Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Scariest Italian Food You'll Ever Eat

My decision for this week's snack went something like this:  "I want to make something scary for Rebecca."  I knew Rebecca was supposed to be creepy, and I knew it was Hitchcock, so I wanted to make scary, creepy, delicious food.  Obviously it was also important that we would want to eat it. I had many ideas, most of them involving chocolate.  I went on the Hershey website and found recipes for "Chocolate Sloppy Joes" and "Cocoa Currey."  I even found a recipe for "Chocolate Pasta."  But I think it was when I was seriously considering "Chocolate Chicken" that my friend AMS decided to step in.  She said, "That sounds terrifying."  And while that might be what I was going for, this was a friend I had invited over to eat my food.  But before I could snap that if she was so smart, she could should up with something--she did.  She said, "You know what's scary looking but really hard to make? Pasta with squid ink."

Now at first I wasn't amenable to this idea.  I don't want to ink a squid!  I also happen to dislike shellfish.  And when I pitched the idea to my roommate she said, "Absolutely not!  We are not going to have the apartment smelling like squid for days."  (Our apartment has a notorious lack of circulation.)  But as it turns out Squid Ink Pasta is not actually squid pasta.  It's a type of pasta with squid ink added.  So in fact all it does is turn the pasta black and give it a slightly salty taste.  According to AMS, this is an authentic Italian dish.  And upon further research, this recipe only became impossible if I was the one making the pasta.  Where does one find squid ink?  And so I trekked out to the North End in search of my scary looking pasta.

Thank God for Google.  I found a small homemade pasta shop with everyone that I needed (and quite a few things I didn't).  My arms full of yummy Italian produce, I hurried home to prepare.  And I think I turned out my best dish yet.  In any event it looks really, really cool.  Best Halloween pasta ever, despite it being July.

Scary Squid Ink Pasta
(serves 6)

You'll need:
Squid Ink Pasta (I used 3 of the containers above, about 2.5  pounds)
Pancetta (about 1/4 pound)
2 Red Bell Peppers
1/2 stick of butter
1/3 cup white wine
Salt and Pepper
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving

  1. Start boiling the water for the pasta.
  2. Dice the pancetta into small cubes, pulling away the fat.
  3. Slice the red peppers into small strips and chop the garlic. 
  4. Combine half the butter and all of the pancetta into a sauté pan on medium heat, stirring frequently until  the pancetta is browned, not burnt.
  5. Add the garlic, then the peppers.  Cook until the peppers are soft, not squishy.  
  6. Add the white wine and cook until simmering.
  7. Add the pasta to the water when it has reached a roiling boil.  The pasta should only be cooked for a few minutes, this pasta in particular needed about 5 minutes maximum.  Drain the pasta when it is al dente.
  8. Add the pasta to the sauté pan. Mix everything together and season with salt, peppers, and cheese.  Serve and enjoy!

The finished product!
Terrifying.  And the credit goes to AMS.  Thanks!  I think this meal went a long way towards fixing an overly long, sometimes dull movie.  And of course my other ill-gotten, expensive North End gains didn't hurt.  Mmmm...buffalo mozzarella.....

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010


"You wouldn't think she'd been gone so long, would you? Sometimes, when I walk along the corridor, I fancy I hear her just behind me. That quick light step, I couldn't mistake it anywhere. It's not only in this room, it's in all the rooms in the house. I can almost hear it now.  Do you think the dead come back and watch the living?"  Mrs. Danvers to The Second Mrs. de Winter (Rebecca)
There are few directors that can be defined so completely by their work.  When one watches a Hitchcock film, it is immediately apparent that it is his film done in his distinctive style.  Instead of saying North by Northwest or Psycho, we say we're watching a "Hitchcock film."  Hitchcock's flair for creating suspense and for effortlessly terrifying the audience is legendary.  That's why what is most disturbing about this horror film is  not the plot, but the struggle between Alfred Hitchcock and David O. Selznick, his producer.  The film loses that Hitchock intensity and suffers as a result.

The Plot
The film starts with the voiceover of a woman speaking as the camera pans over the ruins of an estate.  She says "Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again..." but goes on the say that it is impossible as it is now in ruins.  She then flashes back to where it all began.

