Magnificent Scarlett O’Hara

I met Scarlett O’Hara when I was eleven, or twelve. My Dad and I sat together through the 4-hour movie (and the 30 minute intermission.) Life was never quite the same after that. Merci, papa. I fell in love with her, Atlanta and the American South, where I later spent a year as an international student, thanks to a full scholarship awarded by the Georgia Rotary Club. Once I was in college, she inspired several papers I wrote about the Civil War, antebellum plantations, and steel magnolias. Today, her picture is the first one you see when you step into my home office.  
Scarlett O’Hara. Gone with the Wind. Classic. Timeless. A myth.
Oh, I know. Scarlett O’Hara was a spoiled brat. Vain, selfish, insecure. Look at her here, surrounded by all the county’s eligible bachelors. A little flirt, and so shallow!

16-year old Scarlett and her beaux at Twelve Oaks plantation

Can we blame her? After all, what else was expected of young girls in the antebellum South? Scarlett, like the others, had to know her place, look pretty, and stay sweet until she found a suitable husband and started raising a family. But Katie Scarlett O’Hara is not your average Southern debutante. She is the daughter of well-bred French American Ellen Robillard and feisty Irishman Gerald O’Hara. An irresistible combination. Is it the twinkle in her eye? The way she tips up her chin defiantly? The raised eyebrow I tried so hard to duplicate after watching the movie? As soon as we lay eyes on Scarlett, we know she is no wallflower material.

Coco Chanel once said, “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” Something tells me Mademoiselle would have approved of Scarlett. Coco Chanel also had an eye for style. And Scarlett certainly has style. In the movie adaptation of Gone with the Wind, she dazzles in colorful outfits. When in society, she makes a mark by dressing the part.

Scarlett in green…
Scarlett in the burgundy ball gown…
Scarlett in blue…

When circumstances dictate, Scarlett makes do with the resources at hand.

Scarlett’s fashion comeback in the green curtain dress made by her slave, Mammy

But Scarlett O’Hara is so much more than a beauty with a glamorous wardrobe. I was only 12 when we met, and I remember being fascinated with her energy, spirit and determination. What Scarlett wants, Scarlett gets. What stands in her way, she dismisses with an impatient, “Fiddle-dee-dee!” She does not stop there. Great balls of fire, don’t bother me anymore, and don’t call me sugar!” Yes, Scarlett has attitude. She can be scathing and cruel. But some in her entourage do not let her get away with it.

Faithful Mammy keeps an eye on Scarlett
Scarlett: “Sir, you are no gentleman!”
Rhett: “And you, miss, are no lady!”

Scarlett is far from perfect. Even as a young teenager, I could tell my heroine had questionable interpersonal skills, and not an ounce of self-awareness. Doesn’t she spend the whole story chasing her cousin Melanie’s husband, the chivalrous Ashley Wilkes, ignoring all along that her true love is Rhett Butler? That part infuriated me. What did she see in soft-spoken Ashley? 

A young Scarlett, her cousin Melanie and Ashley Wilkes

And yet, sweet Melanie Wilkes, her cousin, doggedly stands by her side, until her untimely death. “Why?,” one may wonder. What sensitive and forgiving Melanie sees is the shining side of Scarlett. Melanie ignores Scarlett’s tantrums and tempestuous outbursts, focusing instead on her actions during the war years, her intelligence and determination, her courage. Scarlett survives the war, and in what becomes a pattern in her life, overcomes today’s trauma, so she can reach tomorrow. While all the men are at war, Scarlett takes on the burden of her family, servants, and the Wilkes family, while running Tara, the family plantation. In short, Scarlett is indomitable. Through Melanie’s understanding and loving eyes, we come to admire Scarlett’s strength. 

The plantation mistress works in the cotton fields

The magnificent scene at the end of Part 1 still gives me the goose bumps. A different Scarlett emerges out of the harrowing war years. Hunger and poverty have damaged her. She is harder, and determined to survive. She will re-invent herself into a ruthless and materialistic opportunist. 

“I’ll never be hungry again!”

As God is my witness, as God is my witness. 
They are not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this 
and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. 
If I have to lie, steal, cheat and kill; as God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!”

And as we watch her grow into a powerful businesswoman and a leader, and follow her disastrous and often misguided personal life, we wish – the young teenager I was then, so many years ago, wished – that we could shake her up, tell her to open her pretty green eyes and really look at the people around her. Come on, Katie Scarlett, look at Melanie. Listen to her. A girl needs girlfriends. True friends. Not all women are enemies you need to compete with. And Rhett. What a guy, Scarlett. Don’t let Rhett run away from you. Forget Ashley. He is so “Old South!” Rhett is the future. He understands you. He will be by your side, no matter what happens.


