Old-fashioned and irresistible, Gone With The Wind is a long-standing lesson to would-be makers of Hollywood epics. More than 60 years since it scooped 10 Oscars, it still has the power to drag your jaw floorwards with its grand scale and spectacular sets, but what really distinguishes it is a hard, unsentimental edge. For all the melodrama, the combative lovers caught up in the American Civil War - cynical businessman Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) and imperious landowner Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) - are selfish, flawed, believable human beings.
Producer David O Selznick created a great, publicity-generating hoo-hah about casting Scarlett, claiming to have spent 3 years seeing 1400 actresses for the part before settling on Leigh. Whatever the truth of this, she's a perfect choice, managing to be bolshy yet magnetic, cruel but sexy. As Rhett says, in a scene still striking for its romance and sexual energy: "You need kissing badly. That's what's wrong with you. You should be kissed, and often, and by someone who knows how."
"LEIGH IS PERFECT: BOLSHY YET MAGNETIC, CRUEL BUT SEXY"
Along with this vivid relationship, you do get a sense of a traumatic time in American history and of a country being torn apart (the "street of dying men" shot, for example, still packs a huge impact). Wind has been criticised for racial stereotyping, but there is a warmth and humanity to the black characters (Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American actor to win an Oscar, playing maid Mammy) and its presentation of slavery is vastly preferable to that of contemporary pictures such as Cold Mountain, which largely ignored it.
Certainly, the Confederacy-defending captions ("Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave") are uncomfortable - if amusingly blatant - but come the intense, acrid conclusion... Frankly, my dears, you won't give a damn.