Gone with the Wind: Hollywood’s history

Hattie McDaniel, Olivia de Havilland and Vivian Leigh in Gone with the Wind

The title is symptomatic for the normal state of mind in Western societies in these times. Gone with the Wind, the most successful movie of all time, was removed by HBO Max from its roster following the riots caused by the accidental death of black criminal George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer on May 25th, 2020. The company said that the 1939 film, set in the Southern United States during the American Civil War (1861-65), depicted «ethnic and racial prejudices that were wrong then and are wrong today” and being «a product of its time».

The latter part of that statement is contradictory in itself. Exactly for that reason the removal of the epic from the public eye represents an absurd mistake, as for good or for bad it forms part of Hollywood’s controversial history. Especially nowadays, when distorting the past in contemporary productions in sometimes grotesque ways sparks no protests. How about a dark-skinned Nordic god? Well, that idea actually reflects the growing Orwellian approach to historic facts, which are interpreted from a modern perspective that is obsessed with equality.

What would Hattie McDaniel (1893-1952) say about this farce? As first Black American she received the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award in 1940 for her portrayal of “Mammy,” a housemaid and former enslaved woman. Although due to racist politics prevalent in the 1940s McDaniel was unable to attend the premiere in Atlanta held at a Whites-only theater, and at the Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles she sat at a segregated table at the side of the room, it was a breakthrough.

McDaniel was proud of her outstanding achievement and stated that other Blacks, including her last two husbands, were envious of her career and interfered with her work. Professional commentators criticized an alleged glorification of slavery and a nostalgic plea for sympathy for a quite reactionary way of life.

She probably wouldn’t understand why her excellent performance isn’t freely available anymore on one of the most popular American streaming services. Its decision to pull the cinematographic hit must be seen as politically correct censorship, as dishonest anti-racist hysteria seems omnipresent. If Gone with the Wind is brought back with some critical comments attached, the usual “activists” soon will also focus on another masterpiece they dislike!

If this madness goes on, when will fruit-flavored whisky liqueur Southern Comfort, “the grand old drink of the South”, disappear from the market?

P.D.: Olivia de Havilland (born in 1916), who plays one of the leading roles, has lived to see the controversy about her most famous movie.


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