Monday, November 4, 2013

Everything I Know in Life I learned from the Movies: Gone with the Wind

Happy Monday!

Another edition of our new movie series.  This one is a perennial favourite: Gone With the Wind.

As an aside, I watched this movie the first time it ever aired on network TV in the 1970s.  This was pre-VCR days, with only 12 channels and the airing of Gone With the Wind was a spectacle - it aired over 2 nights and you had to stay up, because there was no PVR... :-(

I was so devastated by the ending I couldn't go to school the next day.



What I Learned from Gone With the Wind:


1. Pretty clothes and fawning beaus are nice to have, but land lasts. 

In the end, the great love of Scarlett's life is her family's property, Tara. 


Her Pa tells her "Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin' for, worth fightin' for, worth dyin' for, because it's the only thing that lasts."

Oh sure, by the end of the civil war, Tara is pretty much a fixer-upper, but it's Scarlett's fixer-upper, and the place where she can re-group and get her act together.  I mean, there's always that 4th husband, right?


2. Don't Rush Things...

Oh the man you love may be about to marry that simpering old Melanie, but that doesn't mean you should marry her younger brother in haste....

Scarlett is the Queen of cutting off her nose to spite her face in this movie, first with Charles and then with old Frank.  The result is pretty much disastrous for both men, though our Scarlett always ends up on top...



3. Never Give Up

You can knock Scarlett down, but she doesn't stay down and that is why we love her so much.  She gives us the inspiration to keep going, keep trying, despite the odds.  When things are at their darkest during the Civil War and her family are starving, she still has that indomitable will and it's that will that holds her in good stead and gets her and her family through.

As God is my witness, as God is my witness they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again.





4.   You can be a control freak, but sometimes you need to just go with the flow

Scarlett never wants to cede power to anyone in life, but the few times she lets go of trying to control the universe, particularly in her relationship with Rhett, she is infinitely happier.  Oh we may want to be boss sometimes, but do you really want a partner who lets you boss them around all the time?  No - I didn't think so...

No, I don't think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That's what's wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.
Rhett Butler 




5.  Don't Judge a book by its cover

Our mothers always told us this and they were right.

What Melly always knows intuitively, and Scarlett never really understands, is that you need to judge people by their actions, not by what other people say about them or their social standing.  And so Belle Watling and Rhett Butler prove themselves to be inherently good people, despite their less than stellar reputations, whereas Scarlett has all the trappings of a good reputation and has done nothing to deserve it. 



6. Denial is not just a river in Africa

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.  Despite everything she has gone through in her life, Scarlett stubbornly refuses to change her behaviour or her attitudes.

I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.



 

7. After All Tomorrow is Another Day..

Scarlett's greatest gift is her understanding that there is always another chance and another opportunity to try again.  With all of her fault, this is her greatest strength.  You think things are bad today?  Sleep on it and try again tomorrow.  There is always hope...

source


8.  Shop Your Closet (or the Windows)

Oh we've all been there - someone important is coming by and we haven't got a thing to wear.  Look around; use your imagination; be brave; think outside the box.  And whatever your choice of outfits is, wear it with aplomb, content in the knowledge that you are unique..

 
 
And by the way, the greatest spoof of a movie scene has got to be Carol Burnett's homage to the above scene.  Even looking at the picture below makes me laugh!



9. Life is all about ambivalence

Does Scarlett win back Rhett?  Does she end up at Tara with Ashley Wilkes having a boring marriage?  Margaret Mitchell doesn't tell us.  Oh sure, people have written their own endings to this story, but really, don't we just love the deliciousness of not knowing what happened next?  One of the greatest lessons I learned from Gone with the Wind is that the world does not always wrap up everything in a nice neat bow; sometimes things are messy and unclear and sometimes we just have to live with that. 



10. Sometimes you just have to walk away

Oh you may love the person, but you know they aren't good for you. 

 
This is the greatest exit in the history of the movies and surely the most heartbreaking one.  You want Rhett to stay, but you know in your heart he should go. 
 
 
So those are the lessons I learned - what about you?  I would love to know what you learned from life from Gone with the Wind!
 
