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'Gone with the Wind' returns to HBO Max ... with a disclaimer

"Gone With the Wind" is back on the streaming platform HBO Max, but it now opens with new commentary about the film's racist depiction of slavery. HBO Max is owned by CNN's parent company, WarnerMedia.

Posted: Jun 28, 2020 2:40 PM
Updated: Jun 28, 2020 2:40 PM

Rhett and Scarlett are back on HBO Max, along with some criticism of slavery and race relations in the South that was missing from "Gone with the Wind."

HBO pulled the film classic "Gone with the Wind" from its new streaming service two weeks ago in the wake of national protests against racism and deaths of African Americans at the hands of police. At the time HBO said it needed to add "historical context."

The new version includes a 4-1/2 minute introduction from Turner Classic Movie's Jacqueline Stewart, professor of cinema and film studies at the University of Chicago.

She calls the film "one of most enduringly popular films of all time," as she points out that when adjusted for inflation it has the largest box office ever. She calls it "a film of undeniable cultural significance."

But she also points out that the film fed racist stereotypes of the time, showing Black slaves and servants as either devoted to their white masters or as incompetent, while denying "the horrors of slavery, as well as its legacies of racial inequality."

In the introduction Stewart says that there were protests about the film going back the announcement of the original production, and that despite assurances from the film's producer that it would be sensitive to concerns of African Americans it presents "the Antebellum South as a world of grace and beauty without acknowledging the brutalities of the system of chattel slavery upon which this world is based."

Stewart, who is African American, points out that the film's Black cast members were barred from its Atlanta premiere because of Georgia's Jim Crow segregation laws at the time. And Hattie McDaniel, who won an Academy Award for playing the servant Mammy, the first Black American to win the award, was not allowed to sit with the other cast members at the Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles.

"Watching 'Gone With the Wind' can be uncomfortable, even painful," says Stewart. "Still, it is important that classic Hollywood films are available to us in their original form for viewing and discussion."

"It is not only a document of Hollywood's racist practices of the past, but also an enduring work of popular culture that speaks directly to the racial inequalities that persist in media and society today."

HBO Max also included a second feature, an hour-long panel discussion filmed at the Turner Classic Movies film festival in April of 2019, entitled "The complicated legacy of Gone with the Wind." Both HBO and TCM are owned by Warner Media, a unit of AT&T, as is CNN.

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