Lucille La Verne: The Remarkable Career of Disney’s First Villain, the Fairest One of All

In the Canon of Disney villains there is one that has always stood out to me as head and shoulders above the rest – the Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). On becoming a self professed Disney nerd, I often attributed her status of Supreme villainy due to Walt Disney’s immersive involvement in the project.

As a child, I could deal just fine with the elegant Maleficent, the flamboyant Cruella de Vil, and the austere Lady Tremaine, but when it came to the Evil Queen transformed into the old hag, well, that was a different story.

What is it about this character that makes her so imposing and her evil so palpable? Sure, the artists had designed and animated a sinister, frightening character, but there was a dynamic force behind those masterful drawings bringing it all together.

Then it dawned on me – it was her voice.

As Snow White begins and the clouds draw back to reveal a towering castle, we hear Lucille La Verne’s bone chilling voice as she performs her daily ritual before her magic mirror, giving her the notable distinction of having the first speaking part in an animated feature length film.

Originally, Lucille La Verne was chosen to play just one part by Disney. But with experience that took her from stage to screen, La Verne quickly proved she could play both the composed, calculating queen and her rambunctiously wicked alter ego.

Early Life & Career

Lucille Laverne Mitchum was born on November 7, 1872 in Nashville, Tennessee. She began acting as a child in local summer stock. As she returned each year she became known as the child star of the theater and was given better parts as she grew in talent and stature.

Lucille played with small traveling theater troupes as a teenager, and at age fourteen she was praised for her performances as Lady Macbeth and Juliet, which she played in the same run.

At age sixteen, Lucille made her Broadway debut with a supporting role in La Tosca. Her versatility put her in high demand and she began touring the country with some of America’s top stock companies.

She received rave reviews in the big cities and scored many triumphs. Her stage successes included the leading roles in Notre Dame, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Lady Windermere’s Fan.

By 1895, Lucille formed her own theatrical troupe and they appeared before not only Americans, but also European royalty. According to an article in the San Pedro News Pilot, Lucille gave “command performances before King George V of England, King Leopold of the Belgians and Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany.”

In 1898, she was appointed manager and director of the Empire Theater in Richmond, Virginia. Lucille staged many hit plays and wrote an adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol which was used by other theaters in the early 1900’s. Lucille was then awarded the Woman of the Year Award by the Virginia Women’s Society in 1901.

Lucille in the pages of Vogue magazine, 1905

A few years later, Lucille stepped down from the Empire to take the stage in London in William Gillette’s Clarice (1906). The play and her performance was a hit as was her reprisal of the role on Broadway. She continued appearing on stage, occasionally directing and acting in stock productions.

Although Lucille could play any part, she became known for her character roles: tough mothers; old crones; and rough, rural folk. These would define her legacy.

Fun fact: According to the Virginia Repertory Company’s website, among Lucille’s stock company at the Empire Theater were these notable thespians:

Frank Morgan, most famous for playing the Wizard of Oz in the 1939 film of the same name; Edward Arnold, a character actor who appeared in many classics such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Mary Miles Mintner, a rival at the time to Mary Pickford; and John Bunny, the most popular movie star in the early 1910’s.

Personal Life

In 1912, Lucille married William Waide Scott, her publicity manager. Little is known about their union which ended in 1920. Records show that Scott was employed as a salesman in January of 1918, registered for the WWI draft, and then enlisted in July, serving six months in the US Army.

Though her obituary claims that Lucille was married more than once, additional evidence has not yet surfaced to confirm who the husbands were, nor the dates of the marriages.

What is known is that Lucille adopted a daughter, eleven year old Grace Taylor, in 1923. Through her role in Sun Up, an exploration of the lives of “mountain people,” Lucille grew an understanding and compassion for those living remotely without modern conveniences. She then became a sponsor for several “mountain schools.”

An orphan from the Tallulah Falls Industrial School, Grace toured with her mother’s acting troupe, meeting the crowned heads of Europe. When Grace reached adulthood, the two were estranged were for many years. They reunited when Grace had a child of her own, making Lucille a grandmother.

Career Highlights

1915 marked Lucille’s film debut with a minor role in the comedy Over Night directed by James Young. After a few small films with Young, Lucille began hitting her stride with D. W. Griffith.

