fashioned sense, because it is an epic of love and war. But it might also be a bildungsroman — Scarlett begins the story at sixteen, and it ends in her mid-twenties.
And just as GWTW‘s genre is somewhat hard to place and requires a bit of nuance, so too does any judgment of its author and its content (which you do point out). There are many beautiful passages, and one I recall in particular was a conversation between herself and an older woman whom Scarlett admires. She advises her to be like a field of strong, but flexible crop-stalks in which the wind may blow them backward, but never never does it manage to break them.
When she and her company have to flee in advance of the Yankees, she has a sudden desperate urge to save and grab her dead first husband’s military sabre hanging from the mantle, so that their son would have something of his father’s. And she keeps her word to look after a pregnant Melanie during the burning of Atlanta — even though she had wanted to flee the city long before then. Despite her wretched behavior, there are moments like this that show complexity of character.
Rhett’s “swarthiness” I always attributed to Mitchell’s desire to emphasize the dashing pirate look about him. Mitchell wanted Errol Flynn to play the role — Flynn, who was certainly not of mixed race, but who had been in several pirate movies. Lots of literary male protagonists have been described as “swarthy,” — Emily Bronte’s Heathcliff , for instance. Tall, dark, and handsome has almost never meant “black.” The careful reader/viewer will note that despite Rhett’s demeaning of the Lost Cause, he was the champion of lost causes — only joining the CSA army when the war was “truly lost,” and hopelessly loving and wanting to marry a woman whom he knew was selfish and in love with another man.
The real romance might have been Scarlett”s eventual “love of the land,” of Tara, which as Gerald O’Hara said, “there’s no getting away from it if you’re Irish.” This seems like a noble lesson of blood and soil.
Then, there are the terrific and groundbreaking scenes (like Birth of a Nation, in fact) such as Scarlett walking among the countless wounded warriors of the South, just as a torn, but still waving CSA battle flag takes over the foreground and to the tragic lament of “Dixie.” The music is fantastic and the technicolor is beautiful.
You do raise an interesting point that would make for a good essay — the fact that both Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind, two movies dealing with America’s own tragic Iliad and its aftermath, might be the most two most popular films of all time. Something there resonates.
There were two technicolor films from 1939, gwtw and wizard of oz, which are every bit as good today as they were in 1939, and probably could not be surpassed today in technical quality of language and acting, even less so the music of wizard of oz.
There is something cryptic that swarthiness symbolizes in classic European literature—Heath cliff was discovered in Liverpool “yammering in a strange language.” He showed a precocious facility with figures—I don’t think that describes a gypsy, the usual guess..
As you point out, Scarlett and Rhett (I just noticed that both names end in a double “tt”) are imbued with some positive characteristics. Another example is Rhett’s doting love for their daughter Bonnie, and the fact that he is a natural with children.
However, Mitchell drew the two leads so clearly that many of these qualities seem artificial or unpersuasive, given the characters’ essential natures.
For example, I’d noted her love for Tara in my notes back in 2017:
“Unconvincing: S’s fierce love of the land, a key plot element. She would have had no more feeling toward Tara than she did toward the South or the Confederacy. All would be valued only according to the calculus of their utility to S. O’H. When that utility ended, as it did for Tara after the war, she would have felt no more passion for it than she did for her dead husband Charles Hamilton.”
In other words, her attitude would have been the same as her sister’s, as mentioned by Traddles above.
“One might ask, what about her love for her French American mother, Ellen, or for A. W., or her fondness for her father Gerald? Aren’t they equally implausible?
“Curiously, the answer is no. Though seemingly at odds with her spirit, they are for some reason completely believable, even integral to her hard but tempestuous nature.”
As for the book being a romance in the old-fashioned sense, absolutely, no question about it.
Also a bildungsroman. Yes.
Thank you for that word! I’ve seen it many times, but I guess I never looked it up. When I Googled it, one of the results included Gone with the Wind in its list.
Then I thought, well, James T. Farrell’s Studs Lonigan trilogy must be a bildungsroman too. (Which it is.) A story of Chicago’s Irish Catholic community set in the early 1930s, the book had a tremendous influence on me, and is one of my favorite novels.