An unnamed young woman, played by Joan Fontaine, takes a job as a companion to a fussy, elderly old woman and they travel to Monte Carlo.  There she meets Maxim de Winter, played by Laurence Olivier, a mysterious and worldly British aristocrat.  When her employer, Mrs. Edythe Van Hopper, falls ill with a cold, Mr. de Winter decides to squire her around Monte Carlo.  They fall in love, and before she must leave he proposes.  The two elope and after their honeymoon he takes her to his estate in the south of England, Manderley.

Maxim de Winter proposes over breakfast
It quickly becomes clear that the childish, inexperienced new Mrs. de Winter is ill-equipped to handle the running of an ancient, aristocratic household like Manderley.  Though Maxim has married her because she is the antithesis of a proper British wife, this quality does not help her as she attempts to navigate through society and the house itself.  In addition, much of the house still exists as a shrine to the last Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca, who died at sea under mysterious circumstances.  Mrs. Danvers, played by Judith Anderson, is the housekeeper who was devoted to Rebecca.  She keeps Rebecca's wing of the house like a shrine, arranging the room as though she expects Rebecca to return at any time.  All of the linens are monogrammed with Rebecca's initials and her dog still sits at her door and barks.  Rebecca's "cousin" Jack Favell stops by and makes Mrs. de Winter uncomfortable with veiled references to her husband.

Mrs. Danvers shows the new Mrs. de Winter Rebecca's suite.
The new Mrs. de Winter also suspects that her husband is not yet over the death of his wife.  He is brooding and unpredictable, and Mrs. de Winter's inability to command the staff drives a further wedge between them.  In an attempt to prove herself just as able as Rebecca, Mrs. de Winter gets Maxim's reluctant agreement to host a costume ball.  Mrs. Danvers tricks her into wearing a period costume of one of the de Winter ancestors that Rebecca had worn the year before, startling Maxim and making him react violently.  As Mrs. de Winter runs upstairs Mrs. Danvers corners her in Rebecca's room, telling her that she will never be the woman Rebecca was.  Mrs. Danvers attempts to convince her to jump out of the window and kill herself.  Mrs. Danvers almost succeeds, but Mrs. de Winter starts out of her trance when she hears noises below.  A ship has been sighted out in the gathering storm and everyone is going outside to help.

Mrs. Danvers tempts Mrs. de Winter to commit suicide.
When Mrs. de Winter goes down to the beach, she finds her husband visibly upset in the forbidden boathouse that had been Rebecca's special place.  Apparently, Rebecca's sailboat has been found by the divers who had gone out into the storm.  When Mrs. de Winter confronts Maxim, accusing him of still being in love with Rebecca, he finally reveals the truth.  He hated Rebecca, who had been a beautiful, morally corrupt, unfaithful wife.  After he was tricked into marrying her, Maxim had played the loving husband to preserve appearances.  The night of Rebecca's death she lured him down to the boathouse and told him that she was pregnant by Jack, one of her lovers, and that she was planning on raising the baby as Maxim's.  As they argued, she fell and died after hitting her head.  Maxim loaded Rebecca into her sailboat and dug holes in the boat before pushing it out to sea.  He confesses his love for his new wife, and they embrace for the first time as she finally grows up into a woman and a wife.

Mrs. de Winter with her husband Maxim
A police inquest follows the discovery of Rebecca's boat.  Maxim suggests Rebecca committed suicide, but Jack tries to blackmail him with a letter showing she wasn't in a suicidal mood at the time of her death.  The blackmail backfires on him, however, as the men go to check on Rebecca's secret London doctor.  The doctor confirms not that she was pregnant, but that she had contracted a deadly form of cancer and would only have lasted a few months.  Maxim realizes Rebecca had tried to manipulate him into killing her, as a form of suicide.  Jack calls Mrs. Danvers and lets her know the truth.

Jack attempts to blackmail the de Winters.
Maxim drives home to find Manderley ablaze.  Mrs. Danvers, driven to insanity by the realization that Rebecca kept something from her, has set the house on fire.  She claims that she couldn't watch Maxim and the new Mrs. de Winter happy together in their home.  Fortunately, the new Mrs. de Winter has made it out of Manderley unharmed, and she and Maxim watch as the house burns down around Mrs. Danvers, who has locked herself in Rebecca's old suite.

