GONE WITH THE WIND
At the time, with its full overture and closing music, producer David O. Selznick’s 1939 adaption of Margaret Mitchell’s beloved novel was, at 2 minutes shy of four hours, the longest movie ever made. There were no complaints from audiences, who made the Civil War saga about the messed up romance of Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) and divine rake Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) the highest grossing picture of all time, a record it held until 1966 (ahem, see its competition below). While setting records, it also broke barriers, most enduringly one of color; Gone With the Wind featured an Oscar-winning supporting actress performance by Hattie McDaniel, the first black actor to ever be nominated, let alone win. That and its best picture victory put Gone at 8 wins for 13 nominations, also the most of its time and a record that held for decades. Adjusted for inflation, the movie still ranks in the top three all-time box office champs (along with, ahem…competition, below). But while those statistics are impressive, Gone’s many fans are more likely to recall its magnificent images of resilience — Scarlett standing in various piles of ashes, some literal (Atlanta, plantations) some figurative (her love life) — and its unforgettable lines, from Rhett’s “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” to Scarlett’s “Tomorrow is another day.”
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THE SOUND OF MUSIC
The 1965 film adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway musical was the first film to bump Gone With the Wind from the enviable top-grossing-film-of-all-time spot. The story of a playful nun in training (Julie Andrews) who is diverted from dedicating her life to God by the opportunity to start a band with a dashing Austrian military man (Christopher Plummer) and his seven motherless children, Sound is the only musical in our bracket. In 1966 it picked up five Oscars, despite having been far less of a critical darling than Gone. Critic Pauline Kael said Sound made her angry and referred to it as having a “luxuriant falseness” while the New York Times’ Bosley Crowther pounced on Christopher Plummer (“horrendous”) describing him as “as handsome and phony as a store-window Alpine Guide.” But audiences received it gleefully, on its original release and then again on television, where it had an epic run (NBC ran it annually, starting in 1979, for years). So well-loved it even spawned a hugely successful international sing-a-long movement, Sound has always been the people’s choice. Today, adjusted for inflation, it ranks just behind Star Wars and Gone With the Wind in the listing of top grossing films of all time.