“Gone With the Wind” was restored to HBO Max on Wednesday after initially being pulled from the new streaming platform, and the film now opens with a video introduction that speaks to the film’s flawed, romantic view of the Antebellum South.
“The film’s treatment of this world through a lens of nostalgia denies the horrors of slavery, as well as its legacy of racial inequality,” TCM host Jacqueline Stewart says in a nearly five-minute video introduction at the start of the film. “Watching ‘Gone With the Wind’ can be uncomfortable, even painful, still it is important that classic Hollywood films are available to us in their original form.”
The film is also accompanied by a series of extras, including a panel discussion about the film called “‘Gone With the Wind:’ A Complicated Legacy.” The panel discussion was filmed at the TCM Film Festival last year when the film screened there. Also included is a five-minute short called “Hattie McDaniel: What a Character!” that gives a brief profile on the woman who stars in the film and became the first African-American Oscar winner.
Stewart added in the video that McDaniel was famously not allowed to attend the premiere screening of the film due to Georgia Jim Crow laws at the time of its release in 1939. The video gives some other context about its making and explains that even though it’s one of the most successful films of all time, “Gone With the Wind” is not universally praised and has been widely protested.
The intro even includes an anecdote about producer David O. Selznick, who assured the NAACP that he was “sensitive” to Black audiences’ concerns about how the film would handle slavery.
“Gone With the Wind” was pulled from the platform earlier this month after the writer John Ridley wrote a column in the Los Angeles Times calling for the film to be removed in the light of the protests around George Floyd’s murder, but he added that the film should not be censored or permanently removed.
In an interview after the film was pulled, WarnerMedia chairman Bob Greenblatt responded to Ridley’s column and defended the decision of pulling the movie, explaining that it should’ve always had the appropriate context before it was added to the service. He explained that the film has aired on TCM for years and always includes an introduction from a host that touches on the film’s complicated legacy, and he regretted not including the same context earlier.
“This is a complicated film, undeniably one of the most-watched films of all time, and most award-winning. And it has these issues which are not insignificant. Especially, you know in this moment in the world that we’re in right now. We really do want to put the right context around it,” Greenblatt said. “We shouldn’t deny that they exist, we should show them to people, but also in the right context. And, hopefully, shed some light on these issues, which you know, affected Hollywood. The last century in Hollywood, there are many darker moments on film that we need to talk about.”
“Gone With the Wind” stars Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh and was a huge hit upon release, becoming the highest-earning film up to the point, a record it still holds when figures are adjusted for inflation. It also won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actress for Hattie McDaniel, the first-ever African American to win an Academy Award, and Best Picture.