It is apparent that she was a favorite of the pioneering director, appearing in character roles in Orphans of the Storm (1921), White Rose (1923), America (1924), and her first talkie – Abraham Lincoln (1930).

Lucille worked with the best in the business, elevating each production with her presence and professionalism. She acted alongside Gloria Swanson (Zaza, 1923) and supported James Cagney in his film debut (Sinners’ Holiday, 1930).

In addition to D. W. Griffith, she worked with esteemed directors such as Walter Lang (The Mighty Barnum, 1934), John Ford (Pilgrimage, 1933), Josef von Sternberg (An American Tragedy, 1931), and Michael Curtiz (An Alias Doctor, 1932).

Though she had glimpsed the bright lights of Hollywood, Lucille never strayed far from her first love, the stage.

In 1923, she scored one of the greatest triumphs of her career in Lulla Volmer’s folk-play Sun-Up. At age fifty-four, Lucille was already a veteran stage actress, but her role as Widow Cagle would cement her position as a legendary actress of her time.

She would go on to perform the role over 3,000 times (how, just how?!) between its Broadway run, domestic and international tours, and the Broadway revival which she also produced.

When MGM purchased the rights for the film adaptation of Sun Up (1925), who would they choose for the role of Widow Cagle? You guessed it…Lucille.

Upon the film’s release, The New York Times sang Lucille’s praises, “Her performance is tremendously effective, yet at the same time restrained. She does not over-do the makeup nor the scowling but makes a natural human being…”

In 1927, Lucille was given perhaps the greatest honor an actor of her time could receive. Broadway’s Princess Theatre was renamed after her. She became the manager and director, sadly, this was short lived.

Since her productions closed quickly and the theater lost money, the theater returned to its original name and Lucille moved to Hollywood.

Lucille still appeared regionally on stage, while appearing in such film classics as Little Caesar (1931) and A Tale of Two Cities (1935).

She made her last stage appearance on Broadway playing the lead role in Black Widow in 1936. Lucille received excellent reviews, but the play suffered a mixed reception and closed quickly.

After Black Widow, Lucille had one more performance to give, one that would make her known on a scale she could never have imagined and give her unsurpassed immortality.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

“She was a professional actress, and I think when she was told the Queen is a vain, imperialistic personality she visualized something. She read the lines beautifully and then when she went into the Witch with the maniacal laugh; it rang over the soundstage. It was blood curdling.

We weren’t thinking of having one actress do both parts. With the Queen’s voice, no one read with any great authority or with anything outstanding. We made a test of her voice and ran it for Walt. He said, ‘That’s it!’”

– Bill Cottrell, director for the Queen and Witch’s scenes in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

As the first Disney feature length film, Snow White comes with a list of firsts, and Walt Disney hit it out of the park when he chose Lucille to play his first Villain, giving her two juicy parts to dig her teeth into – the Evil Queen and the Witch.

The fact that two very different voices were provided by the same person gives unity to the evil surrounding our protagonist, making the threat all the more credible and frightening, while showcasing Lucille’s incredible range and versatility.

When some were concerned Lucille sounded too old for the queen, director Dave Hand remarked, “The main point of argument is really that La Verne knows how to deliver lines. We are willing to sacrifice a little to get that correct delivery, that punch we need.”

With a statuesque figure, pencil thin eyebrows, and full red lips, the visual design for the queen was based on the 1930’s standard of beauty – think Joan Crawford with a dash of Gale Sondergaard. But for the Queen’s haggard form, no better reference existed than Lucille herself, the queen of such roles.

(Pun not intended, well…maybe)

“The Witch was conceived before Lucille was cast but I would say that she inspired the final model sheet. We picked up her expressions, which were very broad and caricatured.”

-Disney Artist, Joe Grant

Firstly, concept artist and illustrator Gustaff Tengren drew up a concept of the character, then animator Norm Ferguson took the design and infused it with Lucille’s personality. He exaggerated her most expressive features – her intense eyes, knowing brow, and mischievous grin.

In live action referencing, the animators noticed as the Witch Lucille’s stance changed and her actions became broader. You can really see Lucille’s stage experience coming through her performance, as the Witch’s movements are highly theatrical.

Just how did she change her voice for the Witch? (I hear you asking)

Joe Grant recalled, “Lucille was already a very famous stage and film actress. She was very willing and very obliging. When she first did the voice we didn’t think it was ‘witchy’ enough and then she came up with the idea of taking her teeth out.

