Film 1939 Essay

The year 1939 provided a strange blend of triumph and distress. It saw some of the greatest advancements in technology, the most renowned films, and also some of the most tragic events in history. The World’s Fair of 1939 exhibited one of the first televisions and photocopy machine, voice synthesizer, and a time capsule containing writings by Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein. In that year people were still experiencing the tail of the depression, the atomic bomb was developed, and World War II began. Two of the all-time great movies, Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz were released in that year. Technology, as depicted in the two films, come in the form of Technicolor and special effects. In The Wizard of Oz, “The scenes in bleak Kansas were shot in drab sepia tone, with brilliant, vibrant, 3-strip Technicolor used for the fantasy scenes in the journey to Oz” (“Wizard”). The special effects were done by Arnold Gillepsie and enhanced the cyclone scene, the flying monkeys, the field of poppies, the message in the sky, and the beautiful Emerald City (“Wizard”). The special effects involved in Gone with the Wind amounted to “The title of the film “GONE WITH THE WIND” […] displayed in gigantic, majestic words, each one individually sweeping across the screen from right to left above a red-hued sunset” (“Gone”).

Gone with the Wind was based on the novel of the same name by Margaret Mitchell, which was published in 1936. It tells about the life of Scarlett O’hara, a Georgian belle who is catapulted into the hard-times of civil-war ridden America. She is at first quite unconcerned with the war. She is only sixteen and is rather preoccupied with beauty and men. She is in love with Ashley Wilkes, but he resists her. He is pledged to another and soon marries Melanie Hamilton. Rhett Butler overhears Ashley’s refusal to marry Scarlett and teases her about it. She hates him fiercely. Scarlett spitefully marries Charles Hamilton, who breaks faith with India Wilkes to do so. He and Ashley go off to war, and Hamilton promptly dies of pneumonia, but Ashley lives. Scarlett moves in with Melanie while Ashley is away, but awaits Ashley’s return as she still loves him. After trying in vain to get Ashley to love her, she realizes that she might lose her farm and offers herself to the rich Rhett Butler who openly profits from the war, but he is unable to get to his money as he is in jail. So she next marries Frank Kennedy, and starts a business with Ashley. She works very hard, and does it all for Ashley. Soon, Ashley lets her know that there is one thing she loves more than him: Tara, her home. Her husband gets into a fight and is shot, so that Scarlett is widowed twice. However, she soon runs into Rhett again, and he asks her to marry him. She accepts. Scarlett gives birth to Rhett’s daughter Bonnie, but she continues in her infatuation with Ashley until Rhett gives up on his love for her. After Scarlett miscarries a child, Bonnie dies in an accident, and Melanie dies (freeing Ashley), Scarlett realizes that she really has loved Rhett all this time. It is too late, however, as Rhett has vowed to leave and eventually does. Scarlett vows to get him back and the story ends.

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The Wizard of Oz tells the story of Dorothy who longs to travel to “somewhere over the rainbow” and whose farmhouse in Kansas is hoisted by a tornado and deposited in the Land of Oz. Here she finds out that in order to get back home she must seek advice from the Wizard who lives in the Emerald City. She meets a lion, a tin man, and a scare crow, who each desire something of the Wizard. The lion desires courage, the tin man desires a heart, and the scarecrow desires a brain. They must follow a yellow brick road to get to Emerald City. But in order to get their wish from the Wizard, he tells them that to prove their worthiness they must get the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West. The tin-man realizes that in order to do that, they must kill her. In her encounter with the witch, Dorothy gets locked in a tower room, and gets to see, in a crystal ball, her anguished Auntie Em who seeks her desperately. The lion musters his courage and, with the help of Toto and the others, sneaks into the tower to rescue Dorothy. However, the witch catches them and tries to set scarecrow on fire. When Dorothy tries to quench the fire with water, some spills onto the witch and she melts. The find out eventually that the great Wizard is just a small man, and Dorothy gets home by clicking her heels and saying, “There’s no place like home…” She wakes up in bed in Kansas.

The two movies mentioned contain women who travel to places at a distance from their homes and accomplish a self-discovering exercise. Scarlett finds strength and fortitude that she never knew she had. She is transformed by the journey from a carefree and self-absorbed child to a resourceful and enterprising woman. Dorothy too is transformed in her journey from a dreaming and sheltered child to the leader of a troupe and the rescuer of an entire land that is being oppressed by a wicked witch. Both these young women, one finds, harbor a deep love for their homes, and their lives (as we see them) begin and end where their hearts reside. The two stories, as movies, also share the honor of being filmed in Technicolor in a time when colorized movies were rare. Also, the movies shared two directors: both Victor Fleming and George Cukor had a hand in directing them. However, the films differ in dramatic content. Gone with the Wind is a triumphant and tragic look at a woman whose heroism is found in the midst of a weak inability to perceive the truest contents of her own heart. She is fierce in her courage to stay afloat in the difficult wartimes, even to the point of doing what is frowned upon: marrying for money. The Wizard of Oz, on the other hand, is a much lighter, fantastic tale of witches, lions, and magic. It captures the imagination and its intent is to warm the heart, while the intent of Gone with the Wind is closer to the opposite. Despite their differences, however, they have remained in the hearts of those who have viewed them.

Works Cited

Dirks, Tim. “Gone with the Wind (1939)” Filmsite. http://www.filmsite.org/gone.html

—. “The Wizard of Oz.” Filmsite. http://www.filmsite.org/wiza.html