Have a happy Monday and stay safe out there!
 
 

65 comments:

  1. I learned that being beautiful is not enough. The whole scene of Rhett's forcing himself on Scarlet is despicable. But for some reason we skip right over that issue. Seeing her acquiesce and smile in the morning makes it all OK. That being said...I loved,loved this movie.

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    1. Oh I don't even remember that, I bet it will stick out now to me at this age.

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    2. Hi Jennifer, I thought a lot about that scene when I was writing that post actually, because you are right, it does show family violence (I also skipped the part about slavery because that was just too big to get into and there are better movies to discuss it about), but there is a moral ambivalence about Rhett and Scarlett in this movie and this scene as she is so manipulative isn't she, and yet that's all women had then to work with - being a coquette and a tease was part of the whole thing. When I watch it now, it is with a very different eye than when I was 13 and seeing it for the first time. Only Melanie stands out as the only character who isn't morally flawed!

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    3. But WMM, paragons can be so dull!

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    4. And Melly was DULL as dishwater!

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    5. Even Olivia de Havilland paled next to Vivien Leigh, "Lady Olivier."

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  2. I'm very embarrassed to admit that I've never seen Gone with the Wind, or if I have, I was too young to remember it. I think I'll have to add it to my list of films to watch?
    Hope you're well xx

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    1. Oh do 't be embarrassed, but do give it a try - the film is as much about Hollywood in the late 30s in some ways as the changing of the way of life in the Deep South. Can't wait for my southern gals to jump in!

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  3. Such a great film, she was such a stunning beauty. I love Rhett, strong, manly, capable handsome, oh this has me pining for a wet Sunday and finding this is on the TV.

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    1. Or you come see me - I've got the collectors boxed set!

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    2. Tabs, your comment made me remember that Clark Gable did the dance scenes on a moving platform to cover his two left feet. Of course, Rhett would have been a flawless and dashing partner on the floor ;-)

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    3. OK, everyone on the couch at WMM's! Whose bringing cake?

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  4. I don't actually remember much about the movie OR the book, except that I was so struck by how beautiful Scarlett/Vivien Leigh was, and how I found her such an unappealing character. I definitely agree with your comment to Ruth about how the movie is itself such a reflection of the time and place it was made in, and I think I might find that the most fascinating part of all.

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    1. M, the behind the scenes stuff about how this movie is made is REALLY fascinating and worth a read! Vivian Leigh was exquisite!

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  5. REEL TO REAL I think GWTW, the movie, resonates with me most for an epic, sweeping sense of storytelling, similar to Lawrence of Arabia. WMM, it wasn't the original, winter '40 screening, but sometime around wartime, my father and his older sister were forbidden from a rare treat day to Hfx because older members of his extended family were going to see it, but great g-ma knew Rhett said "damn." Part of what makes Scarlett's survival so interesting, in addition to her strength and attitude, is that she both employs and chafes against the social rules that govern behaviour. Have also often wondered if Melly had lived to be older, whether her perfection and staunch loyalty would have turned into melancholy, saccharine, or bitterness, not letting her family move past the personal "wounds" of war.

    While GWTW, definitely idealizes the antebellum and holds some attitudes that to modern viewers are unbelievable and unacceptable, I don't know of many books or movies where the characters have lived on so strongly or where people still debate if the flawed heroine won the flawed hero back. That's for these, brilliant on a Monday. And how's NaNoWriMo?

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    1. Oh, and I never saw that Carol Burnett sketch, so just YouTubed it. Saw it in the window, LOL.

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    2. You know, I was thinking the same thing, GF - I read the book later and loved it even more than the movie and all of the characters are flawed and that to me is the sign of a good story - when you debate it ever after!

      So glad you googled Carol!

      NanoWriMo word count is 7680 right now. I will more than surpass 50,000 this month as I am driven to get the whole first draft done in November! I am so happy to be back writing daily!

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    3. Isn't the spoof just the ticket? CB is so naturally funny, but descending down those stairs with the curtain rod sticking out of her shoulders--hahaha.