Hitchcock's signature cameo, when Jack finds out Rebecca had cancer.
The History
Alfred Hitchcock
Dauphe de Maurier wrote her gothic novel, Rebecca, in 1938.  Much to her surprise, it became an instant hit, and David O. Selzick bought the rights to the book as a Carole Lumbard/Ronald Coleman vehicle.  But Coleman turned down the role, so Selzick eventually settled on Laurence Oliver.  Casting for Mrs. de Winter became difficult, until finally Selznick settled on the unknown younger sister of Olivia de Havilland, Joan Fontaine.  Selznick's greatest coup came, however, when he landed framed British director Alfred Hitchcock.  Hitchcock finished his last British film, an adaptation of another of de Maurier's novels, Jamaica Inn, before heading to the states for his first Hollywood picture.
David O. Selznick

Hitchcock was unprepared for the kind of "producing" that Selznick was now famous for.  "When I came to America to direct Rebecca," said Hitchcock more than two decades later, "David Selznick sent me a memo...I've just finished reading it...I think I may turn it into a motion picture...I plan to call it The Longest Story Ever Told." Selznick wanted to be just as involved in this picture as he had been with Gone with the Wind.  He sent memos, gave suggestions, and re-wrote Hitchcock's script.  Used to directing on his own, Hitchcock chafed at being forced to follow orders.  Hitchcock therefore did the best he could under the circumstances.  He edited the film "in camera," nullifying Selznick's habit of making last minute edits.  When Lawrence Oliver was cold to Joan Fontaine (he had wanted his girlfriend Viven Leigh for the role) Hitchcock told her that everyone else on the set hated her as well, making her give the perfect performance as a young, insecure, frightened girl.  He cast Judith Anderson, a famous Broadway tragedian, as Mrs. Danvers, and made her character both younger and more mysterious than she had been in the novel.  Hitchcock purposely made Mrs. Danvers appear as a projection of Mrs. de Winter's fears, having her pop up mysteriously and float rather than walk.  He even changed Selznick's ending, allowing the final shot to be of Rebecca's burning monogrammed pillowcase, rather than a smokey "R" floating into the sky. Despite his efforts, Hitchcock never felt that this film was truly his own.  And though Selznick insisted on adherance to the novel's plot, there was one change he couldn't appose.  The Hollywood Production Code said that the murder of a spouse had to be punished. In the novel, Maxim shoots Rebecca, while in the film, Maxim only thinks of killing her.

Publicity for Rebecca
Although Hitchcock was disappointed, Rebecca was an instant hit with both critics and audiences.  Selznick played up the publicity, even staging a second gala "premiere" for the film, just after the nominations were announced.  He needn't have worried, Selznick walked off with his second "Best Picture" Oscar in a row that year.  Although it only won one other award, that for "Best Cinematography, Black and White,"  Rebecca was nominated for nine additional awards.  It would be the only one of Hitchcock's many films to win the award for "Best Picture," and Hitchcock himself would never win for "Best Director."  While it was #80 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills list, what Rebecca is perhaps best known for is the character of Mrs. Danvers.  The creepy housekeeper is #31 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains list.  She has also been frequently used since as a popular culture reference, appearing in a Vanity Fair shoot commemorating Hitchcock's great films and being used as the name for an all-female queer rock group.  Though the film is certainly not his best, the character of Mrs. Danvers may be one of his most startling creations (well...after Norman Bates).

Keira Knightly and Jennifer Jason Leigh pose as Mrs. de Winter and Mrs. Danvers for Vanity Fair
The greatest development at the Academy Awards that year was the decision to have the results be sealed into envelopes by "Price, Waterhouse" after the votes were tabulated.  The information would not, unlike previous years, be given to the press before the ceremony, which caused some serious grumbling from the reporters.  But the decision created an air of mystery and suspense that boosted ticket sales and prestige for the Awards.  The race for "Best Picture," though awarded to Rebecca, could easily have been given to The Grapes of Wrath or The Philadelphia Story.  A damper was put on the awards when Academy president Walter Wanger announced that for the first time, the Academy felt no one was deserving of the Irving G. Thalberg Award.  But everyone perked up later when Hollywood favorites Ginger Rogers and James Stewart won for "Best Actress" and "Best Actor" respectively.  The Los Angeles Examiner noted that "As he has done in many a wild motion-picture scene, [Mr. Stewart] stumbled dazedly back to his table amid shouts and applause."  Stewart gave the award to his hardware store owning father from Indiana, Pennsylvania, who immediately placed it in a glass case that had previous displayed kitchen knives.