As a result of it, it gave that wet sort of sound. Her jaws collapsed and she was the witch. She was a pro. We did not have to do too many takes with her, only to try a different interpretation. She was dressed with a cape on.”

Walt Disney paid Lucille the ultimate compliment when a writer on the film commented to him about changing some of the Witch’s lines, “All the dialogue sounded bad to me until she (Lucille) read it.”

Death

After Snow White, Lucille retired and co-owned a successful nightclub. After a decade long battle with cancer, she passed away on March 4, 1945.

Lucille La Verne was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in Inglewood Cemetery in Inglewood, California.

Nearly 75 years later, the lovely folk at Silence is Platinum organized a fundraiser to give this legend a proper headstone. And in 2020, their project was completed. Read more about Silence is Platinum and the project here.

Legacy

Snow White remains and forever will be Lucille’s lasting legacy. What better finale could there be for an actress who’s career had thrived in nearly every medium of visual entertainment available during her lifetime – stage, silents, talkies, and animation. Arguably, perhaps no other actor has enjoyed such a wide range and scope for their talents.

Even those who never hear her name or see her face will hear that voice and be captured by her work.

Lucille set the standard for Disney villains – a standard of excellence that would forever be associated with the brand that makes dreams come true. And as Walt knew, in order for the splendor of those dreams to be fully realized, there must first be nightmares.

Fun Facts & Trivia

  • Snow White wasn’t the first time the Mouse came knocking for Lucille. She voiced the Witch in Babes in the Woods (1932), a short resembling the story of Hansel and Gretel.

  • Lucille’s voice was recycled for Maleficent’s dying scream in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (1959).
  • The Evil Queen is listed as #10 on the AFI’s listing of 100 Greatest Heroes & Villains.
  • One legend says that after the initial run of Snow White, all the seats in Radio City Music Hall were reupholstered due to the film’s terrifying effect on children.

I’d love to know who’s your favorite Disney villain? Is there a La Verne movie I’ve left out that’s a must see? Did she terrify you as a child? Let me know down below!

This post is my contribution to the What a Character! 10th Anniversary Blogathon hosted by Once Upon a Screen, Paula’s Cinema Club, and Outspoken & Freckled. Thanks for hosting and having me, ladies! And congrats on 10 years of this incredible event!

Mosey on over to the above links for more about the wonderful character actors that grace our favorite movies with their inimitable personalities.

What Happens When…Death Takes a Holiday (1934)

You know when you watch a film and can’t get it out of your head? It lingers. It causes you to ponder. You’re not quite sure what to make of the whole thing. I’d categorize Death Takes a Holiday in that vicinity. A Pre-code allegorical fantasy drama with touches of horror, humor, and romance, this film really is a bundle to unpack. Definitely not for light viewing, but in my opinion is not to be missed.

When Death takes a holiday…

He crashes a party at a luxurious Italian villa

The film is based on a 1924 Italian play, La Morte en Vacanza by Alberto Casella, which was adapted into English for Broadway in 1929. One can definitely feel its roots coming through as much of the action takes place in one spot – the magnificent set for the Duke’s villa, reminiscent of a fairy tale castle. The villa is shot so well and fills the eye that you quickly forget our story’s confinement.

Much of the film’s beauty and gloss is due to director Mitchell Leisen’s talented eye. Leisen (Remember the Night) was known in Hollywood for his superior aesthetic sensibilities. Before making his directorial debut just a year prior to Death Takes a Holiday, Leisen had been a costume designer, art director, and associate director for Cecil B. DeMille, among others. Leisen credited DeMille with teaching him everything about making movies. He never forgot the veteran filmmaker’s advice: “The camera has no ears. If you want to say it, get it on the screen.” Although Leisen was a visual expert, he brought wit, intelligence, and sensitivity to his scripts. In Death Takes a Holiday he proves his mettle by handling the complex subject matter with the delicate, elegant touch that became his trademark.

He appears in the dashing form of Frederic March

Frederic March plays Death, the nemesis of all mankind. As such, he is lonely and wonders why men fear him. He decides to take human form for three days and find out for himself what this living stuff is all about. He becomes a guest of an aristocratic party of friends, disguising himself as a prince. But with only three days in the flesh will he accomplish his quest…Will he discover for himself what makes men cling to life and what makes life worth living?

