Gone With the Wind and the Battle of Atlanta Wounded

Yesterday, after a lively exchange between historians on Twitter, several of us decided to have some sort of Internet discussion concerning part or all of the 1939 blockbuster Civil War era film, Gone With the Wind. Many of us in the teaching/historian professions have used this film as a teaching tool. It packs quite the educational punch – for any number of topics.

I plan on figuring out some sort of way to host a live Gone With the Wind panel discussion and broadcast it for anyone to see and join in the conversation. But for now we can talk here.

Today I offer a compelling scene – one that was intended to demonstrate the tragedy of the Confederate war. The scene touches many Lost Cause bases, including a score infusing southern patriotic songs with a minor note here and there. Subtle, I know.

At any rate, feel free to discuss at length in the comment section below.

With compliments,

5 thoughts on “Gone With the Wind and the Battle of Atlanta Wounded”

  1. I teach this as not simply about Civil War memory, but as a film about the mythology of the Old South that was so popular in the 1930s. In the first few minutes of the film, nearly every icon of the Old South is present–the southern belle, the southern gentlemen (twins), mammy, the white-columned mansion, the plantation, the “picaninnies,” as children would have been called, and oafish black men plowing the fields. The myth of the Old South is related to Lost Cause mythology. It’s hard to have one without the other.

    Little known fact, the wounded soldiers in the scene above were wax figures created by Katherine Stubergh, one of the few women wax artists working in Hollywood.

    Other trivia: There were nearly a dozen Stephen Foster songs in this film. Foster, the Yankee, from Pennsylvania.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Karen and happy Thanksgiving. I entirely agree with you – there is much more going on than simple Lost Cause memory. I have used this film most recently to explore some of the popular Dunning School contentions on Reconstruction from the early twentieth century. But I also like to look at the black/white relationships. In particular I am interested in the faithful slave ideas (the kind you find in Confederate commemorative writing) and the depictions of slaves as extensions of their white master families. This is evident in the beginning of the film and especially during the Reconstruction segments (Pork: exclaiming “his” wealth when they move to Rhett and Scarlett’s Atlanta mansion, for example). I feel that the book hits this subject even harder – the Tarleton’s slave quite explicitly recognizes himself as part of the family, Uncle Peter’s attitude in Atlanta, etc.

      I knew about the wax figures in the scene – what’s more…if you look closely, you can see many of the figures moving an arm or a leg in a repetitive motion. Live actors would work many of the figures somewhat like marionettes to give the shot a more realistic flavor. Fun!

      A question for you. I don’t really think Scarlett fits any mold. Where do you see her in the whole scheme of things?

      PS – for those of you reading through the comments section…be sure to check out Karen’s excellent blog on Southern pop culture HERE.

      1. Scarlett, as others have pointed out elsewhere, is a modern woman (of the 1930s) in antebellum clothes. Letters I’ve read from female fans talk about how “modern” she is and how they want to be liker her. She’s independent, vocal, she’s savvy in getting what she wants, etc. Melanie, on the other hand, is the typical, demure type. Ashley may have been attracted to Scarlett because of her sex appeal/fiery nature, but he picked Melanie because he wanted a wife.

        You say you knew about the wax figures, but did you know about Stubergh?

        1. I got an earful growing up in Alabama about Scarlett. Modern indeed. Let’s just say that I come from a long line of fiercely independent southern women who identified with Scarlett but thought Melanie was weak.
          I’ll admit that I did not know about Stubergh. But now I do. I can impress my friends at parties. Thanks 🙂

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