Mrs. de Winter and Maxim de Winter
The Verdict?
My friends were not a fan of this movie.  Which was dismaying for me, as I had such high expectations of any film bearing Hitchcock's name.  For a time I wondered if this film was like my experience with Vertigo, great when I watched it alone, but horrible when I watched it with others.  Maybe.  But this film was long, drawn out, and slow.  I could feel the palpable boredom of everyone else in the room.  It is also a film that doesn't always hold up well for a modern audience; Laurence Oliver's Maxim de Winter is Byronic to the point of being a parody of himself.  His line (about the kind of proposal that Mrs. de Winter should receive) that made us all nearly die with laughter was: "It should be in a conservatory, you in a white frock with a red rose in your hand and a violin playing in the distance, and I should be making violent love to you behind a palm tree."  The phrase "making violent love to you behind a palm tree" should never be uttered to a modern audience.  The film plods through unnecessary scenes, dragging out the plot twists with a heavy-handedness that often feels forced.  It is as though the film is saying, "Look!  Something is wrong over here!"  This has never been Hitchcock's style, but it is certainly the influence of Selznick.  Just witness his desire to have a giant "R" floating up to the sky in smoke.  What works in a novel doesn't necessarily translate to film, something Hitchcock realized and tried to correct.  When the climactic final secret of Rebecca's death is revealed I found myself less than surprised.  Even worse, indifferent.

Mrs. Danvers shows the new Mrs. de Winter Rebecca's fur coat.
Not to say that this movie doesn't have its great moments.  No one does subtle creepiness the way Hitchcock does.  To walk into a house where everything is monogrammed with the previous wife's initials?  To have the housekeeper stroking Rebecca's silk negligees and repositioning Rebecca's favorite hairbrush?  The devil is in the details, and the little unsettling moments elevate this movie.  While I enjoyed Joan Fontaine's performance as the frightened child bride, Judith Anderson's Mrs. Danvers absolutely stole the show.  She led her way around corners with her beak of a nose, gliding noiseless throughout the house.  I started when Mrs. de Winter did, as she looked up and suddenly saw Mrs. Danvers lurking.  And the vague lesbian undertones of the film only served to highlight the housekeeper's quality of "otherness."  Her eyes blank in contemplation of Rebecca, and a smile drifts dreamily about her face.  In the scene when Mrs. Danvers takes the new Mrs. de Winter through Rebecca's suite, Mrs. Danvers nearly always dominates the frame before the camera closes in, trapping Mrs. de Winter.  Fontaine's shoulders are stiff in her pale gown and she is always shrinking back from the frame even as Anderson, entirely in black, closes in.  It's uncomfortable, eerie, and yet also suggestive.  One of my favorite realizations of this film is that while I never learn the new Mrs. de Winter's name, Rebecca is written all over the house in many different forms.  I find myself accidentally calling the new Mrs. de Winter Rebecca--which was probably exactly what the author intended.

Mrs. Danvers thinks Rebecca watches the new Mrs. de Winter.
For the interaction between Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson alone, watch this film.  No one should miss a villian like Mrs. Danvers.  Then again I do have a weakness for dastardly villains (much more entertaining than heroes).  Rebecca has its moments, and Hitchcock doesn't disappear entirely, but if you're looking for a classic Hitchcock film, look elsewhere and avoid the many tedious moments of this film.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Grittier than Scarlett...

When I thought of Southern food, my brain immediately went to grits.  I had never tried grits.  In fact, I really had no idea what they were other than some vague idea they had something to do with cornmeal.  But what better reason to make them?  I invited some friends, luring them with promises of fried chicken, while trying to hide the fact that they were about to undergo a four hour movie.  Everyone contributed, bringing corn muffins, fried chicken, creamed spinach and sangria.  And I made the grits from an Alton Brown recipe, which turned out grits...

I'm not sure if this is a good thing.  Perhaps I just neglected to add enough cheese.

It was hard to compare, these being my first grits.  My friends insisted that these were grits, and were in fact, quite good.  And they weren't exactly bad, more like glorified polenta than anything else.  My final verdict?  Not bad, not good, just a kind of starchy side dish.  Next time I add jalapeno.

