It may not be the greatest motion picture ever made, as critic Leonard Maltin said, but it may be the greatest example of the kind of movies Hollywood used to create. Like many pictures featuring black actors in the 1930s and 40s, some of this is difficult to watch — excepting a stunning moment with Mammy (Hattie McDaniel) and Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) as they walk up the stairs to try to get a grieving Rhett Butler out of his room. This scene undoubtedly won McDaniel the Oscar.
Be that as it may, it's hard to understand there was a time when a movie, no matter how large and opulent, could capture the attention of an entire nation. (The first half of "The Hunger Games" final installment may have been the most popular movie this weekend, but I don't know a single person who's seen it.) But that was the case of GWTW. The search for the actress to play Scarlett made national headlines and for many years this was the highest grossing movie of all time. It was also the only movie for decades that was known for its acronym. Everyone knew what GWTW meant.
It is no wonder that producer David O. Selznick chose to film in color. The opening paragraphs of the novel are a splash of color: