Scarlett (1994): Dammit, I Liked It!

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You guys. I was all excited for the next iteration of Snark Week, and I thought, “Aha! I will watch Scarlett, the ill-fated sequel to Gone With the Wind written by a different author in the 1980s, critically panned, and then adapted into a critically panned miniseries in 1994!” I mean, it’ll be comedy gold, right? DAMMIT IF I DIDN’T ENJOY THE FRICKIN’ THING. Oh, there’s shmaltz. There are a few (very few) costume mis-steps. There are truckloads of brown makeup on Every Single Actress. There’s ridiculous, made-up drama. But you know what? I LOVED 95% of the costumes, and I eagerly looked forward to each of the four episodes. MY CREDIBILITY IS RUINED!!!

Let’s get this out of the way: Joanne Whalley is no Vivien Leigh. Timothy Dalton is no Clark Gable. But in terms of their acting, yeah, they kind of nail the parts (as written). Whalley gets Scarlett’s head tossing, and she’s good at bringing the maturity that the story calls for. Dalton’s chin cleft is mesmerizing (and not in a good way), but he really channels Rhett’s cheroot-chewing, devil-may-care, teasing rake. (Although too bad this series wasn’t made today, because imagine George Clooney as Rhett!)

Scarlett (1994)

Dalton as Rhett and Whalley as Scarlett. Nope, neither are as beautiful as the original movie’s actors, but they do a good job with the parts.

Ashley Wilkes is just as much of a drip as ever.

Scarlett (1994)

Stephen Collins as Ashley. Still drippy.

Ann-Margret as Belle Watling is HILARIOUSLY bad, but I’m entertained by bad acting.

Scarlett (1994)

ANN-FREAKING-MARGRET. For the titles, all of the lead actors get watercolor-ized, and it’s not good.

New characters include Anne Hampton (played by Annabeth Gish) as the new Melanie (quite good)…

Scarlett (1994)

Annabeth Gish (forever associated with Mystic Pizza to me) is successful at playing the kind and demure Anne.

…and Jean Smart (the blonde from Designing Women) as the ludicrous Sally, all tomboy brashness. Apparently Jean is allowed to run her buggy into another, literally smashing it to bits, and no-one cares that she doesn’t stop. No consequences! Oh isn’t she charming.

Scarlett (1994)

Jean Smart as Sally. She’s brash, she smokes, she hangs out with Rhett Butler — but somehow doesn’t get any of the social disapprobation that Scarlett does. Huh?

Sean Bean’s character is preposterously OTT, but then, this is channeling 1930s melodrama, so shouldn’t he be? And really, any excuse to hear Sean Bean talk — rowr. I’d forgotten how sexy his voice is.

Scarlett (1994)

Sean Bean. WELL HELLO THERE.

And let us not forget Colm Meaney, who is fine in his role, just — we’re going to Ireland, of course we are contractually obliged to cast Colm Meaney!

Scarlett (1994)

Colm Meaney IS Ireland!

The story IS preposterous, although 1) so is the original GWTW, and 2) it’s trying to channel the OTT-ness of 1930s melodrama, and 3) the book on which it’s based is in some ways worse (um, Scarlett moves to Ireland, decides she no longer cares about the mythical TARA, and gives up wearing corsets for good? I think not). I think the top shmaltzy moment is when Rhett is exercising a horse in the middle of the night (as one does), and then imagines Scarlett riding the horse in a diaphanous nightgown. I do believe I spit water I was laughing so hard.

Scarlett (1994)

“She’s a fine, frisky, filly of a lady!”

Racially, it’s nearly as tone-deaf as GWTW, although in a different way. All of the African American characters are beloved by the white people, adore the white people right back, and are happy to be swept to the sidelines. Shrill nitwit Prissy is replaced by Pansy (Rakie Ayola), but she’s utterly nondescript.

Scarlett (1994)

Pansy: not a nitwit … but completely background.

Big Sam is there, jolly as ever, and happily successful in business — there’s no racist culture of violence in the South of Scarlett, oh no!

Scarlett (1994)

Big Sam, played by Paul Winfield — the same actor who got the bug in the ear in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (shudder).

There’s even some revisionism — despite Margaret Mitchell removing the “N” word for the almost-as-bad “darkies” shortly before publication, there’s a scene in which an Irish character explains the word “paddy” to Scarlett as being akin to the “N” word, and she protests, “I would NEVEH use that word!” Sure you wouldn’t, Scarlett. Sure you wouldn’t. (Note: I’m not saying Scarlett ever did use that word in the books or movie. Just that Scarlett suddenly proclaiming that this word is verboten, when racism completely underlies the original book and movie, is ludicrous. Sorry, if you’re going to update a racist classic, you have to deal with your history.) And, Scarlett goes to visit family in Ireland and gets a bit political about the whole English situation, but doesn’t seem to see any parallels to the South.