The Grits
You'll Need:
2 cups whole milk
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup coarse ground cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons butter
4 ounces sharp Cheddar, shredded
  1. Place the milk, water, and salt into a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Once the milk mixture comes to a boil, slowly add the cornmeal while continuously whisking. 
  3. Once all of the cornmeal has been absorbed, decrease the heat to low and cover. 
  4. Remove lid and whisk frequently, every 3 to 4 minutes, to prevent grits from sticking or forming lumps; make sure to get into corners of pot when whisking. 
  5. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until mixture is creamy.  Remove from the heat, add the pepper and butter, and whisk to combine. Once the butter is melted, gradually whisk in the cheese a little at a time.
Remains of the southern fried meal...
Serve immediately and enjoy!   Side note to this recipe: like with most things, you can never have enough cheese or butter with this recipe.  Feel free to experiment!
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Gone with the Wind

"No, I don't think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That's what's wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how." --Rhett Butler to Scarlett O'Hara (Gone with the Wind)
I'm sitting in the dark as I write this, trying to ignore the heat that is winding its way through the windows and into my pours with such efficiency.  The fan that I've positioned about a foot from my face just seems to be blowing more hot air, no matter that I've positioned a bowl of ice next to it as a kind of makeshift air conditioner.  And even though I've put my sheets in the freezer, I still feel like I'm stranded in the desert, rather than in New England.  I suppose it was smart of me then, to time this film with the first real heat wave of the summer.  Watching Atlanta burn does seem to be making me feel a little better.  And with that introduction, I give you...Gone with the Wind...

Scarlett at Tara
The Plot
Irish born plantation owner Gerald O'Hara, played by Thomas Mitchell, lives in Georgia with his wife Ellen and his three daughters, Suellen, Katie Scarlett, and Carreen.  Scarlett, played by Vivien Leigh, is the most beautiful and popular of all the young women in the county, though she is vain, spoiled, and in love with the one man she can't have, Ashley Wilkes, the only son of a neighboring plantation owner. Ashley, played by Leslie Howard, is about to marry his cousin, Melanie Hamilton, played by Olivia de Havilland.  When Scarlett confesses her love, Ashley, though intoxicated by her beauty and spirit, chooses the sweet, even-tempered Melanie, knowing that they are much more compatible.  Rhett Butler, a rogue with questionable morals played by Clark Gable, witnesses Scarlett's tantrum and is immediately fascinated by her.  But soon after, the Civil War breaks out and Scarlett marries Melanie's brother, Charles, out of spite just before all the men go off to war.  Charles dies shortly after of measles, and Scarlett is widowed.

Scarlett at the Wilkes' picnic
Bored and upset because she has to dress in black, Scarlett decides to visit Melanie and her Aunt Pittypat in Atlanta.  Mammy, Scarlett's slave nursemaid played by Hattie McDaniel, warns her to stay away from Ashley.  In Atlanta, Scarlett shocks everyone by agreeing to dance with Rhett Butler, even though she is in mourning.  Rhett visits her and buys her presents, but once Ashley returns, she has eyes only for him.  Though Ashley can't turn her away he does make her promise to look after the now pregnant Melanie while he's gone.  Soon, however, Scarlett's life turns from a high society social whirl to endless days of assisting Melanie to care for the wounded soldiers pouring in.  

Scarlett dances with Rhett, though she's a widow.
As the Yankees come closer to Atlanta, instead of fleeing with the rest of the city Scarlett must stay as Melanie prepares to give birth.  Alone, Scarlett helps Melanie through a difficult birth before loading her, their slave, and Melanie's young son into a wagon, and fleeing the now burning city.  She turns to the only man left, Rhett Butler, to get them safely out to her home, Tara.  Rhett gets them close, and then leaves to join the war, though the South is losing.  He confesses his love for Scarlett, and then kisses her despite her protests.  Scarlett must fight through Yankees and mud before finally arriving home.
Scarlett hides from the Yankees.
Tara has changed completely since Scarlett's last visit.  Her mother has just died of typhoid fever, and both her sisters are still ill. The Yankees have stolen everything worth taking, and all the slaves except for Mammy and a few older slaves have gone.  Her father has been driven mad with grief, and there is nothing for anyone to eat.  Scarlett climbs to the top of a hill and manages to find a radish left in the dirt.  She shovels it down, then collapses in despair.   Dirty, tired, and hungry, Scarlett vows that "as God is my witness, they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again."  

