I don’t usually post this early in the day, but I had a reason for doing it today: I am most certainly not going to be the only person to pick this shot, and I hoped that by getting in first, I might possibly seem a little less hopelessly obvious.
Not the first time I’ve shared this still on the blog, either. It’s the moment that sums up absolutely everything there is to sum up Vivien Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara, one of the great characters and performances in the annals of cinema. As I said last week, “When faced with such a monolith, it seems idiotic to aim for cunning; better by fair to just own that it’s a damn icon and go with something damn well iconic.” And this moment of Scarlett is as damn well iconic as it gets. Knowing that she’s about to walk into social humiliation, furious at being tricked into doing so by her lover-antagonist Rhett Butler, perhaps even furious at herself for electing to wear That Dress, a brazen, hyper-sexual blast of the most passionate red in all of Technicolor, despite all this, Scarlett holds her head erect, and faces her inevitable accusers with the most fiery “fuck you” attitude that Leigh could muster up for her. And that’s a lot of “fuck you” indeed.
I don’t think I’ve ever written a Hit Me with Your Best Shot entry this short. But a picture is worth a thousand words, after all, and I can’t say anything about that image that it doesn’t already say better than I could do. Leigh is perfectly framed, and the colors perfectly balanced, for a frame of devastating immediate impact. Here is this woman, it says. She is proud, she is powerful, she is defiant, she is haughty. She is Scarlett O’Hara, and in the four hours of Gone with the Wind, there’s not another instant where she makes herself, the world, and the audience so inescapably aware of that fact.