Each week this column will highlight one winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, progressing chronologically until all winners have been discussed. There will be a brief discussion of the film itself followed by a mention of what we wish won from the nominees in the given year (though in many cases, there were films that were superior in terms of quality and/or impact that were not nominated). This week’s entry is Gone with the Wind (1939).
The final winner of the 1930s, Gone with the Wind, is probably the earliest winner most people that aren’t hugely into film have heard of and for good reason. It was a sensation upon its release, becoming the highest grossing movie of all time, a title it still holds if inflation is taken into account. It’s a sweeping epic, detailing the romantic exploits of Vivian Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara over the course of a number of years beginning before the American Civil War and ending years into the Reconstruction period. It’s an undeniable cinematic achievement on many levels with excellent performances and production values alongside its ambitious storytelling that all amount to a four-hour picture that hardly feels half that length. There are certainly times where the length is felt, especially when it concerns itself more with cramming in a plethora of historical references than actually exploring what’s going on, and many characters are one-dimensional, but the good parts far outweigh the bad.
The Real Best Picture:
This is one of those times where any other film winning the award would be so inconceivable that, given the Academy’s history, it’s almost a wonder they actually did give it to Gone with the Wind. Deserves it and then some.