Frankly, My Dear: Gone With the Wind Revisited

The chief aim, it seems, of Molly Haskell's terrific new book is to make it okay to admit to liking Gone With the Wind

In Print

Frankly, My Dear: Gone With the Wind Revisited

by Molly Haskell
Yale University Press, 272 pp., $24

With Frankly, My Dear, what Molly Haskell does so deftly is dismiss conventional wisdom about Gone With the Wind – still the all-time box office champ with an inflation-adjusted $1.3 billion gross – and why it's perceived as film fluff and the book as sentimental twaddle. The nearly unequivocal critical consensus of Frankly, My Dear is that oh my, oh yes, GWTW is indeed a reputable cinematic and literary work worthy of respect. The question becomes: What choir is Haskell preaching to?

Maybe she's not preaching. Haskell, film critic turned academic and author of From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies, once stood up to a 1972 panel of fellow feminists and disputed Gloria Steinem's contention that Scarlett O'Hara was a symbol of female repression. Moreover, Haskell is no stranger to the moonlight-and-magnolias South that created Scarlett O'Hara. A Southerner herself, Haskell delves into her analysis using the film and the book, alternately positing the book's Scarlett with the film's Scarlett and the Margaret Mitchell-authored story with its screen script. The true purpose of Frankly, My Dear, then, seems less to defend GWTW's undeniably tarnished reputation than to make it okay to admit to liking GWTW.

And for what has GWTW been pilloried over the years? Even in 1939 when GWTW was released, it was not considered an accurate account of plantation life, slavery, or the Civil War. Accusations of racism were disputed by its black stars, such as Hattie McDaniel's famous rebuke that she would rather get paid for playing a maid than work as one. Gone With the Wind, then as now, is strictly entertainment minus any pretense of political correctness.

At Haskell's most compelling, she acknowledges the film's casting for its magic and romantic allure. Vivien Leigh's luminous beauty perfectly fit Mitchell's description of Scarlett, yet Haskell finds Olivia de Havilland's Melanie intriguing and considers her the character around which Scarlett does her most important self-growth. Haskell also points out that female fans had the rare opportunity to experience the virgin-or-the-whore choices so cinematically available to men: Ashley Wilkes' intellectual vs. Rhett Butler's rakehell.

Frankly, My Dear imbues Gone With the Wind with far more intention and context than Margaret Mitchell ever intended, but leave it to Molly Haskell to reinforce its enduring appeal.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Gone With the Wind
Five Films Improved by a Stiff Drink
Five Films Improved by a Stiff Drink
We laughed, we cried, we passed out

Richard Whittaker, July 21, 2017

More Screens Reviews
What If the Marx Brothers Got Around to Making That Movie With Salvador Dalí?
What If the Marx Brothers Got Around to Making That Movie With Salvador Dalí?
Josh Frank brings the legendary unproduced movie to printed life

Wayne Alan Brenner, March 22, 2019

What If <i>The Texas Chain Saw Massacre</i> Was Really About the Horrors of Modern American Society?
What If The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Was Really About the Horrors of Modern American Society?
Putting the Austin-made seminal slasher back into context

Marc Savlov, March 22, 2019

More by Margaret Moser
Did I Know Bruce Springsteen Was Going to Play 2012?
Did I Know Bruce Springsteen Was Going to Play 2012?

March 3, 2017

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler
Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler
A look back at illustrated album covers old and new

July 29, 2016


FranklyMy Dear, Frankly, My Dear, Gone With the Wind, Molly Haskell

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle