Award Snub: A studio enforced one. Olivia de Havilland (Melanie) and Vivien Leigh (Scarlet) were both favorites to be nominated for Best Actress, but the studio didn't want to have its two leading ladies compete against each other, so they campaigned instead for de Havilland to be nominated for Best Supporting Actress, which naturally didn't please her. However, Hattie McDaniel won Best Supporting Actress instead, which Olivia gladly agreed she deserved.
Adaptation Displacement: The novel this film is based on, while still relatively popular, is far less remembered than the movie. Generally it's not discovered until adulthood.
Scarlett is one of the most enigmatic characters of cinema and literature. Some can't decide whether she's the Designated Hero or a Villain Protagonist. Notably while she's a selfish and manipulative Jerkass to a lot of people, she cares deeply for Rhett, Ashley and Melanie. Even jealous at Melanie ending up with Ashley, she still helps deliver Mellie's baby and drive her all the way from Atlanta to Tara. She's also the ultimate pragmatist - and most of her actions in Part 2 are done out of motivation to help Tara, rotten though some of them may be.
There's a story out there that Butterfly Mc Queen had one of these about her character: Prissy certainly knows "bout birthing babies," She simply could not give less of a fuck about Melanie, her baby, or the well being of any other slaveholder, and was getting revenge in the only way she could.
Covert Pervert for Ashley. For all his high morals, not only can he barely hold himself from giving in to Scarlett's advances, but there's also the question of Melanie's second pregnancy. Since pretty much everybody knew that having another child would kill her and since Melanie would have been highly unlikely to cheat... the implications are pretty unfortunate indeed. Likewise after Melanie's death, Scarlett finally realises that Ashley did love her. She outright says that had Ashley told her he loved Melanie more, she would have probably been able to move on. Ashley never once tells Scarlett, despite having plenty of opportunities to. Was he just too timid to break Scarlett's heart, despite the good it would have done them in the long run? Or did he enjoy the idea of the unattainable Scarlett throwing herself at him?
Actually, the book implies that Mellie enjoyed her marital relations, an interesting contrast to Scarlett, who saw it as a means to an end In the end, Scarlett seems to think that Melanie was the one with all the power, because she was loved by everyone. Note that although Melanie is The Ingenue, she's clearly not naive; she helps Scarlett cover up the dead deserter, and recognises that Scarlett ruined Suellen's marriage prospects for the good of Tara. And for the incident with Ashley and Scarlett being caught together, she is courteous to Scarlett at the party not out of naivety - but because she knows it'll put the gossipers to rest.
Ensemble Darkhorse: Mammy, due to being a Fair for Its Day portrayal. She's still intelligent and competent, despite being servile to white people. She was enough of one to bag Hattie McDaniel an Oscar, the first one ever awarded to an African American.
Ethnic Scrappy: Prissy on the other hand. She's lazy, incompetent, loud and The Load on the ride back to Tara. Scarlett's slap and constant berates of her is considered for many to be a satisfying Take That, Scrappy!.
Fair for Its Day: David O. Selznick recognized that Mitchell's flattering portrayal of slavery and race relations in the antebellum South were extremely questionable and deliberately tried toning them down for the film. He didn't entirely succeed, but there are some marked improvements over the source material:
Despite the painful caricature that is Prissy, Mammy is still a surprisingly decent representation of a black woman. She's still shown to be intelligent and competent, despite her status as a servant. What's more is that the film avoided using Blackface - which many others had done to feature black characters - and cast race-appropriate actors. Hattie McDaniel even won an Oscar for the role.
The film also refused to give the KKK the same treatment it had in the book. Rhett, Ashley and a few other sympathetic characters are in the Klan in the book - which they aren't in the film. It also omits the Klan pulling a Big Damn Heroes moment when Scarlett is attacked.
Faux Symbolism: Analysis of the book points out that the worsening war coincides with Melanie's worsening condition, Gerald's breakdown following Ellen's death represents those of the South who would never adjust to the changes that the war wrought. Most of all, as Scarlett and Rhett's child, Bonnie represents their marriage—as such, her death represents its end.
Fridge Horror: The end of the book doesn't mention Wade and Ella but in only a few hours they lose the only two people that really cared about them: Melanie and Rhett.
Until the book no longer could be marketed due to the declaration of war in 1941, Gone With the Wind was a big bestseller in Nazi Germany. A Bernhard Payr, a culture bureaucrat, praised that the book taught that losing a war was worse than the preceding horrors of war and how it established a clear racial hierarchy between the "master class" and the subservient "good blacks".