Frederic March is excellent as the personification and character of Death. While at times his performance does lean toward the theatrical side, it didn’t take me out of the film. I thought it added to the larger than life nature of his character. However, he also imbues the role with gentle sensitivity. Particularly towards the end of the film his delivery of the lines are poignantly and beautifully spoken. March did not have an easy task playing a dual role – one in which he must keep his identity hidden while (not so subtly) probing into life matters.

For example, when meeting a man who is inclined to racing his car he utters with irony, “Why haven’t we met before?”

March’s Prince Sirki is both wise and searching, witty and awkward, ominous and romantic. A truly multi-layered performance.

He sets his cap for the Blue Fairy

Evelyn Venable plays Grazia, the introspective young woman who catches Prince Sirki’s eye. Venable’s most famous role was that of the voice and model for the Blue Fairy in Disney’s Pinnochio (1940). Here she embodies that same character – sweet, innocent, good natured, albeit conflicted and unsatisfied with her present circumstances.

He shows off his ghostliness from time to time

This atmospheric, moody tale has visuals to match its otherworldly nature. Charles Lang Jr.’s cinematography is absolutely beautiful with deep shadows and a soft, dream like quality. The special effects were carefully done in camera and are quite impressive. There’s no doubt as to why Lang went on to film The Uninvited (1944) and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) the following decade.

He causes quite a stir among the other guests

The supporting cast includes some familiar faces, Henry Travers, Helen Westley, Gail Patrick, Sir Guy Standing, Catherine Alexander, Kent Taylor, and G. P. Huntley, Jr. While Standing has the most to do, I enjoyed Travers’s performance the most. As the kind advisor to Prince Sirki (I’m seeing a pattern…) he captured my heart.

He imparts food for thought

According to Charles Tranberg, author of Frederic March – A Consummate Actor, Death Takes a Holiday was a huge success both commercially and critically and was Paramount’s second-highest grossing film for 1934. I find that surprising for a film which is highly philosophical in nature, but for a world recovering from World War I it must have struck a deep chord. After the film’s release, the studio received thousands of letters from fans declaring their view of death had changed because of this film.

Death Takes a Holiday will inspire discussion and contemplation on life and death – topics that are often uncomfortable to think about; but in Leisen’s film, romanticism overshadows morbidity, resulting in a shocking ending that leaves it up to the viewer to decide what to make of this haunting tale.

This post is my contribution to The Frederic March Blogathon hosted by The Pure Entertainment Preservation Society in honor of the great Frederic March who was born August 31st, 1897! Thank you for letting me participate! Click here to see all the entries celebrating Mr. March.

The Classic Film Fangirling Tag: Unleashing the Inner Fan

Hello, all! I sincerely hope you are keeping well and staying safe. The delightful Miriam @CineGratia and Lee @TotalleeLeeMac have created a super fun tag to get us all out of the slump that we find ourselves in these days and get our brains going! And what better way to do that than to talk about the movies we love. Thanks for putting this together, guys! It definitely got my brain on the right track again – a much needed tonic 🙂 You’ll want to check out their tag videos here and here.

Miriam and Lee have provided 10 questions to answer (which seem harder than they look at first glance!) that you can respond with via social media or a blog post using the hashtag #ClassicFilmFangirlingTag.

So without further ado, let’s begin…

1. If there is one film whose quotations you identify with the most, which one would it be?

If I can twist the word ‘identify’ a bit to mean ‘resonate’ then I would absolutely choose Gone With the Wind (1939). This movie has meant so much to me throughout the years and Scarlett’s famous line “After all, tomorrow is another day” is one of the reasons why. There’s hope in knowing that there is a tomorrow – that things don’t always stay the same, that the future offers new opportunities for personal growth, for fulfilling our dreams, and for the betterment of our world.

