I am the featured blogger on the first and second Wednesdays of each month on the Blogger platform for Western Fictioneers and Prairie Rose Publications. I’m reposting truncated versions of those articles for my Hello, Friday! and Friday Favorites blog articles on those two weeks.
These are the articles to my year-long series of dance scenes in historically-set movies to this point.
January – Cat Ballou
February – The King and I
March – Easy Virtue
April – Shakespeare in Love
May – Chocolat
June – Beauty and the Beast
July – Dirty Dancing
August – Cinderella
September – The Mask of Zorro
Name of Movie: Gone with the Wind
Historical Time Period: American Civil War
Location: Atlanta, Georgia c. 1862
Occasion/Purpose: Confederate bazaar benefit dance
Types of Dances: Polka, Virginia Reel, Waltz
Long before this hospital benefit bazaar, Scarlett O’Hara has married and been widowed. She is currently in mourning, as you can see from her black dress. She is beside herself with boredom at having to play the role of the widow for a man she didn’t love, and for whom she’s not a bit unhappy that he died. What she’s distressed about most is not being able to dance and be happy and flirtatious and be the 16-year-old girl who had no worries or responsibilities. She is no longer the bell of the ball, and she’s about to burst at the seams.
Rhett Butler knows this about her. In fact, he knows her better than she knows herself. They are more alike than different, and he’s told her that. She pshaws him.
Rhett and Scarlett’s banter leading up to the dance is sharp, witty, and hints of things to come.
This scene is Rhett’s way of liberating Scarlett (aka Mrs. Hamilton) from her widows weeds and to get her out from under the thumbs of the gatekeeping biddies who judge her and who also hold the key to her societal freedom from widowhood. Melanie Hamilton Wilkes is held in such high social esteem that because she approved the dance auction, the biddies have no choice but to approve.
We see the love mutually denied love growing between Rhett and Scarlett in this scene. We can tell this from Rhett’s bid for Scarlett to dance with him. He also holds sway in this society, because of his blockade running escapades. He is a scoundrel, but in her own way, so is Scarlett. The difference is, he’s a man in a male-dominated society, and she is a female who is also a young widow. She has virtually no societal sway. Rhett understands that all too well. His bid to dance with her is his way of bestowing social power on her, and Scarlett is no dummy. She takes it.
As he watches her come to him, his satisfied smile is also a smile of admiration with a tinge of love. He asks for one thing in return: for her to say the words he heard her say to Ashley Wilkes—I love you.
While Scarlett appreciates what he’s done to get her out of her widow’s trap, she covers her feelings with sarcasm and snark, and says, “That’s something you will never hear from me, Captain Butler, as long as you live.”
Rhett smiles, completely undaunted, because he knows she will eventually say she loves him.
At 4:14 in the clip, Rhett says one of the best lines ever written or spoken. “With enough courage, you can do without a reputation.” This is a moment of foreshadowing, because both of them will throw their reputations to the wind and find courage deep down inside that they didn’t know existed.
Movie Trivia: According to Olivia de Havilland, who played Melanie Wilkes, Vivien Leigh couldn’t dance, so the distance shots were a body double.
Image Note: The movie poster is a 1939 MGM promotional poster that is in Public Domain in the United States, because it was published in the United States between 1928 and 1977, inclusive, without a copyright notice.
Until we meet again,