"Gone With the Wind" at the Academy Theater

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Jonathan Burk, Jul 23, 2002.

  1. Jonathan Burk

    Jonathan Burk Second Unit

    May 31, 1999
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    Castaic, CA
    Real Name:
    Jonathan Burk
    Gone With the Wind at the Academy Theater
    Last night I had the privilege of seeing Gone With the Wind on the big screen, as part of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science's series of best picture winners.
    Of the films so far, this was the first one I had seen before, and I've missed 3. I got there at about 6pm (for a 7:30 show start), and the line was already snaking around the block. I would expect similar turnouts for other popular films in the series, so if you're planning on attending, I would recommend early ticket purchase (they go on sale 6 weeks in advance), and early arrival. Last night's tickets sold out the day they went on sale.
    The evening started at 7:15 with a newsreel from 1939. It is interesting to see these newsreel's from the era, and imagine people getting their only view of current events in the pre-TV era. The newsreel showed the following:
    • floating mines off the coast of England.
    • the sinking of the German ship "Graf Spee"
    • King George visiting the British troops
    • Finland giving the secretary of the Treasury a check to pay off some of its debt to the US (?)
    • The GWW premiere in Atlanta. This was a 3 day festival attended by over 1,000,000 people. All the film's stars were in attendance, and it looked like a grand time. They showed Atlanta's remaining Civil War vets hobbling into the theater, and then the stars.
    After the newsreel, Randy Haberkamp, the producer of the series, took the podium. He reviewed a letter sent by David O. Selznick to the film exhibitors of the time, outlining the guidelines under which GWW should be shown, including overture, an intermission and walkout music. He had also outlined the types of candy that should be sold to minimize candy wrapper noise during the show. With this in mind, we were exhorted to observe all Academy rules: no cell phones, pagers, or beeping watches. And no talking, to include whispering.
    Randy then recapped the culture of the time (most of it was WW2 related stuff), to give us a perspective of the world in which GWW was created. And then the introductions!
    A nice addition to these screenings has been the attendance of people related to the films, be they family members of contributors, or actual crew or actors. Last night was no exception. We met:
    • the three actors who played Beau Wilkes, in the different stages of his life.
    • Rand Brooks, who played Charles Hamilton
    • Evelyn Keyes and Ann Rutherford, who played Suellen and Carreen O'Hara (Scarlett's sisters)
    Each of these actors got a big round of applause during their first scene in the film.
    Randy then read a letter sent by Olivia de Havilland (from France). It was sent especially for the screening, and expressed her regret at not being able to join "Scarlett's two sisters, who traveled from Tara, Charles Hamilton, who had miraculously recovered from the measles, and her three only sons". It was the sweetest letter, and I think everyone was a little touched by her sincerity and obvious affection for Gone With the Wind.
    We also recieved a nice program with the full color poster art on one side, and movie facts and trivia on the other, as well as screening credits.
    So then starts the overture.
    Plot Summary: (none needed. It was Gone With the Wind. 'nuff said.)
    Let me preface my comments with my history as far as this film is concerned. I've only seen two presentations of it: the MGM CLV laserdisc (watched a couple times in the early 90's), and a screening 7 years ago at the Paramount theater in Oakland, CA.
    I hadn't seen it since then, so I can't compare the two, but I remember being very impressed with the Paramount showing.
    The presentation last night varied quite a bit in picture quality. This was a "newly restored" print. I talked with Randy during the intermission and he said it was parts of the '54, '89 and '98 restorations, and was as close as possible to the original presentation. My impression was thus:
    • 20% of the film was jaw dropping, heart poundingly spectacular. Certain shots had color so pure and clear, it looked like they filmed it yesterday. It was startling how some scenes just popped off the screen with absolute clarity, with little visible grain, and a gorgeous "glow" that just made me gasp with surprise.
    • 75% of the film was average, in comparison to the perfect 20%. Visible grain, blacks that were light gray, crushed whites, or the opposite (too contrasty), most of the film seemed to me to be average quality for the age of the film. Frankly, I was a little disappointed.
      Since the quality varied from shot to shot, it was an often startling contrast.
    • The last 5% had the bottom 10% of the film lopped off (having been lifted from the "widescreen" release of the '50's?), or was otherwise marred with scratches or dirt. Many of the edits were preceded with a few frames which, I presume, had the 3 strip out of line, so there were huge red and blue halos throughout the frame. There were also instances of colored dirt, (indicating dirt on one of the three negatives?).
    Again, the quality of the film varied from shot to shot, so a single scene could vary from good to bad within a few seconds. The quality of the second half seemed to be much better than the first. Most of the "letterboxed" shots (with the bottom 10% missing) were in the first 40 minutes of the film.
    The sound was a directional mix; I'm assuming from the '98 reissue. I found it effective and only slightly distracting. While mono sound doesn't bother me, I think the new mix serves the grandeur and scope of the film rather well.
    The greatest part of the evening was just seeing the film with 1000+ other film fans. The applause and the laughter really took the movie to the next level. I had forgotten how much humor is in the film, and really laughed outloud at many of the setups. Hattie McDaniel really brought down the house in just about every one of her scenes.
    All in all, it was a spectacular, thoroughly enjoyable evening, and I look forward to other big films in the series.
  2. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

    Feb 9, 1999
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    Sounds like a great evening. I'm surprised they didn't screen one of the Technicolor prints that were made a few years ago for theatrical showing.
  3. Agee Bassett

    Agee Bassett Supporting Actor

    Feb 13, 2001
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    I wonder if this will be the same print screening at the Fox Theater here in Atlanta on Aug. 8th?

    Thanks for the report, Jonathan.
  4. Jefferson

    Jefferson Supporting Actor

    Apr 23, 2002
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    Lucky you....my next fave after Wizard of Oz.

    I saw the GWTW 98 version and was impressed.
    Never have liked that remixed soundtrack much.
    I'm always more impressed/involved with this when i see it on the big screen......
  5. Lee Bombard

    Lee Bombard Stunt Coordinator

    Jun 30, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Jonathan -

    It truly sounds like a once in a lifetime event.

    Thanks for the report.


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