There are a lot of Great Classic Films I adore. Mention Casablanca, and I’m going to sigh joyfully and start quoting. Talk about Citizen Kane, and I shiver at the deathless images that pop straight into my brain. There are other Great Classic Films that do and will always make me happy.
But then there’s Gone With the Wind.
I know there are people who would willingly trample their grandmothers to see this film again, and more power to them. One of the most interesting Cultural Experiences of my life was going with Mr. Twistie (who is a huge fan) to see the 50th anniversary re-release at the Castro theater in San Francisco. I know Hattie McDaniel had all the same lines she ever did, but I didn’t hear one of them through the cheers, and the anticipatory screams for ‘Frankly my dear, etc.’ began about twenty minutes before the line was spoken.
It’s clear that a lot of people are passionate fans of this film. Me? I’m not one of them. I don’t find the story line terribly compelling, I can’t work up much nostalgia for the Antebellum South, and I don’t really care about any of the characters. No, scratch that last one. What happens is I see them and my slapping hand starts itching up a storm.
Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but this is a film I decided years ago to give a miss to at every possible opportunity.
The other Great Classic Film I will never sit through again?
That’s right, The Wizard of Oz.
I was pretty meh on this one even as a very small child. And then my parents gave me the book. After that, I was really done with the movie. There’s so much more in the book, and I read what L. Frank Baum said about what he’d hoped to achieve with his book. What he wanted was a real American fairy tale where the child had amazing adventures and it didn’t turn out to be all just a kooky dream.
For me, Oz is so much better when it’s real, when Dorothy goes back again and again and has further adventures that are equally real. I prefer the winged monkeys when they’re controlled by a magical golden cap. I prefer silver slippers. I like the balance of two good witches (North and South – which is where Glinda comes from), and two evil ones (East and West).
In my book, Judy Garland just isn’t compelling enough to make me like Oz as a coma fantasy.
My guess is that everyone has at least one Great Classic Film you couldn’t pay them to sit through again. One of my very best friends practically froths at the mouth at the mention of Citizen Kane, which, as I said before, is a great favorite of mine. My father couldn’t watch The African Queen (another great favorite of mine) because he said the boat couldn’t possibly work the way they had it set up. I believe him, too. He knew his boats. And you can see what I think of two of the most sacred cows of American cinema.
So what’s the Great Classic Film you intend to avoid for the rest of your life?