There is no reasoning with Scarlett. Watching her towards the end of the movie is like seeing a runaway train headed for a precipice. It is mesmerizing and terrifying all at once. Then the ending comes. Rhett finally gives up on her, and leaves their beautiful house, with what remains one of the most famous lines in American cinema: Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Melanie, her only friend, is gone. Scarlett finally knows who her true love is, and she has lost him. Or has she? With tears in her eyes, she momentarily collapses on the stairs, sobbing, and then she remembers where she belongs, where she came from, Tara, the family plantation where she grew up.

Tara. Home. I’ll go home! And I’ll think of some way to get him back. 
After all… Tomorrow is another day!” 

Magnificent Vivien Leigh

It works. We believe her. Katie Scarlett O’Hara will do it, once again. She will go home, to Tara. She will heal, and regroup. She will bring Rhett back. Or not. But even if she doesn’t, we know she will be all right. 

Scarlett is home again

A bientôt.
Do not miss:
“As God is my witness” scene

One of the most beautiful movie endings… ever!


Dear readers:

If you enjoy exploring France and French culture like a native, consider signing up for la Mailing List to receive exclusive travel stories first via email, or join me daily on Facebook and Instagram.

What did you think about this article? Let me know in the comment section below, (I love reading your messages and reply to most.) Don’t be selfish and share with a friend! Merci. Véronique (French Girl in Seattle)


  • At least I find someone who also loves Scarlett!”the girl you’ll love to hate”! No, that girl is a diamond! What were women supposed to do in those times : to get married, have children, getting old in a devoted life. She won’t! She wants to remain young, beautiful , rich and free.She has dreams ! She does not want to become a mother, which is her first sin versus society.. When she does, she’ not a good mother, knows it , but doesn’t care!As well as she does not care of what other women think about her.She knows what she wants, and is ready to everything to get it and to keep it!The opposite of the 1860ies average woman!
    And Melanie?! “she’s the only dream I had that did not die in the face of reality”Ashley says. Maybe that’s what we could say about Scarlett…
    I could spend hours talking about Scarlett, but ,well.. tomorrow is an other day! :o))

    • A diamond in the rough, I agree, Malyss. Scarlett’s greatest strength, on top of her incredible determination, is her total disregard for what people think about her. There is so much power in that! And yet so few people are capable are doing it.

      You wrote a beautiful tribute to our Scarlett, thank you: “The only dream I had that did not die in the face of reality.” 🙂

      Oh, and you and I will get to chat some more about our favorite Southern Belle, in a few months, in Nice… That’s a promise.

  • Oh! Il y a longtemps que je n’étais pas venue te visiter !! Comment ai-je pu laisser faire ça !!…
    Aujourd’hui je suis heureuse de te lire et d’admirer ton idole… J’avais beaucoup aimé également ce merveilleux film. Je crois que nous étions plus sensible à notre époque que ne le sont mes enfants. Les romans à l’eau de rose berçaient nos rêves…
    Un grand merci pour ce délicieux moment, maintenant je vais débuter ma journée agréablement…
    Gros bisous à toi.

  • i was not much older than you when i read Gone with the Wind. i remember finishing it and then starting it again. and then i rented the movie. i was hooked. it’s been a while since i’ve watched it..maybe it’s time. maybe this weekend with my 15 year old daughter. love this post!! 🙂

    • Bonjour Pam. I had to go and dig out my anniversary edition of the movie, and I think I will read the book once again this summer. It has been way too long… and there is so much to learn from Scarlett o’Hara, even today.

    • You’re welcome, Claire-Louise. Yes, Vivien Leigh was beautiful, probably one of the most gorgeous women to ever grace the silver screen. It is interesting because if you recall, in the original novel Scarlett is not described as classically beautiful. Yet Margaret Mitchell makes the point that there was something about her, a charisma that drew everyone’s attention.

  • What a lovely, nostalgic post! You so often take me back in time. I think you have convinced me to watch Gone with the Wind again and you are absolutely right – there’s more to this lady than glamorous dresses (and she even makes a green curtain look stylish!) She’s such a feisty character and it’s definitely one of the most memorable movie endings ever.
    PS In my blog post last week I mentioned a book which I’m sure you would enjoy as it’s about the origin of English phrases – informative and entertaining too.