2. Name a minor character from a film whose backstory you would love to see explored in a spin-off film of their own.

I’m having a hard time coming up with a backstory I’d like to see but I can think of a sequel! The film noir Leave Her to Heaven (1945) boasts one of the most monstrous female characters in film, but hidden in her shadow is the quiet, meek adopted sister, Ruth (played by Jeanne Crain). At the film’s end it makes me think of what happens to Ruth and Richard after the credits roll. Could they find happiness after what happened? Do the shadows of the past creep into their marriage? I’d like to know…

3. If you could have been an extra in any film, which one would it have been?

For this answer I’m going with Top Hat (1935). I love musicals and where the music is – is where I want to be. Imagine standing on the side lines and seeing Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance together IN PERSON. Absolutely magical…after that experience I could die a happy girl!

Which scene would you have loved to have been part of?

I would love to have been a dancer in the big production number “The Piccolino.” There is some fun, outrageous, Berkeley-esque business going on with streamers and an extravagant big-white-set (Venetian style) that only RKO could produce!

4. If you could have attended any film premiere in history, which one would it have been?

Cat People (1942) was unlike anything audiences had seen up to that time. They were used to “creature features” such as Universal’s string of successful horror flicks, whereas in Cat People the monster was suggested and hardly seen. It would have been fun to be in the audience and get caught up in the story with them – to jump with them at the jump scares, and to scream with fright during the pool sequence.

5. If you could have signed up with a studio of the era which one would you have chosen and why?

This is an easy one for me to answer. I would have gone with MGM. The films they made, the stars and creatives they had under contract are among my personal favorites. I also love the prestige, glamour, and sophistication associated with the studio.

6. If you could take a prop/souvenir from one of your favorite classic films what would it be?

It’s all about the shoes! The Wizard of Oz (1939) contains some of the most iconic images in cinema, and the ruby slippers might just be at the very top of the list. Never failing to bring wonder and magic to audiences of all ages, the slippers are a symbol of adventure, magic, imagination, and a reminder that no matter where life takes us, our home is where our heart truly belongs.

I’ve been fascinated with these shoes forever. Not only are they sparkly, beautiful, and nostalgic, they are the ultimate symbol of Hollywood studio era moviemaking at its finest.

7. Which classic film character’s wardrobe would you most like to raid?

I’ve answered this question on an award post before which I’ll link right here, but there so many beautiful costumes in film that this question could be answered a million different ways! So, today I’m going with Gene Tierney as Lili Duran from On the Riviera (1951) with designs by Oleg Cassini. Not only does Lili have the perfect loungewear (and bedroom), she’s all set for the beach, and the ballroom as well.

8. Which restaurant, cafe, or other eatery featured in a classic film would you love to dine at?

I’ve always been intrigued by The Brown Derby ever since seeing the I Love Lucy episode “L.A. At Last.” The idea that the walls were covered with pictures of the movie stars who floated around in that eatery sounded so exciting! The Brown Derby is featured in some classic movies such as What Price Hollywood (1932).

When I went to Disney World a few years ago, I simply HAD to eat at the recreated restaurant at Hollywood Studios theme park. It was a lot of fun, but imagine my disappointment when no movie stars strolled in!

9. If you could have dinner or coffee (at that place) with a star, who would it be and why?

Again, I’ve answered this on that same award post, but I’m always up for meeting another film star! If I was going to The Brown Derby, I would be remiss if I didn’t choose to go with with William Holden 😉

10. If you could have attended an Oscar gala, which year would you pick?

1940! The energy and creativity that was in the air that night must have been inspiring to absorb, and how thrilling it would have been to see GWTW sweep the awards, to hear Vivien Leigh’s acceptance speech for her Best Actress Oscar, to see “Over the Rainbow” win for Best Original Song. A legendary and unforgettable night to be sure!

And that’s it…Stop by Miriam and Lee’s YouTube channels for some more classic film goodness – you’ll be glad you did!

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Book Review – I, Toto: The Autobiography of Terry, The Dog Who Was Toto by Willard Carroll

“We may never be fortunate enough to travel down a yellow brick road with a real Scarecrow or Tin Man or Cowardly Lion, but those lucky of us have had or do have our Totos. When we stroke and hold our own current four-legged friends, we think of all the dogs that came before. And we think of Toto.”

Willard Carroll

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love when a film adds an animal friend to the mix – whether it’s Gertrude the duck in Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), Asta from the The Thin Man series or Baby, the music loving leopard. Animals add an element of innocence, fun, or danger and can draw emotions from us in a way that a million words of dialogue cannot.