Rhett's personality change and complete breakdown following Bonnie's death can be doubly painful to watch if one recalls that Clark Gable himself was similarly devastated when his wife Carole Lombard was killed in a plane crash just a few years after the film's release. Between the funeral and Gable's next appearance in a film, he had lost 20 pounds. It was remarked by Esther Williams that Gable was never really the same after that.
Then there's Ashley Wilkes who was patriotic despite having his reservations about the war. It gets doubly sad when you remember that the actor who played him was killed when the plane he was flying in was shot down by the Luftwaffe over the Bay of Biscay during World War II.
Hollywood Homely: In the book, Melanie is described as very plain. Scarlett describes her thusly in the movie, but the effect is somewhat lost due to Melanie being played by Olivia de Havilland. It could be a reflection of Scarlett's own superficial views as well. Melanie notably wears very modest and plain dresses in contrast to Scarlett and the other ladies' elaborate finery. So Scarlett may see Melanie as plain for this reason and she could also be jealous because everyone loves kind-hearted Melanie.
Hollywood Pudgy: Scarlett laments the fact that her post-baby waist is 20 inches, declaring herself to be "as big as Aunt Pittypat". Aside from 20 inches being almost impossibly slim, Scarlett looks nothing like the plump Aunt Pitty.
It Was His Sled: The book was written in 1936. The movie came out in 1939. You should know how this story ends just by Pop-Cultural Osmosis. Not to mention Rhett's famous "Frankly, my dear" line to Scarlett at the end.
Les Yay: Melanie is very, very attached to Scarlett. Even her husband, who she takes the vow to honour and obey very seriously, will not get away with making Scarlett cry. She'll work until she faints if Scarlett orders her to pick cotton, will openly snap at those who she catches gossiping unkindly about Scarlett, and will brave social disapproval rather than cut ties with Scarlett. Part of all this is due to the fact that Scarlett helped save her and her son when she went in labour during the war, but even before all that, she was very admiring of Scarlett and genuinely happy to gain her as a sister-in-law.
From what we hear of Rhett, he manages to manipulate both sides of the Civil War to his own massive profit, speculating, blockading, and swindling his way into millions, without any significant personal consequences. Scarlett just happens to be his Achilles' heel.
Scarlett qualifies as well. She promises to do anything—lie, cheat, steal or kill—to protect her land and her family, and she bloody well makes good on that promise. Even while the things she does are terrible and she hurts many people including herself, you can't help but be impressed by her.
To a lesser extent, "As God as my witness, I'll never go hungry again!"
Mind Game Ship: Rhett/Scarlett comes across as this at times; Rhett is definitely manipulating her and toys with her emotions. Subverted in that she causes him significantly more angst than he does her, despite hardly manipulating him consciously at all.
Moral Event Horizon: Those who dislike Rhett might feel he crosses this when (a) he rapes Scarlett, (b) he ditches her the morning after then shows up days later to taunt her about being with another woman and disappear again, or definitely (c) when he responds to the news of her pregnancy by asking who the father is and suggesting that she'd be happy to miscarry.
Narm: In the second half the sheer number of tragedies that happen to Scarlett one after the other - Scandalous gossip about her and Ashley, marital rape courtesy of Rhett, Rhett leaving her before returning, she has a miscarriage falling down the stairs, Bonnie dies in a riding accident, Melanie suddenly falls ill and dies, and Rhett finally breaks it off with her - and them happening so close together is bound to induce laughter.
Narm Charm: The movie sometimes boils over with Narm thanks to the difference in acting styles between the thirties and the 21st century. Particularly all of Scarlett's over the top screams and when she whines: "Why do I have to pretend and pretend?"
Padding: The book seems to take the longest amount of time possible to get through anything.
Seinfeld Is Unfunny: Zig-zagged, much like The Wizard of Oz; what caused a lot of controversy in the day? The fact that Clark Gable said "Damn". At the time, this was unheard of. The set designs and acting can be seen as quite cheesy and dated by today's standards. On the other hand, the movie has aged very well and still held up to movies made thirty years later.
Suetiful All Along: Scarlett dodges this in the books. She's regularly mentioned in the novel as attractive but not beautiful, by multiple characters. References are made to the war ageing her as well, though she's only twenty-eight by its end. It's made clear that a lot of her appeal is very good fashion choices, expert flirting, and a lack of attainability.