    • Ha. You are right, Carol. Scarlett was the daughter of Ellen Robillard, a French-American genteel woman from the city of Charleston… I always thought Scarlett and I would have gotten along beautifully… well… if she had finally accepted to trust another woman, that is…

  • Oh I’m so glad you loved the movie as much as I did. I saw it many times and had the LP record of the soundtrack that I almost wore out.

    Did I ever tell you that I heard Olivia de Havilland read the scripture at the American Cathedral in Paris a few years ago? Still fabulous and still had that wonderful deep voice!

    Wonderful post my dear,

    • That soundtrack is a classic in its own right. I would recognize the GWTW theme anywhere. Like I said in the post, I still get goosebumps when watching some of the scenes.

      I know Olivia de Havilland has lived in Paris for a long time, or at least lived there for many years. She always was a classy lady, “à la” Melanie Wilkes. How old can she be now? In her mid-90s at least…

      Thank you for stopping by.

  • Loved reading this post! As a Southern Belle raised in Atlanta, Gone with the Wind is required reading from birth. I have loved Scarlett since I was very young. I loved her so much that when my husband and I were planning our wedding he had no choice but to accept that we were to be married in front of the Plantation house that was Margaret Mitchell’s inspiration for Tara and the young woman who use to live there, Scarlett. I passed that house every Sunday on our way to church and knew from the time I was 16 I would be married in front of it. Explaining to our minister why I was getting married there instead of the church though took all my Scarlett moxie, but I did it. In the end, it was so fun watching all my husband’s family from Canada (he’s from Canada) fall in love with the surroundings because they too loved the movie. I think that was the first time I realized just how far reaching Mitchell’s story had touched people. And don’t get me started on my love for Margaret Mitchell, talk about a Southern belle rebel!!! Love, love, love her!

    • All rebellious women are to be loved, admired, and respected, especially if they lived at the time of Scarlett or Margaret Mitchell.

      What a wonderful story, Jeri. Thank you for sharing it here. I am glad you stood your ground while planning your wedding. Scarlett would have been proud 🙂

      I lived in Atlanta for over a year and returned often. Somehow, I never made it to the plantation house that inspired Tara. Now I have another reason to go back!

  • Wow this post gave me goosebumps! Such a beautiful, strong tribute to one of cinema’s first Mean Girls! What I love about Scarlett the most is written so eloquently here. She really did represent a very realistic portrayal of a woman. We’re not all sweet. We don’t all get along with other girls. We’re competitive and bitchy and cruel sometimes, just because it’s our way of dealing with our inner demons, no matter what they be. Especially when we’re young.

    This movie has it all: melodrama, glamour, beauty, fashion, witty quotes. Hollywood will never be able to top it.

    Love this post!

  • She was a favorite of mine growing up. Then in my 20s, i sort of secretly liked her though i’d begun to think of her as empty headed and spoiled. (Because that’s what i was supposed to think.) 🙂 But what sixteen year old girl isn’t a little.. (or more than a little,) self absorbed and.. fashion conscious? She grew up through harder times than most of us had to deal with. She wore a dress made out of drapes, for goodness’ sake! lol. And though she’s a fictional character, i’m sure there were plenty of young women like her at that time, so she’s very realistic. I’m also sure she ended up with Rhett in the end. After all, as she says ‘tomorrow IS another day!’

    • All I need to know about that girl is that she survived four years of a brutal war with hardly any man around; running a gigantic estate, and taking care of a bunch of people some of whom weren’t even grateful to her. I suppose she would have been expected to do it all with a smile and always keeping her cool? Scarlett rules in my book. Always has, always will.

    • This movie was on TCM a couple of weeks ago, and i meant to watch, but forgot it was on. I saw it for the first time with my best friend and our mothers when i was 11. I couldn’t stop thinking about Scarlett. And i adored Mammy’s character. I’m glad you posted this. I’ve been thinking about the book and the movie off and on all day in a way i haven’t thought about it in years. Then when i was in college, i remember mentioning this movie to a friend, and said how much i like it. And this friend responded that the only reason that world existed.. the world of plantations, beautiful clothes and parties, was because of slavery. And we (as Americans,) should be ashamed of it. I’d never thought of it that way. Slavery was horrible, i know that. Now i’ve come full circle. The movie and book are both beautiful. The characters are realistic for their time. Margaret Mitchell knew exactly what she was talking about. And Scarlett may have begun as a girl as spoiled and self absorbed, but when the movie ended, she was (for the most part, anyway,) a strong, able, intelligent heroine who learned how to love and be a genuinely good woman. I just wish she’d realized her love for Rhett a little sooner. 🙂 One of my favorite scenes is when she sees Ashley by Melanie’s deathbed and realizes that he really loved Melanie and not her, and she goes after Rhett. If only… Phew, after all this talk about it, i want to watch the movie again. Maybe tomorrow night. With popcorn. It’s around here somewhere. I just have to find the DVD. (And i apologize for writing a book here.)….

