Monday, August 9, 2010

Olivia Goes South

Our discussion this time centered on the role that Olivia de Havilland is perhaps best remembered for: Melanie Hamilton Wilkes in Gone With the Wind.  Perhaps there is nothing that can be added to the volumes that have already been devoted to this film, but when has that stopped us? First off, Olivia is positively radiant as Melanie.  And it is more than just Melanie's goodness ("the only truly kind person I have ever known", as Rhett Butler so aptly puts it).  It is her iron will and strength of purpose.  Watch her come down the staircase with a sword she can barely carry; then look at the steely determination in her eyes when her husband's safety depends on her.  As Scarlett so aptly puts it "What a cool liar you are, Melly!"  Could another actress have so effortlessly merged two such apparently divergent characteristics so beautifully? It is hard to imagine!

We also spent some time discussing the other characters, primarily Scarlett and Mammy.  Of course, the wonderful Hattie McDaniel is dynamic here.  Her eyes tell us everything we need to know about her attitude to Scarlett.  And did you ever notice that, though she is quick to correct Scarlett on every other thing, when Scarlett goes after sister Sue-Ellen's beau, Frank Kennedy, Mammy says nothing? Could it be she knows that Scarlett will support her entire family on Frank's money, whereas Sue-Ellen will high-tail it out of Tara faster than scat, and leave them all to fend for themselves?

Finally, there is Scarlett.  I personally like Scarlett.  The film's Scarlett is no way as hard as Scarlett in the book (that Scarlett is so clearly a collaborator after the war; the film's Scarlett is just selling to them), but she is basically a responsible person.  Even though she believes that Ashley is dead (more evident in the book than here), she still supports his wife and child because she made a promise to do so. And her vow to "never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk." And she means it.  Everything she does supports the family, not just herself.  A brat? You bet.  But if I had to have someone in my corner, it would be Scarlett.  And Melanie, more than anyone else, with her clear picture of all those she loves, knows it.

Just for fun, here's a deleted scene that we found:

 

Next time, we jump to the 1950s for our next film.