Friday, May 14, 2010

Flashback: Southern Comfort

Gone with the WindWelcome to a little southern comfort as we continue our exploration of passionate love stories this week. Today's passionate love story involves Margaret Mitchell's unorthodox, though now classic romance between Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler set against the backdrop of the Civil War, a turbulent coming of age for the spoiled and pampered Scarlett as she struggles to find love and survival as her world crumbles around her.

Southern Comfort

From the first words Margaret Mitchell wrote in her 1936 novel, you knew that you found something that defied conventions:


Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it

This willful, spoiled and head-strong sixteen year old girl would dominate perceptions of Southern Belle's for the next 90 years. Scarlett is the eldest of three O'Hara daughters. She and her sisters live with their beloved mother Ellen and their Irish father on a beautiful plantation in Northern Georgia called Tara.

Their nearest neighbors are the Wilkes family at 12 Oaks. Scarlett longs to make Ashley her beau and she makes her intentions clear during a barbecue at Wilkes plantation, when Ashley rejects her, Scarlett by seeking love with Melanie's brother Charles Hamilton. Despite the looming war, Charles suffers a most inglorious death -- he dies of the measles, but not before impregnating Scarlett. Her son is named Wade Hampton Hamilton and he loves his mother, but often fears her as well. During the war, hardships drive Scarlett to marry her sister's beau Frank Kennedy for his money. She gives birth to his daughter Ella Lorena Kennedy.

Throughout it all though, is Rhett Butler, the rakish gambler who enjoys Scarlett's tempestuous ways. He's not proper company, so she sets her sights higher. He's also not so taken in by her charms that he won't give as good as he gets. When Scarlett finally marries Rhett, she tells herself it's for the financial security, but in quieter moments, she admits to her love for him.

Published in 1936, Mitchell's novel would win a Pulitzer prize and be made into one of the most romantic movies of all time with the 1939 release of the film Gone with the Wind starring Clark Gable as Rhett Butler and Vivien Leigh as the tempestuous Scarlett O'Hara.

Library Scene at 12 Oaks

At 12 Oaks, Scarlett confesses her feelings to Ashley only to be rebuffed. Her humiliation is deepened when Rhett reveals that he overheard her indiscreet behavior.




You Need Kissing Badly

The passion between Rhett and Scarlett always simmered beneath the surface and this scene captures their incredible chemistry.




Passion

Probably one of the most controversial scenes filmed because the previous scene indicated that Rhett was about to rape his wife, Scarlett wakes up, feeling quite good about having been so thoroughly ravished the night before -- perhaps for once giving up on her games of power and position and just enjoying her husband.





Frankly My Dear, I Don't Give a Damn

The couple shared a beautiful daughter Bonnie, but Bonnie's unfortunate death left a rift in this passionate couple's relationship that neither was willing to bridge. The infamous scene where Rhett walks out, leaving Scarlett behind is powerful because Scarlett does not give in -- despite the heartbreaking loss.



In the end, Scarlett is alone save for her children, her friendship with Ashley (a man she no longer pines for) and Ashley and Melanie's son, a child she loves well for himself. It is a stunning contrast to see Scarlett fight so fiercely for the milk-faced Ashley, the man who was simple, dull and old-school gentleman, but who could never stand up to Scarlett's fiery desires versus battling her own feelings for Rhett.

Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler would come to life again in a sequel written with the Mitchell family permission allowing these lovers to finally be happy. But it does not diminish the power of the initial relationship nor the strong punctuation point an unhappy ending gave them --because Scarlett and Rhett were so strong-willed and like-minded that they couldn't see the forest for the trees where their relationship was concerned.

And frankly, my dears, we do give a damn.

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