      I recall Mom taking us to see this at a theater; there was an intermission it was so long. I had a strange idea of the South for a long time afterwards.

      I think VL had an 18" waist!

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    4. I think everyone had smaller waists back then - malnourishment?

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    5. Selznick (sp.?) had almost every female wear corsets and pantaloons etc. on the set, just so they would move properly, seen or unseen.

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    6. Lane, 18 inches, is that humanly possible? You know how some folk say they are big boned? I must be big intestined.

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    7. The word pantaloons delights me Get Fresh.

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    8. OMG - big intestine! Me too!!!

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    9. GF - I never knew you were a movie trivia geek like me! I have my official Gone with the Wind book, which I have read most laboriously!

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    10. WMM, there are massive gaps in my spotty knowledge given not growing up in North America (ask me about Latin soap operas or James Bond dubbed in Spanish.) However if it's a book movie, especially creative history, I've usually soaked in all the details.

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  6. Sorry, I will be in the minority and say I never finished this movie even if it is considered one of the best movies of all time. I found the character a bit of a self-indulgent brat and unlikable. I don't know what happened in between but I think I could relate to the final curtain "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn".

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    1. Oh she was all that and more Marie!

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  7. This is one of the THE movies of all time. Isn't it crazy we all know the words of Frankly my dear...In a funny way i am surprised that they haven't remade this movie as Hollywood tends to do to capitalize on something else's coattails. Yes many lessons to be learned which is why i think this is so popular. i also remember that attraction alone would never make a relationship last!

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  8. I read the book long before seeing the movie, finishing reading under the bedclothes with a torch so that my mother couldn't tell me to turn the light out and go to sleep! When I saw the film, in my teens, I fell in love with Clark/Rhett - WHAT AN ENDING!
    I love your headers, this is such a great post and the comments are fascinating, now I'm eager to see the film again.
    What I learnt: you can make a decent dress from curtains and you can love someone with all your heart but it doesn't follow that they are the right person to share your life with.

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    1. You are so right! And I agree - the book is so good!

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  9. Morning Wendy, yes, one of the most famous movies of all time, and yet again I've never seen it! However, such is its fame that I have heard about most of the salient points and so could follow your analysis.

    I'm anxious to learn what your next movie lesson will be!

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    1. Hmm - I may be go more modern for the next one next Monday - we shall see!

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  10. The Carol Burnett parody is hilarious! I used to watch the Carol Burnett Show all the time growing up and she and that cast were some of the funniest people I've ever seen. They'd crack themselves up in some of their skits. I watched both full parts 1 adn 2 of Went With The Wind on YouTube after reading your post and it was an excellent spoof that I don't remember watching as a kid. The curtain dress, definitely a highlight!

    I saw a re-screening of this movie back in the 90s in an old theater, it was great! Scarlett is such a bad egg lol.

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    1. I love that skit so much and there is almost nothing I find as funny as Carol Burnett!

      Scarlett is one spoiled girl!

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    2. Carol Burnett did it all without being disgusting or profane, she is just a truly funny lady. She was just awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

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  11. I have watched only parts of this movie on television, I could never sit through the whole thing but that is typical for me. I've been to the Margaret Mitchell house, which is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and you can visit it if you're ever in Atlanta. It's quite interesting if you like that sort of thing.

    Period pieces like this provide context for the past. You were probably not shocked over Rhett forcing himself on Scarlet because you learned history and understood that things were different for previous generations. Most likely you watched the movie with that context in the back of your mind.

    The wearing of the drapes comes to mind when I see garments made of eyelet. For some reason it always feels that way to me, so I never do it.

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    1. That is so funny about the eyelet! We never had eyelet café curtains growing up or perhaps I might have felt the same!

      I would love to visit Margaret Mitchell's house!

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  12. What stands out most strongly in my mind is that even the young Scarlett could do long division and fractions in her head and that this ability came in handy when she had the lumber mill.

    I also remember Melanie with the gun in her hand. Not dull at all.

