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Gone With the Wind

Mark Juddery examines the impact and appeal of the film that has sold more tickets at the US box office than any other.

1939 US poster for Gone with the WindEven compared with other military conflicts, the American Civil War of 1861-65 tends to inspire particular obsession. The conflict, which divided a nation and led to 600,000 deaths, holds a special place in US folklore. The Civil War nostalgia becomes stronger as you go south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the symbolic border between the northern states and the former Confederate states of the south. Visit any souvenir store in Virginia or Georgia, and you can buy a Confederate flag, toy soldiers in Confederate army uniform, or T-shirts depicting generals Robert E. Lee and ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, remembered as loyal heroes and southern gentlemen. The South flaunts its Civil War heritage with patriotic fervour, which seems peculiar as it was the losing side of the conflict, and moreover, its soldiers were fighting for the right to own slaves – a practice that, today, most southerners would consider morally repugnant.

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