Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lady in Red

Welcome back to the second half of our Hit Me With Your Best Shot 75th Anniversary Gone With the Wind celebration courtesy of Nathaniel at The Film Experience.

When last we caught up with Miss Scarlett she was shaking her fist in the air letting us know that as God is her witness, she'd never go hungry again. And as the rest of the film proves, she certainly keeps her promises. After the war has ended and after Scarlett finally marries Rhett, I've never really enjoyed the film as much as the first 3 hours. Once she's married to Rhett, the struggle for survival is pretty much over and the film takes on a more domestic melodramatic feel. When the film tries to make us care about Scarlett and Rhett as a couple, it loses its epic sweep, focusing on petty problems instead of the endurance of the human spirit. And I've never fully bought the romantic connection. Probably because I prefer when Scarlett is on her own defying convention - making everything about her. She's the only person she ever really cares about anyway.

Which is what leads me to my choice for Best Shot. It happens right after Scarlett has been caught in a nostalgic embrace with her beloved Ashley by his spiteful sister, India. Spreading the word about Scarlett's torrid love affair with Ashley, India tries to besmirch Scarlett's reputation and poison the relationship that Scarlett has with Melanie. Scarlett is due at Ashley's birthday party at his and Melanie's home, but she has chosen to stay away. Rhett, calling Scarlett out for her behavior (and not wanting to endanger the future of their daughter, Bonnie), forces her to attend. If nothing else for the satisfaction of Melanie ordering Scarlett to leave her home.

Rhett, wanting Scarlett to appear as the adulterous she is accused of, throws a scandalous burgundy velvet and feathered dress at Scarlett to wear as her scarlet letter:
"Wear that! Nothing modest or matronly will do for this occasion - Put on plenty of rouge. I want you to look your part tonight."
Rhett knows that nothing would ever happen between Ashley and Scarlett as he knows that Ashley is too "honorable" (too much of a coward to actually be unfaithful), but he wants to teach Scarlett a lesson as he "throws her to the lions" at Melanie's party as she makes her entrance in this:

But rather than shrinking from the shocked looks and disapproving eyes, Scarlett stands confidently and defiantly. It's the only way she knows how. Scarlett has always been her own woman, never afraid to make enemies (even of her loved ones) or stand out in a crowd. She welcomes the sneers as it only makes her stronger. Set against the simple, modestly decorated Wilkes' home, Scarlett seems even more out of place in her finery, as proud and haughty as the plumed peacock. It's one of the most iconic cinematic entrances of all-time and a memorable moment in a film filled with them. The burgundy dress has become a symbol of Scarlett O'Hara herself - bold, brassy, and singularly unique.

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