    • Loved to hear your thoughts about the book and movie, Mary. Your college friend’s comment reminded me that GWTW has long been considered racist and sexist. I can see why I guess. I spent a great deal of time studying the Civil War period as an American Studies major in college, and I am fascinated with the way the “Old South” and “the New South” are pictured in the book (Scarlett and Rhett representing the New South, probably.) There is a lot to learn from that great story. In fact, just like you, I will have to watch my favorite movie again very soon 🙂 Bon weekend to you!

  • Love this, Veronique!

    When asked about her all time favorite books, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, as a lifelong bibliophile, wonderful writer herself, and a Doubleday editor for 20 years listed three: Gone With the Wind, Out of Africa, and Wide Sargasso Sea.

    When I lived in Montecito…my daily 6 mile loop through the hills delivered me to San Ysidro Ranch at the mid-way point. I loved to be there for the gorgeous gardens, Old Hollywood Ghosts, and love stories rooted there. JFK and Jackie spent part of their wedding trip and Vivien Leigh and Lawrence Olivier married there.

    Here she is accepting her Oscar for GWTW. So gracious.

    Thank you for that inspiring piece.

    • Bonjour Suzanne. Jackie Kennedy had excellent taste, but we knew that already. She, too, could have told a story or two about courage, determination and resiliency in the face of adversity…

      Thank you for the wonderful stories of the CA coast, and the video! Love it!

  • One of my favorite hairdresser, Ruby Felker, worked on “Gone with the wind”. Ben Nye senior, Paul Stanhope and Monty Westmore were make-up artists/hairdressers I have worked with along the years. All are dead of course, Monty in 2007. The movie was shot in Culver City, California. It was before unions and the movie’s working hours were so horrendous that cast and crew decided that it would be nice to have a union representing them. I had heard stories (not very glamorous ones). If people only knew.
    I have personally fell in love with Charlie Chaplin. DVDs of his work will be coming out pretty soon. What a talented gentleman. I love all his work but “Limelight” touched me deeply.

  • I recall reading that an interviewer asked Olivia de Havilland how she felt about playing second fiddle to Vivien Leigh in that film. She smiled, and answered “Women wanted to be Scarlett, but they named their daughters Melanie.” A class act!

    • A class act indeed, and I believe De Havilland was right.

      Melanie may not be as charismatic or as strong as Scarlett, but she is resilient in her own way, and what a faithful, dedicated friend she makes. Any woman would be lucky to call her “my best friend…” — Too bad Scarlett learned that lesson too late.

  • Dearest Véronique,
    That is a LOVELY post about THE SOULD OF THE SOUTH. A part of the world where you studied, where your Nouveau Monde Adventure started. Yes we love he antebellum part of this state, so charming in many ways. Thanks for posting and sharing this!
    Hugs to you,

    • Thank you for the kind comment, Mariette. You are right, even though my first trip to the US took place in Greensboro, NC where I celebrated high school graduation at my penpal’s house for a month, I did return for a whole college year in Atlanta a few years later… I may live on the West Coast, but the East Coast is where my [American] beat will always beat. I have too many fond memories there, up North with my Yankee friends, or down South with my American family and college friends… A bientôt.

  • Hi Veronique. I enjoyed reading your take on this movie. It’s surely is a classic. I need to re-visit this movie soon. I love that last quote too “Frankly my dear,…” I was tired for him. LOL

    • Yes, Rhett must have been exhausted after living with Scarlett for that many years… Yet, he pursued her relentlessly. Some men think they want a strong woman, but in the end, can’t handle them… Poor Scarlett. If even Rhett can’t handle her, who will? Unfortunately, Margaret Mitchell chose not to answer the question… Dommage.

  • Merci Veronique for re-telling the story of Scarlett. Gone With The Wind is one of the great movies. It’s nice to see the transformation of Scarlett from spoiled to s strong woman who can overcome her challenges. Very inspiring story. Have a good weekend.

