January 23, 1941 [Gone with the Wind]

I could've sworn the theater was playing Six Lessons from Madame La Zonga, and there I was, waiting for the Latin Spitfire to sing the title song. But instead I wandered into the middle of Gone with the Wind--and the place was packed, no room for Lupe Velez, even though the picture seemed bigger than anything--than Birth of a Nation, or Kong, or Joe E. Brown's mouth.

I stood in the back of the theater, and watched the camera watching Atlanta become Hell's anteroom, the wounded and dying lined up, the whole world strewn with the South's answer to its problems: desperate annihilation at the hands of its enemy--one that would take over the reins of American history but never know how that handful of people fared, lost as they were in the conflagration, smaller and smaller as the camera moved away.

All right, I wasn't looking for Lupe. But I stood there until I was certain Ashley and Rhett and Scarlet would fade, taking Mammy and Prissy with them, and let the rest of the picture go on without me. My wife was seated somewhere up front, sobbing by the end--and angry at all of them for their varied missteps and crimes--and later told me I was crazy for not sitting still and watching the picture. Maybe tomorrow, or another day, when Margaret Mitchell doesn't matter as much as David O. Selznick--which means I might never get to see it.


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