Costumes in Scarlett

The costumes were designed by Marit Allen (Snow White: A Tale of TerrorRide With the DevilLove in the Time of Cholera) and cover 1873 to 1877.

The Good – There’s Lots of It!

Scarlett (1994)

Mourning for Melanie Wilkes. The veil, with the gold embroidery at the bottom, is a stunner.

Scarlett (1994)

I loves me a black dinner dress. Sadly the dress isn’t any clearer on screen.

Scarlett (1994)

Visiting Tara.

Scarlett (1994)

Look at all that detail on the collar. And GREAT hat.

Scarlett (1994)

One of the few times I’ve seen beaded fringe used well!

Scarlett (1994)

Love the stripes of the figured fabric placed vertically into the skirt.

Scarlett (1994)

MY PRECIOUS. I HAS TO HAVE IT. I have a SERIOUS thing for sheer black & white bustle dresses. LOVE the use of the embroidery and that plaid bow — divine!

Scarlett (1994)

I guess you can’t ever go wrong with black and white, but … LOVE the angle of the bodice hem as it scoops up over the hip.

Scarlett (1994)

There are a LOT of great, appropriately sized and trimmed parasols.

Scarlett (1994)

A slimmer skirt on this one.

Scarlett (1994)

And another great parasol.

Scarlett (1994)

Rhett’s mother on the left, dressed just slightly behind-the-times with her indoor cap and round waistline. There are also some trimming touches on her dresses that are more 1860s than 1870s.

Scarlett (1994)

Tomboyish Sally gets GREAT menswear-inspired numbers. I wish I could have gotten images of the bottom of the bodice’s tails — they come to a point at the bottom in front and back. SO much good detail here — the double collar, the edgings, the button placket…

Scarlett (1994)

Just a nice example of the very-typical-of-the-era two colors, same fabric, vertical piecing.

Scarlett (1994)

Another Sally number. Love the line of the trim and the use of contrast between the busy trim and plain fabric. Parasol!

Scarlett (1994)

Scarlett’s ballgown with lovely fabric flowers and black lace overskirt.

Scarlett (1994)

On display in the Cosprop “Fashion in Film” exhibit.

Scarlett (1994)

Anne’s strongest outfit — not that strong — is this velvet riding habit. LOVE the top hat!

Scarlett (1994)

I wish there was some of the pink on the skirt, but otherwise, it’s fab.

Scarlett (1994)

So many great details, like the watch pocket at her waist and the scallops at back in green.

Scarlett (1994)

Only briefly glimpsed stripey number.

Scarlett (1994)

Dark green solid with coordinating à disposition print. You see these all the time in the period, but it’s hard to reproduce because the fabric was custom-printed to be made into flounces. SO impressed!

Scarlett (1994)

Clearer image on the left but better representation of color on the right.

Scarlett (1994)

Another briefly glimpsed dress. Love how all the blue ties in with the print.

Scarlett (1994)

Red traveling outfit with black fur trim.

Scarlett (1994)

Blue self-striped dress with peacock accents on the collar.

Scarlett (1994)

Plaid riding habit. Love how they turned the plaid for the center front bodice placket.

Scarlett (1994)

More typical Anne-wear — nice but blah, color-wise (she’s milquetoast).

Scarlett (1994)

Being presented to the viceroy of Ireland. I think that’s a figured velvet for the bodice and overskirt/train.

Scarlett (1994)

FABULOUS tiara, although are you allowed to wear a tiara for a formal presentation if you’re not titled? Especially one that’s bigger than everyone else’s!

Scarlett (1994)

Red striped dinner dress. LOVE that long, princess-seam (i.e., no waist seam) look.

Scarlett (1994)

Another red traveling outfit, this one with darker red velvet. I LOVE how fitted it is over her rear, then turns into draped swags. Gorgeous.

Scarlett (1994)

A clearer picture — there’s embroidery that you can’t really see on screen. The hat is very Madeleine (i.e., the children’s story).

Scarlett (1994)

This dress is worn twice, but quickly. It’s a nicely fitted black floral (embroidered?) silk, with solid black for the skirt front and hem.

Scarlett (1994)

Mourning. LOVE the veil, very dramatic.

Scarlett (1994)

Lord Fenton all dapper n’ shit in his greatcoat. Yummmm.

Scarlett (1994)

Another quick gown. The rust-colored insets in the bodice hem are echoed on the skirt hem.