If you’ve been hanging around my blog for any amount of time you’ll realize that I admire The Wizard of Oz, so when I saw that this book was available I knew I needed to add it to my collection. Let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed.

In this charming book, you’ll discover the life of Terry, the little dog that nobody wanted, who became one of the movies’ most memorable pups and a beloved icon.

Before there was The Dog Whisperer, there was Carl Spitz – a German immigrant who changed the way we understand and train our dogs. When he started his Hollywood Dog Training School in 1927, dog training for the public was according to Spitz, “considered, in general, nonsense.” Spitz’s foundation for training was simple: firm, affectionate direction. As a military and police dog trainer, Spitz had devised a system of silent dog commands to be used by the deaf which he would later use for directing canines before the cameras.

Terry the Cairn Terrier was brought to Carl and his wife’s home for training (housebreaking), but after she completed her training Terry’s owners never paid their bill. The Spitz’s adopted little Terry as their own. She became a loved member of the family and eventually, a bonafide star – rechristened as ‘Toto.’

what did i enjoy?

The format – Throughout the telling of this heartwarming story are many visuals, presented in a scrapbook style highlighting Toto’s career. Production photos, photos of her life at home, press clippings, and memorabilia are heavily scattered throughout its pages.

Worth the price of admission alone are the inside covers inscribed to Toto by her many co-stars. My favorites have to be Judy Garland’s – “Dear Toto, I think I’ll miss you most of all (don’t tell Ray!)” and Jack Haley’s – “You warm this Tin Man’s heart!”

The star stories – In addition to Oz, Toto was cast in Fury (1936) with Spencer Tracy and Bright Eyes (1934) with Shirley Temple, to name a few. The account of Toto’s first meeting with Clark Gable is particularly memorable.

In addition to discussing Toto’s career and life story, the book also talks about the other dogs in Carl Spitz’s kennel and the movies they were featured in. For instance, Buck, who starred with Gable in Call of the Wild (1935), was the first star to emerge under Spitz’s Hollywood Dog Training School. Another notable is Prince from Wuthering Heights (1939).

Carl Spitz with his prized pets before embarking on their tour (1942). The dogs were valued at $20,000 each!

The perspective – 99% of the time when reading about Old Hollywood I’m reading about humans. It’s interesting to change it up and see how a dog gets ready for a day of shooting, the problems they encountered while filming, or how the trainer prepares them for a screen test.

what would i change?

Nothing! I only wish it were longer.

who is this book for?

Any fan of The Wizard of Oz, classic movies, “rags to riches” stories, or dogs in general would enjoy this book.

Since this book is written from a dog’s perspective and Terry is telling you her story, I think this book would be great for kids who are showing an interest in classic movies, Oz fans in particular.

Virginia Weidler, Toto, and Gene Reynolds in a publicity photo for Bad Little Angel (1939)

want to know more?

In the introduction the author says how he was driven to write the book because at the time Toto did not even have an Imdb page! As of this writing, this book appears to be the only book dedicated solely to her. It was published in 2001.

I have found some information on Toto in The Making of The Wizard of Oz by Aljean Harmetz as well as The Wizardry of Oz: The Artistry and Magic of the 1939 M-G-M Classic by Jay Scarfone and William Stillman (I own the 2004 expanded edition).

You can purchase today’s book here!

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Love & War: Marriage in Gone With the Wind (1939)

Image: amc.com

Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell’s epic of the Old South, is one of the best selling books of all time. When made into a film in 1939, it became an international phenomenon that has intrigued the public like no other. To this day, Gone With the Wind is still the most succesful movie ever made.

Ripe with complex characters, wonderful performances, and non-stop action, the film thrills in every way possible. In the midst of this sprawling epic are three couples with varying dynamics in their marital relationships. I would like to focus on these in particular: Gerald and Ellen O’Hara, Scarlett’s parents; Ashley and Melanie Wilkes; and of course, Rhett and Scarlett.

Gerald & Ellen O’Hara

Image: Pinterest

Gerald (Thomas Mitchell) and Ellen O’Hara (Barbara O’Neill) are the owners of the Tara plantation. Their pride and joy is wrapped up in every fiber of the land.

Image: gonewiththewindfandom.com

Ellen devotes herself to being the mistress of Tara and is a very capable one. A responsive mother to the emotional needs of her daughters, and a midwife to the women in town, she is highly respected in their community.