"As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again."
Under Scarlett's orders, everyone works together to pick cotton to sustain them, much to her sisters' chagrin.  A Yankee tries to steal her mother's earrings, forcing Scarlett to shoot him and a bedridden Melanie to help her bury the body.  Scarlett's father has lost his sanity, rides his horse dangerously, and falls and breaks his neck.  Ashley returns home alive and is reunited with his family, though his home is destroyed and he must stay at Tara with Scarlett posing a constant distraction.  They have many mouths to feed, including the homeless Confederate soldiers they've begun taking in. Taxes are piling up on Tara and Scarlett must find a way to save her home.  She dresses in velvet green curtains, the only fabric left at Tara, and travels with Mammy back to Atlanta in search of Rhett, the only man she's known to consistently have money.

Ashley and Melanie
Rhett is in genteel captivity, gambling with his captors and smuggling in luxury goods.  Scarlett pretends to be the debutante she was, and Rhett pretends he has the money to help her, before both reveal themselves as frauds.  Leaving the jail, Scarlett runs into Frank Kennedy, an older man and former soldier who hopes to marry her sister Suellen once his new convenience store makes enough money.  Sensing he could save Tara, Scarlett steals him away from her sister and marries him herself.  Scarlett convinces her new husband to pursue the lumber business, and Ashley to reluctantly join them.  Under her ruthlessness, the lumber business thrives and Scarlett becomes wealthy again.  But Scarlett's arrogance takes a turn when she is attacked while driving through a shanty town.  Her husband and Ashley go to subdue the poor white people who attacked her without Scarlett's knowledge.  But Frank ends up dead and Ashley injured, though he stays out of jail through Rhett's quick thinking.

Rhett convinces Scarlett to marry him.
Filled with the new emotion of guilt, Scarlett gets drunk after the funeral.  Rhett comes to visit and proposes marriage, and Scarlett accepts though she tells him she still loves Ashley.  Rhett spoils Scarlett, giving her everything she ever wants, even restoring Tara to its former glory.  But he cannot break her obsession with Ashley, and after their daughter Bonnie is born, Scarlett refuses him her bed so they she won't have any more children and lose her figure.  Hurt, Rhett lavishes all his love and attention on Bonnie, and when Scarlett is caught in a compromising position with Ashley, he decides to take Bonnie away to Europe.  It falls to Melanie to instantly forgive Scarlett and save her social standing.  The night before he leaves, Rhett gets drunk and ravishes Scarlett, carrying her up the stairs.

Rhett and Scarlett
Though Rhett spoils Bonnie, she still misses her mother.  So he takes her home and immediately quarrels with Scarlett, who has missed them both but won't admit it.  Scarlett does  admit that she is pregnant, but the violence of her fight with Rhett causes her to fall down the staircase and lose the baby.  Scarlett calls out to Rhett in her delirium, but he never knows, lost in his own guilt.  Later, the two parents watch Bonnie ride her new pony.  Scarlett, noticing the same heedlessness her father often displayed on a horse, asks Rhett to get her down.  Suddenly Bonnie falls from the horse and breaks her neck.

Bonnie on her horse.
Rhett is beside himself with grief, and Melanie comes to comfort him.  She is pregnant as well, despite the doctor's orders that another pregnancy might kill her.  While comforting Rhett and Scarlett, whom she has always stuck up for and treated as a sister, Melanie miscarries.  Melanie lays dying in her home, and calls for Scarlett first.  She tells her to look after her husband and son, as well as Rhett, who "loves her so."  Scarlett comes out and cries in Ashley's arms, which is too much for Rhett, who leaves.  Noticing the depth of Ashley's despair, Scarlett realizes that Ashley truly loved Melanie, and was simply too weak to turn Scarlett down.  She realizes she loves Rhett and races back to tell him so.  But Rhett can no longer believe it, and packs his bags to leave, despite Scarlett's declarations of love.  When she asks what should she do if he leaves her, he utters the famous line, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."  As Rhett walks off into the mist, Scarlett collapses on the stairs.  Finally she looks up as a montage of different people speaking of Tara runs though her head and says the final lines of the film, "Tara! Home. I'll go home. And I'll think of some way to get him back. After all...tomorrow is another day."

