Just yesterday, I watched the entire GWTW for the first time (excellent quality DVD)and even though in comfort of my own home, I found this film way too long. I would not, could not, sit for almost four hours in a cinema to watch any movie. As a great number of reviewers have pointed out here, this is a movie of two parts, the second bordered on soap opera and partly for that reason, I am unable to give a 10 star, gushing endorsement to GWTW.
The characterisation also bothered me. Of the four principal parts, Leslie Howard's (Ashley Wilkes)was the least credible performance.Here we have someone ready and eager to go off to war but someone unable or unwilling to express his genuine love for his wife Melanie when taunted by the scheming, jealous Scarlett O'Hara. And it seems so odd that Selznick would cast an Englishman as a southern gentleman, particularly when Howard's 'Englishness' was so apparent for his entire performance?! Surely there were better-looking US actors (who sounded like southerners) to play the part of a so-called dashing lead character!
Despite the fact that it was apparent that everybody regarded Melanie(Olivia De Havilland) as a saintly figure who never spoke ill of anybody, it was almost beyond credibility that she appeared so blithely unaware of Scarlett's manipulative, brattish intentions and behaviour. And on learning of the possible romantic link between Ashley and Scarlett, Melanie reacts in an even more incredible fashion.
It was the portrayal, the brilliant portrayal by Vivien Leigh of the story's heroine, that unnerved me more than anything else. Despite the many reasonable defences of Scarlett's character and behaviour - she shows stoicism in hardship, displays admirable strength in returning the fortunes of Tara etc etc - I found Scarlett O'Hara such a most unlikeable, indeed, almost detestable character, that I longed for the scene in which she would get her comeuppance! She was selfish (selfless when material gain beckoned), simpering, headstrong, jealous, vindictive, childish, scheming, stubborn, cruel and seemingly incapable of genuine affection for anybody save her father - most noticeably not for any of her three husbands nor for the presumed object of her unrequited love, Ashley Wilkes. She even steals her younger sister's fiancé Frank Kennedy whom she marries for financial gain. Scarlett also shows no qualms in engaging in dubious business practices and exploiting convict labour in her lumber business.
How typical that shortly after marriage, Rhett insists he'll spend as much as necessary on a new mansion in Atlanta and Scarlett responds with: "Oh Rhett, I want everybody who's been mean to me to be pea-green with envy."
On three occasions, Scarlett uses physical force to show her anger and pride when she slaps somebody across the face - if only Ashley or Rhett or even Mammy had the gumption to give this hoyden a similar whack!
From my perspective, never has there been a more apt closing line in a movie because regarding the fate of Scarlett O'Hara, I couldn't give a damn.