Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone with the Wind has two Christmas sequences. One of them doesn’t make it into the film. It is set in a devastated, slowly recovering Tara to which Frank Kennedy and his Confederate commissary scavengers come at what turns out to be time for Christmas dinner. Kennedy tells the O’Hara girls and Melanie about the burning of Atlanta, which also is not in the film. What most of even the best books about the film of GWTW call the burning of Atlanta is the destruction of the railroad yard warehouses by Confederates determined to keep their ammunition out of Union hands. It was later that Sherman ordered the torching of much of the city, two months after Scarlett, Rhett, Melanie and her baby and Prissy make their late night escape through the flames.
The story’s other Christmas scene is in the film; and, like most of the film’s scenes, it is economical and telling in its revelation of character and development of narrative. Scarlett, still in the black of mourning, is yet dressed up for the holiday (a quietly beautiful Vivien Leigh) and sitting at the after-dinner table with Melanie and Major Ashley Wilkes, home on leave, while Aunt Pitty pours skimpy servings of the family Madeira. Scarlett requests that there be no war talk. She wants a Christmas like those before there was “any old war.”
They leave the table, and the sequence closes with the lonely eyes of Scarlett following Melanie and Ashley up to the stair landing. Having longed so for Ashley’s visit, she must watch the bedroom door close on Melanie and the man they both love, the disappearing light behind the door leaving Scarlett’s face in the half-dark. There is a still of Vivien Leigh’s face from this moment on page 65 of the current newsstand publication “Gone With the Wind, 75th anniversary of the first blockbuster movie” (1-5 Publishing, Irvine, CA), a publication which compliments, literally, the one discussed on Rick’s Flicks 11/21/14. The still looks posed rather than shot from action in which Scarlett clings to, then lets fall the edge of an archway curtain. But the still picture is in the mood of the scene, a failed Christmas for Scarlett.
NEXT FRIDAY POST January 16.
See you at the movies,