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    1. I forgot the big gun - I stand corrected! I think Scarlett was brilliant and headstrong!~

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  13. Gone with th wind is one of those movies that changed for me when I moved to the US, and began educating myself about the legacy of slavery. I won't touch on it to respect what you've written above, but it's one of those films for me that makes me cry due to its deep sexism and racism (overt and in disguise) Then again, that was Hollywood in the 30s.
    I can't deny how beautiful the photography is, or how grand the production and can certainly see why it is people's favorite. Your post has given me yet another perspective on a film that as made me really angry, so I appreciate the refreshing lessons above. I am loving reading your perspective in this movie series, and I'm at the edge of my seat to see what you're going to tackle next!

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    1. The legacy of slavery has been around since time began and is still in practice in various countries today. Brazil was the last western country to abolish it, long after the US did. Only educating yourself about the US experience gives you a very limited perspective.

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    2. Hi AB (and Anon) - the portrayal of slaves in this movie is so painful to me that I have to separate it out from the spectacle that is the movie and story of this woman. It is interesting how it also treats poor white people as well. One of my favourite movies that has been sullied by my understanding of the treatment of blacks as I grew up is Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. So much of that film is amazing, EXCEPT for the treatment of the black housekeeper and her children which is just so awful. I have to skip just to Fred dancing and Bing singing White Christmas at the very end...

      Anon - you are so right - I read a figure the other day that 1/4 of the world's population still lives in slavery (either outright or economically) - I may have the exact number wrong, but it was horrible.

      I am anxious to see Twelve Years a Slave to see a more accurate representation of the American story, but you are right - that is only a small part of the whole story.

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    3. Anon, I appreciate what you are saying and think you are right. Factors of my education have to do with where I come from and when I moved to the states, and it was appropriate to pursue this kind of education then and not before. I am a year away from completing a doctorate in histories of oppression in media, so I have been very fortunate to have great professors who have given me a very broad perspective on the subject. With that said, I absolutely feel that the US educational system does provide a very limited perspective, so I always stress a really global perspective on most of my students. What I meant is that this film speaks to the legacy if slavery in the US and the South.

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    4. WMM, that's how I feel about Fred's tribute to Bojangles, masterful in execution yet appalling, and could never see him in the same light again. But then, is he a product of his time? And is GWTW one as well? And if so, can we excuse it? That's a really interesting consideration.
      Anyway, last week's online tabloids proved that blackface is still alive and well. Did you see those pictures of Julianne Huogh's Halloween costume? The sad part is that some may have not realized exactly what that means. Ok, and now I promise I'm done being a downer. I can be the one passing down cake slices to all the ladies sitting on your couch!

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  14. Carol B. was so, so funny. Unfortunately, I learned too well there's always tomorrow and not soon enough that sometimes you just have to walk away.

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    1. TR - I hear you girlfriend!

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    2. I suspect Rhett also knew not to look back.

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  15. I am not a fan of Gone with the Wind especially since it won the Oscar over Wizard of Oz. I find Scarlett extremely irritating and child like on one hand but manipulative, conniving, and very strong on the other. All that drama just wears me out. Now I will say that my inlaws and many others of that generation still pine for the days before the war, I know, they weren't even there. My mother in law is a staunch supporter of the Daughters of the Confederate. They are old South and those "Yankees " should have never won the war. You want a true depiction of the south watch "Winter's Bone" and "Steel Magnolias".

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    1. BB - thanks for the two cents - and I agree Wizard of Oz is infinitely better. They say the seeds of unrest of future wars are often sown in the resolution of current conflicts and for sure there is a sense that a way of life was lost. Of course, it was a way of life not shared by many down south I suspect...

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    2. Those that win the wars tend to move forward. Those that don't tend to hold on and stay quite idle.

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  16. AB - no - this is a good point of conversation - can movies be treated like books - i.e. can we ignore the dismal portrayal of black characters pre a certain time, recognizing that the makers were simply perpetuating the myths and misinformation of their time or does it completely sully the content regardless? I struggle with this a lot, since a lot of GWTW is wonderful and lovely, and yet a lot is cartoonish and outright racist. I am sadly no expert on that, but it is an interesting point. What I know for sure is that these old movies have historical relevance in addition to artistic relevance. Thinking of Birth of a Nation in this same category...