Rhett leaves Scarlett.
The History
Producer David O. Selznick bought the rights to Margaret Mitchell's hit novel of the same name only a month after it was published in 1936 for $50,000.  Though the film would officially be produced by Selznick's own company, Selznick International Pictures, every major studio wanted to join forces until Selznick finally agreed to the terms set by his father-in-law, Louis B. Mayer.  Mayer gave Selznick $1.25 million towards production costs along with the use of Clark Gable and in turn received exclusive distribution rights and 50% of the profits.  

Burning of the Atlanta Depot
It was three years before this film was finally released, and it would be subjected to a large variety of problems along the way, most of which occurred because of Selznick's determination to be in charge of every aspect.  The script was never fully completed, and every writer that attempted a re-write had to contend with Selznick leaning over his shoulder making changes.  While Gable eventually took the part of Rhett, it was with great reluctance and much negotiation.  He agreed after being promised a $50,000 bonus which would enable him to divorce his current wife and marry Carole Lombard.  The "Search for Scarlett O'Hara" turned into a six month publicity stunt where nearly 1,400 actresses were interviewed before they finally settled on a relatively unknown British actress named Vivien Leigh.  Leslie Howard insisted on wearing extra makeup and hairpieces, as he felt that he was far too old to play the part of Ashley Wilkes, who is 21 at the beginning of the film.  The film also went through three directors: George Cukor, Victor Fleming, and Sam Wood.  Selznick's overbearing attitude led to the dismissal of George Cukor after only three weeks of shooting, though he had spent nearly 2 years in pre-production with Selznick.  Cukor was replaced by Victor Fleming, whose macho attitude irritated many of the women on the set.  Both Leigh and de Havilland would continue to receive private instruction from Cukor at their own request.  But Selznick's micro-managing made Fleming have a nervous breakdown, causing another MGM director, Sam Wood, to fill in and finally assist Fleming with wrapping up the film. In addition Selznick also changed the cinematographer after a month because he felt the film was "too dark."  And none of this includes the stack of daily memos he sent regarding costume, scenery, music, and lighting.  The film cost $3.9 million to make, which included the $25,000 it cost to film the burning of the Atlanta Depot.  The first scene to be shot, the raging fire was created by burning old MGM lots that needed to be taken down anyway.  They used every one of the seven cameras in existence for technicolor at that time.  The blaze was so intense that residents of Los Angeles jammed the phone lines, thinking that MGM was burning down.  With all the problems, the movie industry began referring to the picture as "Selznick's Folly."

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara
But Gone with the Wind made good on its hype.  With adjustments made for inflation, Gone with the Wind is the still the highest grossing movie in North America according to Box Office Mojo.  It won 10 Academy Awards (2 of them honorary) a record that would stand for twenty years.  According to AFI's 1998 list of the 100 best American films, Gone with the Wind is #4 (though it dropped to #6 in 2007).  Rhett's final line is also listed as AFI's #1 best movie quote of all time.  In order to preserve the line, the Motion Picture Association had to pass an amendment to the Production Code that forbade use of the words "hell" or "damn" a month before the film was released.  They decided with much reluctance that those words would be allowed if their use "shall be essential and required for portrayal, in proper historical context, of any scene or dialogue based upon historical fact or folklore…or a quotation from a literary work, provided that no such use shall be permitted which is intrinsically objectionable or offends good taste." When it was released it was also the longest sound film ever made with a unprecedented 3 hours and 40 minutes in length (and a 15 minute intermission).  The final script had been cut down from the original, which had been over 5 hours long.

Scarlett and Mammy
Although the racial stereotyping of the film is often called into question, particularly the portrayal of a "mammy" character, Hattie McDaniel would be the first African-American to win an Academy Award (Supporting Actress).  McDaniel was not allowed to attend the premiere in Atlanta because of segregation laws, however, and had to convince Gable to go anyway, though he wanted to decline in protest.   Butterfly McQueen's performance in particular as Prissy,a young slave girl, caused Malcom X to feel "like crawling under the rug."  McQueen herself disliked the racial implications of the role though she said "Prissy should have been slapped often, because she was horrid!" And though modern audiences might wince at the stereotypes, Selznick worked hard to portray African-Americans in a positive light: "I have gone to extremes in the preparation and the casting of the picture, to avoid any derogatory representation of the Negroes as a race or as individuals and to eliminate the major things in the story which were apparently found offense by Negroes in the Margaret Mitchell book.  I feel so keenly about what has happened to the Jews in the world that I cannot help but sympathize with the Negroes in their fears about material which they regard as insulting and damaging."  Selznick therefore removed all mention of the Klu Klux Klan and the word "nigger" from the film's script, a small victory in 1939.