Tough Act to Follow: For some, the first part is so dramatic and action-packed - featuring the growing concerns of the war, and climaxing with Scarlett and Melanie's ride out of burning Atlanta all the way back to Tara - that part two just can't live up to it.
The antebellum era and the Confederacy are portrayed in a tragic light, with some flaws made evident but others ignored. In the novel, the KKK is described as a meeting of half-baked fools who want to relive the war, and Rhett argues to them that they are only making their situation worse, while Rhett and Ashley manage to disband the Atlanta wing of the KKK pretty quickly. Ashley is repeatedly portrayed as out of touch for wanting to relive the beautiful parts of the old days, while pretending the bad parts didn't exist. Still it is deeply racist and gives a view of history now discredited: Scarlett's servants refer to blacks who would rather be free as "trash", and it's looked at as heroic when a black man is killed for so much as insulting a white person. Entire chapters are devoted to describing how free blacks are "tricked" into believing they're equal with whites and should be allowed to vote and sleep with white women. The post-war South is presented as a kind of lawless Badlands where white women are in danger of being raped in the street and the North would throw anyone who protested into jail. (Not entirely false, but it gives a distorted image of the overall situation.) There's horror at the very idea that a well-bred white Southerner should work and that a black person wouldn't want to.
Also Rhett's marital rape of Scarlett, which was seen at least as much less severe back then.
This passage from the book:
[Scarlett] didnít care for the eager competition furnished by the 16-year-old [girls seeking husbands], whose fresh cheeks and bright smiles made one forget their twice-turned frocks and patched shoes. Her own clothes were prettier and newer than most, ... but after all, she was 19, and getting along.note In the 1930s, the average marriage age for women was their early twenties (and Margaret Mitchell herself first married at twenty-one), so there might have been some Deliberate Values Dissonance intended here.
It'd be a stretch to call Scarlett a feminist, but she spends a great deal of time, especially in the second half of the film, challenging traditional female gender roles. When push comes to shove, Scarlett is the only character willing to do something, even if it's illegal, to ensure her family's survival and to hell with the fact that she's expected to be nothing but a pretty face. Also, the ending has Scarlett losing Rhett but realizing that Tara is more important. In essence, Scarlett's character arc ends with her realizing that landing a man isn't the most important thing in the world - instead, it's protecting your property, apparently.
Another interpretation is that Scarlett doesn't care for the emotions or opinions that other people of any gender feel, and her reaction to the weakness and/or injury of other women is disdainful at best. She only considers the repressive culture of her time as it relates to her, and has little interest in changing or undermining it... in fact, she actively utilizes said culture's stereotypes to swindle other businessmen and escape retribution for doing so. Scarlett is an oppressed woman, but she's also the ultimate pragmatist and would probably be that even if she grew up in a more egalitarian time.
Ironically, after Melanie's death in the book, Scarlett thinks to herself that Melanie was the one actually with the reins, being kind and gentle but managing to not fully break either. Scarlet even thinks to herself that she was empowered by Melanie's own strength without noticing it.
Perhaps not surprising. Despite her less than enlightened views about race, Margaret Mitchell was a first-wave feminist who campaigned for women's suffrage in her youth. Imagine What Could Have Been if she had seen the struggle for black rights the same way she saw the struggle for women's rights.
A smaller example but a good lesson nonetheless. When scandalous gossip is spread about Scarlett being caught with Ashley, Scarlett is forced to go to Melanie's party that night. Melanie immediately kills the gossip by being perfectly courteous to Scarlett and behaving as if nothing is wrong. The lesson here is that the best way to respond to gossip and stupidity is to ignore it.
What an Idiot: Bonnie's death could have been averted, had Rhett put his foot down and refused to give into Bonnie's wishes in regards to making a dangerous jump with her pony "Mr. Butler". The situation finishes ends with the pony tripping over the bars... and Bonnie falling, breaking her neck, and dying.
No one expected a little known English actress would get the role every actress in Hollywood was dying to play. A critic even predicted that there would be rioting in the streets to protest the casting of Vivian Leigh. The Daughters of the Confederacy group ironically supported the casting when it was announced, though it was wedged in veiled "Better a Brit than a Yankee" response to the news.
Margaret Mitchell reportedly wanted Groucho Marx to play Rhett, probably because Rhett in the novel is more of a snarky smartass than the film's suave Rhett was. Of course, she was probably being sarcastic.