    • I am getting my hands on the book again this weekend. I read GWTW in French several times; then later in English in Atlanta, while I was in college. Time to enjoy that beautiful story again methinks… 🙂

  • A wonderful movie and your post reminds me of how many years it has been since I saw this movie. It is very interesting to hear about your history with and love for this movie, especially Scarlett O’Hara. Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend.

  • I’m late to the party on this terrific Post, ma chère Véro; however, not as fashionably late as Scarlett would have been. And my entrance is not nearly so glamorous.

    What a glorious, vainglorious, magnificent creature she was. I have always adored her, and the luminous Vivien Leigh will forever hold a special place in my heart because of that definitive portrayal.

    Although Hollywood auditioned every star in the firmament for the role, can you even imagine anyone else as Scarlett O’Hara?

    • No, my dear M-T, I can’t imagine anyone else as Scarlett. I found an old video clip on YouTube the other day. It showed part of the giant undertaking the casting of Scarlett o’Hara became. In the end, there were only three actresses left, Vivien Leigh (who was English and considered “the dark horse,”) Paulette Goddard and Joan Bennett. The other two were good enough, but as soon as Vivien Leigh appeared, there was no doubt who Scarlett was…

  • What a great write up about the movie and the ever so famous Scarlett & Rhett

    That movie captured lots of us even my Grandmother who was born 1907, she liked it we always cried watching it, she felt sorry for the spoiled brat because it was so hard to get food, my grandmother always quoted Scarlett’s Famous words, As God As My Witness I’ll never go hungry again

    My youngest daughter loves the movie

    • Your grandmother sounds like mine, when she was still alive 🙂 Following WWII, she was determined not to go hungry again. We used to tease her for stocking up a ton of food in a big piece of furniture she kept in the living room… We shouldn’t have. People probably never forget experiencing poverty and hunger. Thank you for stopping by!

  • Coucou Véronique,
    I have never read anything so beautifully written about “Gone with the Wind”. You have such a talent for writing… I am always amazed by your posts!
    Who wouldn’t fall for Scarlett (and Rhett!)? This was such a stunning movie, the kind of movie which coming generations will enjoy like we all did many years ago.
    Thanks for sharing with us your fabulous comments and these timeless scenes of the movie. Like you, I think one of the reasons why I now live in the US is to be found in this movie I saw when I was eight or ten and which has always remained vivid in my mind… De l’influence d’un film sur toute une vie…
    Anne Touraine (playing with Scarves)

    • Merci beaucoup Anne. How nice of you!

      What can I say: Scarlett (and Rhett) are such inspiring topics, don’t you think?

      I am betting this great movie has inspired many people around the world to get to know the US, and the South better… Well, at least it inspired both of us! 🙂

  • What an interesting read. I love the movie, but I love the book more. I have read it three times and your post is making want to start reading it again. I love the fact that you received a Rotary scholarship. My husband is a Rotarian and they are a wonderful organization.
    I know that you an your husband are sailors and I just came over to visit and tell you about our new purchase. We just bought a small, older, fixer-upper wooden sailboat and we are so excited about getting started on working it over and getting it ready to sail. I know that you follow Steve’s blog and he will be posting the re-do, step by step until it is ready to sail. She is our 4th sailboat, and after selling our Catalina 25 about 6 years ago, we have been heart broken. This is a smaller boat and with make a great day sailor, or weekend camper. We are so excited and I had to share our excitement with someone else that loves to sail. Have a great day, and smooth sailing.
    Again, thanks for inspiring me to read Gone With The Wind, again.
    Your blogging sister, Connie 🙂

  • Thank you so much for your visit today and as always your kind and thoughtful comment. I hope you will find the London Part 2 itinerary just as helpful!

  • I love this post! Gone With the Wind is my all-time favorite movie, too. I was 15 when I first met Scarlett and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen the movie since then! Ahh..I was so in love with Rhett! Like you, I never understood what she say in Ashley! lol Thanks for the great post.

  • I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve watched this movie Veronique, if I’m flicking around on Foxtel and it comes up, that’s where I stop.. The very beautiful Vivien Leigh was perfection in this role and as for Clark Gable oh la! I’m thinking this just may be the very original ‘chick flick’what do you think, I don’t know many men who would watch it as often as moi haha!

  • Yours is the best synopsis of my favorite movie. I harbor a lot of guilt for loving GWTW. But, it was the first BIG book I read (in 6th grade) and then afterwards somehow I got to see the movie. It must have been running around the theaters still in the late 60s. Thank you for analyzing Scarlett (I was named after her daughter, Bonnie Blue) and for such great memories.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.