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    1. WMM, yes, I think I am going to have to email you about this so I don't threadjack here, but I will say that I was fortunate enough to have professors who recognized this tension, rather than glorifying storytelling and technical prowess over human rights. For a long time, Birth was (and still is) the cornerstone of "film history" and Griffith the master storyteller, but I simply cannot jump on that train. To me, ethics and human rights must always be a part of the discussion.
      But then again, when you say "pre a certain time" I find the need to say this happens today, still, and in the films you least expect it: such as Forrest Gump, Crash, The Green Mile, Bruce Almighty, et al. Racism and patriarchy run rampant, hidden from our eyes due to the deeply ingrained nature of white supremacy and patriarchy.
      Ok, I am officially the downer of the gang. Forgive me.

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    2. WMM, yes, I think I am going to have to email you about this so I don't threadjack here, but I will say that I was fortunate enough to have professors who recognized this tension, rather than glorifying storytelling and technical prowess over human rights. For a long time, Birth was (and still is) the cornerstone of "film history" and Griffith the master storyteller, but I simply cannot jump on that train. To me, ethics and human rights must always be a part of the discussion.
      But then again, when you say "pre a certain time" I find the need to say this happens today, still, and in the films you least expect it: such as Forrest Gump, Crash, The Green Mile, Bruce Almighty, et al. Racism and patriarchy run rampant, hidden from our eyes due to the deeply ingrained nature of white supremacy and patriarchy.
      Ok, I am officially the downer of the gang. Forgive me.

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    3. hA! No downers here - just great conversation!!!!

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    4. Anthro & WMM, I think it's important to explore the tough uncomfortable and sadly often enduring stuff, so kudos to you both for carrying on the convo. At the same time, if we rejected, missed or pigeonholed every book and film - because of outdated attitudes on gender, social mores, sexuality and class... as well as racism - our book and DVD shelves would be paltry indeed. For those who aren't bookish or polarized by politics, I often think films and mini-series have kick started at least the beginnings of conversations and change. Hailey's Roots, The Help, Angels in America are just a few that come to mind. There is a lot of glossing over and objectification in any era, from Hollywood to Bollywood, but I don't think that means we have either miss the good or ignore the bad. And, for the record, I don't think this conversation was a downer at all!

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    5. You are absolutely right, GF. I don't suggest ignoring the "offending" films, rather I encourage and find imperative to have a critical eye and ear when we approach media. In my field of academia, there seems to be a certain disdain for the mainstream, and my work centers on recovering what is valuable. If people are consuming en masse, it is a great source of ideology and also often a reflection of those who consume it. I think rathet than "art cinema" it is to mainstream film we should look to in order to get a better grasp off our society. But J can also hope for more dignified, egalitarian representations because if film can be a barometer for society, if representations change, we may be "getting there". Questioning is the first step to change, and the realization that white patriarchy still organized us (or rather oppresses us) hits me every day in the most menial stuff. Today, for eaxmple, i told my friend I wear the pants in the marriage (I am married to a man). Even though I am super tuned to detecting these patriarchal neologisms, it hit me for the first time why this is one. White supremacy works the same way. Really fascinating that both still remain atop the hierarchy after centuries, milleniums!

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  17. Hi Wendy,please feel free to visit Margeret Mitchell's house and me in Atlanta:)

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  18. I was forced to sit through this movie with my sisters (who both adore it), and I think I am probably in the minority in saying that I couldn't stand it. I found nearly everyone in the movie unlikeable, except for Rhett Butler. When he finally had enough and walked out the door, I practically cheered. Unfortunately for me, I never learned that lesson in life...when to walk away from a bad situation!!

    Awesome post, Wendy!!! :-)

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  19. Great post Wendy! I have never seen the movie in its entirety but I want to. Usually it is on around US Thanksgiving, I think?

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    1. yup - they trot this or the Sound of Music out pretty regularly!

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Kindness is a virtue...