Farrell, who was writing about his native milieu, was a Communist at the time, but it did not mar the quality of the book. After the purge of the Trotskyites he became an early “anti-Communist” neoliberal. He was extremely prolific, and I read many of his other novels and stories searching for the Holy Grail (another Lonigan), but he never came close to matching his initial achievement.
Anyway, when I searched, I discovered that the novel was one of Tom Wolfe’s Top 10 favorite literary works. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. He even wrote a short “Appreciation of James T. Farrell’s Studs Lonigan Trilogy” that I had not seen before.
As Wolfe notes, Farrell was dismissed by the literati as a “plodding realist.” But I never pay (or paid) any attention to them.
A useful word that turned up welcome new information.
Never heard of that book. I wish you would write an article listing your favorite books like the one Wolfe wrote.
An interesting discussion. It has been a long while since I read GWTW, but in my reactions towards the book and the movie, I seem to recall feeling that the contradictions in Scarlett’s and Rhett’s characters were somewhat representative of contradictions that are found in most of us. The question of the plausibility of a fictional character, though, is important–how far can some of these contradictions and other characteristics be stretched to be believable.
One of the many striking figures of the American Civil War is James Longstreet, known as Robert E. Lee’s “Warhorse,” who doggedly served the Confederate cause throughout the war. He was very brave, and not only successfully led men as a high-level general, but also during one battle he helped a beleaguered artillery battery. If Lee had followed his cautionary advice during the battle of Gettysburg, the outcome of that decisive battle might have been very different. After the war, Longstreet supported the Republican Party and Reconstruction, accepted an appointment by Ulysses S. Grant, and criticized Lee’s military decisions, all of which were very controversial in the South. From what I can tell, Longstreet, for all his faults, had more integrity and honor than a Scarlett O’Hara, yet he embodied some similar contradictions.
Anyway, thanks for the interesting essay and comments.
Given the popularity of the book it’s fair to say, as you put it, that for most readers “the contradictions in Scarlett’s and Rhett’s characters were somewhat representative of contradictions that are found in most of us.” There’s an analogy with another concept, the “suspension of disbelief.” Subjective differences can occur in both areas.
Scarlett and Rhett are both very consistent characters overall.
When Scarlett learns that something bad has happened to Ashley and her husband after the raid on Shantytown, she is seized with fright, and instinctively cries, “Where is Ashley? What has happened to him, Melly?” to which India insightfully replies, “Where’s your husband? Aren’t you interested in him?”
That reaction is very Scarlett. But since her love for Ashley is her major redeeming quality, it doesn’t put her in a bad light.
When she can’t refrain from dancing with Rhett at the ball after he bids a high price in gold for her, even though she’s supposed to be in mourning, that’s also highly characteristic.
When she loses Archie, her driver and protector, but continues (scandalously) to drive past Shantytown alone to tend to her business, she again behaves as you would expect.
Her feelings about her “voluntary” nursing duties are also pure Scarlett, though to be honest you can’t blame her. Most women would have found the job taxing in the same way.
“Yes, she was sick of the hospital, the foul smells, the lice, the
aching, unwashed bodies. If there had ever been any novelty and
romance about nursing, that had worn off a year ago. Besides,
these men wounded in the retreat were not so attractive as the
earlier ones had been.”
Overall, she is a very sharply drawn character. Many of the “good” things she does are the result of social convention, or to avoid being gossiped about. For me, it is this very clarity that makes certain actions (or qualities) of both Scarlett and Rhett stand out when they are (or seem to be) inconsistent with their natures in a marked way.
Still, the issue can be examined abstractly, outside the specific context of the novel. An anecdote from another art form illustrates this.
Stan Laurel, the creative genius behind the Laurel and Hardy comedy team in the 1920s and 30s, called his character “the little guy.” He understood his fictional creation very well, came up with the routines, and so on.
One day they were watching the rushes and he said, “The little guy wouldn’t do that.” This was in reference to a routine he had devised himself and already acted out and performed in front of the camera. Yet, when he saw it on the screen, he immediately recognized the behavior as out of character, and the bit was cut. He didn’t say, “It isn’t funny” (which I’m sure also happened), but rather, “The little guy wouldn’t do that.”
The information about Longstreet was new to me, and very interesting. Support for the Radical Republicans and Reconstruction–wow. That has always struck me as beyond the pale.
