VIVIEN LEIGH FOR CHRISTMAS

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 at 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 is also not in the film.  What most of even the best books about GWTW call the burning of Atlanta is the burning 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 and Rhett, Melanie and her baby and Prissy made 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 and sitting at the after-dinner table with Melanie and Major Ashley Wilkes, home on leave, while Aunt Pitty pours the family Madeira.  Scarlett requests that there be no war talk.  She wants a Christmas like those before there was “any old war.”

The sequence closes with Scarlett’s lonely eyes looking up to the stair landing.  She watches the bedroom door close on Melanie and her beloved Ashley, the disappearing light behind the door leaving Scarlett’s face in the half-dark.  There is a still of her face from this moment on page 65 of the current newsstand publication “Gone With the Wind, 75th anniversary of the first blockbuster movie” (no publication information in the book which has a magazine format), a publication which compliments, literally, the one discussed on Rick’s Flicks blog for 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 picture is in the mood of the scene, a failed Christmas for Scarlett.

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