Hattie McDaniel wins an Oscar.
Any other year the awards might have gone to other great films like The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights or Goodbye, Mr. Chips.  But this year Gone with the Wind beat them all with hardly any effort.  This awards ceremony would be the first to be filmed and shown later as a short film (directed by Frank Capra), causing many actresses to begin stressing over their wardrobes and jewels.  Though the Academy made the press promise not to reveal the winners, The Los Angeles Times still spilled the beans to several late comers, including Clark Gable and Bette Davis.  The highlight of the night was clearly when Hattie McDaniel won her Oscar.  Covered in gardenias, McDaniel received the loudest applause of the night and could barely make it through her studio prepared speech before running back to her seat, sobbing.  Olivia de Havilland, disappointed by her loss in the same category ran into the kitchen and began crying as well.  Irene Mayer Selznick followed her and told her to grow up, that she'd have plenty of other chances for an Oscar and to go congratulate her costar for what would surely be the biggest point of her career.  Olivia de Havilland did just that, and remembered it as a significant "learning experience" of her life.  Actress Fay Bainter said, when presenting the award, "This is more than an occasion.  It is a tribute to an country where people are free to honor noteworthy achievements regardless of creed, race or color."

Clark Gable reads Gone with the Wind.
Gone with the Wind has inspired documentaries, themed weddings, novelty stores, parodies and even sequels.  Today it is remembered as one of the best movies ever made and the film that defined the "epic" genre.

The Verdict?
How is it possible to review a film like Gone with the Wind?  Even writing this post was an epic task.  This film is so much more that I can't really get a grasp on how I feel about it.  For me, it's not a film to be watched often.  For one thing, it's extremely long.  And it feels long.  For another, this film doesn't have what I'd call a happy ending.  Every time I watch it I become invested in the characters until I hit the last 45 minutes and everything falls apart.  I warn myself that this is going to happen, and that I shouldn't get too involved.  But I always let myself forget until...miscarriage, death, divorce...somehow all of this is more gut-wrenching than watching all the Confederate soldiers in Atlanta die from flesh wounds.  Then again I am a Yankee.

Scarlet falls down the stairs.
I want to say I dislike this movie.  But I feel that like and dislike are words too tepid for this film.  And it is extraordinary.  Every scene is filled with rich color, lavish sets, and incredible actors.  Selznick does nothing on a small scale.  Just as far as sheer production value, this must surely be the best movie ever made.  Even the music is perfect, a sweeping score that helps to draw the viewer in even deeper.  And all of the actors are incredible as well, particularly Vivien Leigh, who manages to make the audience like Scarlett and root for her even as she shows a complete disregard for the feelings of others.  Of course my favorite character is Mammy, who is the only person in this movie who knows what the hell is going on and has the temerity to comment on it.  When she likens her beloved Scarlett to a spider lying in wait for Ashley (to her face)...well...that might be my second favorite line.

Scarlett visits Rhett dressed in drapes.

Despite all of that, this movie doesn't rank as one of my top favorites, only because of the fact that I end the movie screaming and throwing things at Scarlett.  It's uncomfortable.  And I hate cliff hangers.  But like Rhett to Scarlett, I can't help being drawn to this film, even if I know that it's bad for me.  I'm sure five years from now I'll get tricked into watching it again, and I'll go through the same emotional reaction.  But there's something about this movie that keeps me coming back to it.  Something grand and wonderful.  And then there's my favorite line of the movie, the one that I've put above.  Just for Clark Gable delivering that line will I watch this movie over and over again. I'll just skip through the scenes with Prissy.  Her voice is like nails on a chalkboard.

My final verdict?  Watch it.  One day when you're bored and you have nothing else going on.  Sit for four hours and watch one of best movies of all time.  And while every moment is worth it, don't expect you'll be going back to Tara anytime soon.
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