There are three films that come back to the theater time and again. Maybe you can think of more, but here’s my short list.
- Gone With the Wind (1939)
- It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
- The Sound of Music (1965)
The question is, out of all the films produced each year, why do these films return to movie theaters?
Let’s start with Gone with the Wind. It was the first film that dealt seriously with the American Civil War. Who can remember hearing all the women in the theater sigh when the camera zooms in on Clark Gable as Scarlett walks down the winding staircase?
Gable complained that the role of Scarlett should have gone to an American actress.
Go to YouTube and look at the screen tests for Scarlett. Paulette Goddard and Joan Bennett gave passionate performances; they’re also beautiful. Then look at the screen test for Vivien Leigh. Only Miss Leigh captures Scarlett’s immaturity, winsome behavior and charm. We forget that Scarlett is only 16 years old when the movie starts. Miss Leigh nailed it; that’s why she won the role.
Then why was Gone with the Wind so popular?
America was in the throes of The Great Depression. Do you remember Scarlett clutching a bunch of carrots from the ground, saying she would never be hungry again? That spoke to millions of Americans who struggled to feed their families.
And why is Gone with the Wind still popular today?
Many reasons: the actors, the plot, the costume, the scenery, the wonderful Max Steiner score; but the movie gives us something we can relate to. No matter how bad life is, life goes on. We admire Scarlett’s spunk after Rhett walks out on her. We know she’s going to be all right. We know Tara will be all right. Scarlett reminds us that no matter how bad life is, we’ll make it.
It’s a Wonderful Life wasn’t popular when it came out in 1946. It didn’t become popular until much later. The cast is phenomenal. Has Jimmy Stewart ever turned in a bad performance? Donna Reed was beautiful, the all-American girl next door. Gloria Graham was alluring, and Lionel Barrymore was perfectly sinister. Once again, we have an all-star cast. So why the popularity?
What would life be like if you suddenly disappeared or had never been born? What about your loved ones? The film is saying don’t take life for granted. Don’t take your loved ones for granted. Furthermore, when George Bailey needed help, all the good he did came back to him. Was George Bailey rich or famous? No; but he meant something to his community. The people never forgot him. It shows the smallest of us can make a difference.
Finally, The Sound of Music is timeless, especially with the unfortunate passing of Charmian Carr, the first Von Trapp movie children to pass away. On Broadway The Sound of Music was the least popular of the Rogers and Hammerstein’s musicals, but on the big screen, it took a different turn. The scenery of Austria was spectacular, and the story has something for everyone: romance, love, young love, danger, sacrifice, patriotism, good vs. evil, humor and entertainment. Once again, it was perfectly cast.
So why does The Sound of Music keep coming back to the silver screen?
It’s about sacrifice. The Von Trapps gave up their beloved homeland rather than be part of Hitler’s Third Reich. They left behind family, friends, home and valuables. If the Nazis had captured Captain von Trapp, he would have been executed. His family would have been deported to concentration camps.
So the next time you feel down, pop one of these movies into your DVD; then believe that you can make a difference, too.