Theatre cancels ‘Gone With the Wind’ over racial ‘insensitivity’

Decision by cinema in Memphis to halt annual screening prompts heated discussion

Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable in the 1939 movie ‘Gone with the Wind’

Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable in the 1939 movie ‘Gone with the Wind’

 

A Memphis movie theatre’s announcement that it will discontinue its annual screening of Gone With the Wind over concerns that the film is insensitive has prompted a heated discussion online.

The Orpheum theatre has shown that 1939 film each of the past 34 years, as part of its classics series.

It won 10 Oscars, including one for Hattie McDaniel as best supporting actress for her portrayal of a slave named Mammy. (She became the first black actor to win an Academy Award.)

After the film’s screening on August 11th, the same evening as a march in Charlottesville, Virginia, by white nationalists ahead of the “Unite the Right” rally on August 12th, the theatre received complaints online from patrons and commenters, who denounced the film’s portrayal of blacks and its romanticised view of the “old south”.

As a result, the theatre said it would not screen the film next year. “The recent screening of Gone With the Wind at the Orpheum on Friday, Aug 11, 2017, generated numerous comments,” Brett Batterson, president of the Orpheum Theater Group, said in a statement.

“The Orpheum carefully reviewed all of them. As an organisation whose stated mission is to ‘entertain, educate and enlighten the communities it serves,’ the Orpheum cannot show a film that is insensitive to a large segment of its local population.”

In a recent interview with the Commercial Appeal, a Memphis newspaper, Batterson said that there had been concerns about the movie before this summer’s screening.

“This is something that’s been questioned every year, but the social media storm this year really brought it home,” he said.

A backlash to the cancellation has since grown online. “Shame on you for cancelling ‘GWTW.’ You just insulted every single actor and crew member on this film. You insulted SAG and every institution that has fought for this film to be exhibited since its release in 1939,” one commenter wrote on Facebook.

New York Times