A Memphis theater’s decision to cancel its traditional screenings of “Gone With the Wind” has angered fans of the classic movie.
The Civil War drama, starring Clark Gable as Rhett Butler and Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara, had been shown at the Orpheum Theatre for more than three decades as part of its classics series.
According to The New York Times, it was last shown on Aug. 11, the same night white nationalists marched in Charlottesville, Va., carrying tiki torches and chanting anti-Semitic and Nazi slogans.
After that night’s screening the theater reportedly received complaints online from patrons and others who denounced the way the movie portrays blacks and for its romanticized depiction of the slave-era South.
Hattie McDaniel, who played a slave named Mammy, became the first black actor to win an Academy Award for her performance in the film.
On the theater’s Facebook page, some people called the movie “racist” and likened it to a tribute “to white supremacy.”
“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 Theatre Group, said in a statement last week.
“The Orpheum carefully reviewed all of them. As an organization 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.”
“Gone with the Wind” was presented as a highlight of the theater’s popular movie series featuring Hollywood classics and new favorites for 34 years, according to the Commercial Appeal in Memphis.
Sometimes, it was shown more than once a year, with fanfare such as memorabilia displays. In 1999, actor Fred Crane, who played one of the Tarleton twins in the movie, made an appearance, according to the Commercial Appeal.
Batterson told the local newspaper the decision to stop showing it had been in the works before the events in Charlottesville and the increasingly heated debate over Confederate statues and monuments. He said the film’s popularity “has leveled off.”
“This is something that’s been questioned every year, but the social media storm this year really brought it home,” Batterson told the Commercial Appeal. “This is about the Orpheum wanting to be inclusive and welcoming to all of Memphis.”
But the movie’s fans have been vocal in opposing the theater’s decision, to the point of leaving comments about it on unrelated Facebook posts about the theater’s other upcoming productions.
Reactions are pouring in now that the theater’s decision has hit national headlines.
“Shame on you for canceling ‘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.” wrote one fan on the theater’s Facebook page.
Wrote another: “How can the views of a dozen misguided people put an end to the showing of this classic movie? Unbelieveable! I hope all the rest of your patrons boycott ALL of your movies and you can show your films to the few idiots who are ‘offended.’”
And another: “Isn’t it amazing that there are more people upset about it not being shown, yet a few yell ‘racism’ and it’s cancelled! Just read all the comments on this page. This was a great movie. If people can’t deal with the reality of what happened over 100 years ago, and it upsets them so much; well, I don’t even know what to say! This is ridiculous!”