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“Gone With The Wind” Returns To HBO Max With New Disclaimer About “Horrors Of Slavery”

Two weeks after it was pulled, the 1939 film is back with introductory context about how it failed to capture the realities of slavery and racism at the time.

Hattie McDaniel tries to console Vivien Leigh in a scene from the film 'Gone With The Wind', 1939. (Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)
Hattie McDaniel tries to console Vivien Leigh in a scene from the film 'Gone With The Wind', 1939. (Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)

HBO Max has added “Gone With The Wind” back to its streaming service, now with a 4-minute introduction contextualizing how the film “denies the horrors of slavery.”

HBO removed the 1939 American “classic” from its streaming platform on June 9, one day after  “12 Years A Slave” screenwriter John Ridley wrote an op-ed in the LA Times calling on the company to do so until it could add a “warning or disclaimer” about the movie’s controversial themes. The criticism of the film came as nationwide demonstrations against systemic racism erupted across the U.S. in the wake of George Floyd’s death. 

The introductory segment features Turner Classic Movies host and film professor Jacqueline Stewart talking about how the film depicts the Antebellum South “through a lens of nostalgia [which] denies the horror of slavery, as well as its legacies of racial inequality.”

That language echoes Ridley’s op-ed, where he wrote: “As a filmmaker I get that movies are often snapshots of moments in history. They reflect not only the attitudes and opinions of those involved in their creation, but also those of the prevailing culture. ‘Gone With the Wind,’ however, is its own unique problem. It doesn’t just ‘fall short’ with regard to representation… It is a film that, when it is not ignoring the horrors of slavery, pauses only to perpetuate some of the most painful stereotypes of people of color.”

In the 4:26-minute segment before the film, Stewart also acknowledged how it used stereotypes to portray enslaved Black characters, depicting them “as servants notable for their devotion to their white masters or for their ineptitude.”

“This 1939 epic drama should be viewed in its original form, contextualized and discussed,” Stewart said. Variety reported that HBO Max has also now provided a one-hour recording of a panel discussion at a 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival on “The Complicated Legacy of ‘Gone With The Wind,’” which is moderated by author and historian Donald Bogle.

In the new introduction, Stewart said that the film’s producer knew about the criticism related to race.

“Producer David O. Selznick was well aware that Black audiences were deeply concerned about the film’s handling of the topic of slavery and its treatment of Black characters,” Stewart said, noting that “the film has been repeatedly protested, dating back [to] the announcement of its production.” Stewart is a professor of film and media studies at the University of Chicago.

The film, set in the Civil War era, is the highest-grossing movie of all time with inflation considered. It won eight Oscars, including Best Picture, and appeared in theaters three more times after its initial release. Over the last few decades, critics have questioned the high regard for the film, citing its problematic depiction of enslaved people and of a marital rape scene. 

The movie stars Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Hattie McDaniel and Olivia de Havilland and takes place in Confederate-era Atlanta on a plantation. 

While it broke box office records, it was also the first film that a Black actor won an Oscar for. McDaniel won for her role as Mammy, the head slave on the plantation, but wasn’t allowed to sit with the rest of the cast during the award show, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The Cocoanut Grove nightclub in The Ambassador Hotel in LA hosted the Academy Awards in 1940, and did not allow Black people inside. McDaniel had to be escorted in and was placed at a table against the wall.