Frankly, my dear, there's no place like home.
Oh, come on, you knew we would not make it through this year without talking about the 75th anniversary of two iconic and, in my opinion, perfect films. Sure, there were hundreds of other wonderful films made in 1939 (also known as Hollywood’s greatest year), but few can hold a candle to The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind. Most things seventy-five years of age wither, fade out, or hobble around with a cane... but these films hold their strength and significance all of these years later. Like a fine wine, Dorothy Gale and Scarlett O’Hara’s stories become better with age. But... why? Why do these films still resonate with our hearts and minds? I’ll let Scarlett do the talking.
Most people who dislike the film sincerely loathe Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) as a person. She lies, steals, cheats, and kills her way through life to survive and each discrepancy is a valid reason for disliking a character. They also dislike her for the manner in which she treats Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), though I highly recommend they reconsider, because even Rhett believes they’re “bad lots, selfish and shrewd.” After being mercilessly dumped by a charming gentleman of the South, Scarlett weeps for her ignorance and the time she wasted pining for a love that never existed in another man, Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard). The moment of clarity for Scarlett arrives as we see excitement in her tear-streaked face, “Tara,” she exclaims, and with a sigh of relief, “...
” The answer to her problems: her home, Tara — a place of comfort, nostalgia, wisdom, and truth. Despite her failings and character flaws, Scarlett O’Hara’s love of home allows audiences to connect with her, to relate, and forgive her behaviour. Why should we forgive her behaviour? This time, I’ll let Dorothy do the talking.
Although Judy Garland was sixteen years of age while filming Oz, she captures the heart of a child in this scene. We understand she’s been to a “beautiful place” and learned that even the most gorgeous and “very real” places have corruption. Dorothy takes a small journey through the Land of Oz and our emotions are guided by an innocent girl tortured by a wicked, old witch at every turn in the Yellow Brick Road. At the end of the day, Dorothy, too, has a moment of clarity, “And this is my room. And you’re all here. And I’m not going to leave here ever, ever again because I love you all. Oh, Auntie Em, there’s no place like home.” In a sense, Dorothy gives us a glimpse at the journey to come for Scarlett O’Hara. We watch Scarlett succeed, suffer, and battle her own wicked situations throughout the film. Scarlett wants the comfort and safety home provides and we are able to recognize the childlike innocence still reverberating through her character. She and Dorothy are not so different.
These films have persevered for 75 years for many reasons: the production quality is phenomenal, the actors are brilliant, and the stories are timeless. But, personally, I believe their survival rests on home as a space viewers can relate to, no matter how falsely or truthfully they have built it up in their minds. Home may be a tiny farmhouse in poverty or a plantation with oak trees lining the property, but still, there seems to be a place in our emotional well-being that wants to believe home will continue to welcome us back with open arms, no matter the hardships we’ve faced or the mistakes we’ve made, if and when we return.