The relationship between Gerald and Ellen is platonic and respectful. Coming from the book, theirs was an arranged marriage and while Gerald was wild about Ellen, she did not feel the same about him. Ellen was in love with another man whom she could not marry due to her family’s disapproval. Gerald was always of the opinion that his wife was as happy as he was in their marriage, and I’m sure it would have broken his heart if he knew the truth.

When Ellen passes on, Gerald cannot function without her and sadly, loses his mind. His strength seemed to come from Ellen even before she passed, but it was most definitely buried with her when she died.

Ashley & Melanie Wilkes

Image: lanternhollow.wordpress.com

Our next couple, Ashley (Leslie Howard) and Melanie Wilkes (Olivia de Havilland), are second cousins. In the film Ashley says, “She [Melanie] is part of my blood and we understand each other.” That pretty much summarizes their relationship – it is built upon understanding and familiarity. In the book, Ashley and Melanie share the same interests: reading, culture, and the arts. While this is not spoken of in the film, it is clear that they are cut from the same cloth. They both are peace loving people with not an aggressive bone in their bodies.

Image: directexpose.com

Although Ashley strings Scarlett along with hopes of romance, his heart belongs to Melanie. While he is drawn to Scarlett’s fire and passionate nature, he knows that a relationship between them would not be a successful one. Melanie is much better suited to him. She understands his nature and idolizes him, while he leans on and admires her quiet, gentle strength.

When Melanie passes, Ashley takes on a similar behavior that Gerald exhibited at Ellen’s passing. He then confesses to Scarlett that he cannot live without Melanie. “She’s the only dream I’ve had that didn’t die in the face of reality.” Like Gerald, Ashley’s strength comes from his wife, and it is at that moment Scarlett realizes how her affections have been misplaced for so long.

Rhett & Scarlett

Image: abcnews.go.com

It is love at first sight when Rhett (Clark Gable) first lays eyes on Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh). He’s drawn to her beauty, her strength, and to the fact that she is just like him. Rhett admits to Scarlett that they are alike and meant to be together.”Bad lots – both of us. We are able to look things in the eye and call them by their real names.”

Scarlett has a disrespect for Rhett in the sense that he is not a genteel Southern gentleman whom she was raised to admire. He is a self made man who takes advantage of the war by making his own fortune off of it. He has no nostalgia for the Old South nor respects its ways. Rhett is a man of action, ready for whatever life throws at him. He is not the type of man Scarlett has been dreaming of marrying since she was a little girl. That place belongs to someone like Ashley.

Rhett proves himself a capable and trustworthy man despite his scandalous reputation. Although Scarlett doesn’t admit to loving him until the end of the movie, she does come to lean on him in times of need. That’s not something she could say for many of the other men in her life.

Image: Pinterest

You could say Scarlett uses marriage as a tool – sometimes as a weapon, other times as a shield. When she marries her first husband, it is out of spite to hurt Ashley. Not only that, she strategically marries into Ashley’s family, forever being tied to him. When she marries her second husband, it is to save Tara from being taken away from her. When she marries Rhett, it is for the security of never being poor. Unlike most women, Scarlett does not marry for love.

Rhett and Scarlett’s marriage is volatile, tempestuous, and passionate. The times we see them happy together are few, and the tension between them mounts as the film goes on.

Rhett seethes with jealousy as he observes Scarlett in her constant pursuit of Ashley and is deeply hurt by Scarlett’s rejection of him, while Scarlett believes that Rhett is in love with Belle, not with her at all.

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Their marriage is characterized by misunderstanding fostered by miscommunication. Neither of them can admit their true feelings to each other. The few times one of them comes close to having a transparent conversation, the other throws a jab and then they’re back to square one – arguing and bickering without coming to a resolution.

Rhett and Scarlett were both strong willed individuals and meant for each other, but Scarlett failed to see the cold, hard facts until it was too late.

Rhett and Scarlett rank right up there with literature and lore’s most famous lovers: Antony and Cleopatra; and Lancelot and Guinevere. However, unlike the aforementioned couples, Rhett and Scarlett did make it to the marriage altar – for better or worse.

This post is my contribution to The Wedding Bells Blogathon hosted by Annette of Hometowns to Hollywood. Click here to read the rest of the blissful entries.

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