She is one of the most compelling characters in American literature, in part because she has complexities. One minute, the reader shakes his head when her methods of survival and of keeping Tara afloat seem to go beyond the pale; and the next, he empathizes with her when she must deal with the devastation that defeat inflicted upon the South. Martial law did not give southerners a lot of options.
The reason why southern women, especially, have loved her is summed up in a line from Rhett, the swarthy pirate: “God help the Yankees if they capture you.” If only we’d had a few more of her to throw at and sabotage those Yankees, like sending a gift of so many smallpox blankets their way, we might have chased their invasion force right back to their Midwestern farms and northeastern cities, where they should have stayed.
Yes, Longstreet was a great asset during the war and somewhat of a disappointment after the war ended. He diminished himself.
One problem I had with the book and movie, although I liked both, is that Melanie is “too good to be true,” as I believe one character said of her. It seems to me that, with two main characters who are scoundrels, the story would have been more effective with a balancing character who is very admirable, yet with flaws like all of us. I can’t recall if the Melanie of the book was as hard-to-believe as the one in the movie.
And regarding Ashley Wilkes, I agree with you, Mr. Hamilton, that “Mitchell did not have enough respect for or understanding of the man.”
No, no traddles, don’t worry. I am like Melanie, better even. Such people do totally exist. This is not an artistic flaw.
I’ve long suspected that you were an Angel of the House, DarkPlato.
Melanie, Scarlett’s sister-foil, around whom everyone — even our two scoundrels — orbited.
Another point from Mr. Hamilton that I did not comment on: the choice of Leslie Howard for the role of Ashley. While it’s hard to picture anyone else as Mr. Wilkes, so indelible is the legacy that the movie has imprinted on our popular culture, I agree that he was an odd choice at the time. Ashley was youthful and beautiful in the novel — the kind of person who could easily enrapture a teenage girl. It’s hard to see why Scarlett was obsessed for so long with Howard’s Ashley in the film. Had no idea the man was Jewish.
Good to know, DP. And remember, if you pass Belle Watling on the street, you don’t have to speak to her. She’ll understand.
Longstreet lost 3 children to illness in one week during the war.
I’ve never read GWTW. Probably should have when Covid shut everything down, but instead I settled on Outlander, since a friend of mine raved about the TV series. Bad mistake. Terrible book, but Also re-read Vanity fair, and a laugh out loud delight. Becky Sharpe and Scarlett would have been the world’s greatest team of devious bitches.
One well-known agent and producer wrote a book Writing the Blockbuster Novel, and included GWTW as an excellent book to study in writing such a novel.
But I have seen the movie GWTW, which was almost obligatory growing up in the 60’s, as it was on TV as a special event, and released in the movies every few years. In my high school, girls would bus up to St. Louis to see it…boys NEVER went.
It’s a solid film, although I enjoy an interpretation derived from a book on screwball comedy, where the author claimed GWTW was the ultimate screwball comedy of the era. He argued it really wasn’t a romance or historical, but has two tough as nails leads, and is, like screwball comedy, essentially a woman’s film. The men are peripheral to the heart of the story.
He argued that screwball mores show in the relationship of Rhett and Scarlett. All of the scenes with them are centered on her, but framed by him. He always shoots down her poses of being a grand lady, a romantic heroine, and Rhett is Scarlett’s impresario. He is always outside of her world, and enters only to deflate her. Like a good screwball hero, he’s wised up to her. She scorns this, but also needs his acerbic view. It’s a very modern relationship.
Interesting too is that for a film about the south, three of the leads are English. Somehow, English actors seem to do the southern accent and style better than Americans. Gable, I think, looks too modern. I don’t think he did period very well (magnificent as he is in Mutiny on the Bounty, I can’t see him as an English officer, but, come on…IT’S GABLE), but he’s very strong. Margaret Mitchell was delighted when he was cast in GWTW.
GWTW premiered in Atlanta, and the cast was there. A band kept playing Dixie, and Vivien Leigh remarked “oh, they’re playing the song from our picture.”
Fine article, sir. I’ve seen the movie probably more than twenty times, but never read the book. My only disagreement is the presumption of Mitchell writing Rhett with “black” characteristics. “Swarthy” to me implies rough and lusty which I find very attractive in white men and totally repellent in black men. I think of Goad as swarthy, for instance. I have never once, even for a split second, been attracted to a black man, but can name plenty of Irish fellows I would consider swarthy and drop dead sexy.
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