Scarlett (1994)

Dinner dress.

Scarlett (1994)

The same dress on exhibit. LOVE the princess-seam cut. Via Costumer’s Guide.

Scarlett (1994)

STRIPES with a great layout on the bodice back.

Scarlett (1994)

Stripey stripe stripe stripes!

Scarlett (1994)

S.T.R.I.P.E.S. Okay, suddenly not sure about the V over her … hip area, although I didn’t notice that on screen.

Scarlett (1994)

Sally — another dress with a great trim layout, and again love the princess-seam look.

Scarlett (1994)

I don’t think this is ever seen on screen, but hey, it’s the famous Scalamandre strawberry-patterned silk!

Okay So It Isn’t All Perfect

For one thing, the film jumps around a bit in terms of silhouette — Scarlett will be wearing a larger-skirted, hooped bustle silhouette (1869-72ish) in one scene, then a natural form silhouette (1877-1879ish) then next. But more importantly…

I mentioned brown makeup above. I didn’t mean brownface, I just mean that clearly the makeup designer(s) thought that using brown and orange tones for the applied-with-a-trowel makeup would read as “natural.” And it kind of works, until you see people in close-up, and shudder.

Scarlett (1994)

In bed? Time to contour those eyes!

Scarlett (1994)

Visiting your mother-in-law? Don’t forget your “raisin” lipstick!

Scarlett (1994)

Sparring with Rhett? Make sure your makeup matches your hair!

Scarlett (1994)

In a life or death situation? Don’t forget your spackle!

And it’s not just Scarlett:

Scarlett (1994)

Are you a tomboyish, independent woman? Make sure your orange blush accentuates your cheekbones!

Scarlett (1994)

Are you a hoity-toity British aristocrat? The queen demands orangey-brown face paint and OODLES of mascara!

Scarlett (1994)

Are you a hoity British aristocrat who is out for revenge in public? Make sure you use the whole pot!

While the hair was mostly great, there were some times when somebody got a little too enthusiastic with the Aquanet:

Scarlett (1994)

She looks like Barbara Bush.

There were a few semi-ugly dresses:

Scarlett (1994)

My least favorite. The print is accurate, but she looks like a Christmas tree skirt.

Scarlett (1994)

Also, she wears this to track down her O’Hara relatives in their shop. In the middle of the day. Inappropriate amounts of cleavage, much?

Scarlett (1994)

Happy hands at home.

Scarlett (1994)

That daisy trim! Ugh! (Although great parasol.)

Scarlett (1994)

I think this fabric is ugly, although they did some nice layout with the pattern.

And early on, Scarlett and Rhett attend a masquerade ball. Scarlett is dressed as Elsa from Frozen a Snow Queen, and while I know they did sometimes wear fancy dress costumes that didn’t follow fashionable lines, her sleek, medieval-style dress seemed a bit much. Meanwhile Rhett was dressed as the worst Renfaire pirate EVER (although Scarlett does tease him about how ridiculous he looks, which, yes).

Scarlett (1994)

Rhett’s feathers! His “doublet”! Straight outta Renfaire.

Scarlett (1994)

Rhett’s beard, in particular, is dorky. Scarlett’s in a sleek, princess-fitted dress without a hoop.

And while yes, while you need to costume prostitutes to look like prostitutes, Ann-Margret and her trusty sidekick are designed with a sledgehammer.

Scarlett (1994)

Ann-Margret clearly needs more spackle, more hair, more black lace, and more cleavage. Clearly.

Scarlett (1994)

Her dumb blonde sidekick can barely see through all that eye makeup.

Scarlett (1994)

Spackle-wise, they’re only wearing slightly more makeup than all the other ladies. The hair, though…

Scarlett (1994)
Scarlett (1994)

Rhett introduces Watling & Sidekick to his MOTHER at a horserace, and his mother can’t figure out what they do for a living. Rhett’s mother = not the sharpest tool in the shed.

 

So. Yeah. What objectively cheesy movies do you secretly love?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

11 Responses

  1. Susan Pola

    I hated the sequel and missed the miniseries with the intention of not seeing it. Wife beating British aristos and you’re right. If you don’t have a title, tiaras are verboten.

    Besides they got Ireland wrong…

    Reply
    • Edward Murphy

      Actually the rules of tiaras are that they’re a married woman thing, as opposed to a titled thing. It’s perfectly acceptable for an untitled woman to wear a tiara, especially to be presented at court, as it’s part of the traditional, ultra-formal ball gown kind of uniform worn on those occasions. A tiara was de rigueur for a ball, like white tie and tails, married lady wouldn’t dream of going to court (even just a viceregal court) without a tiara, it would be like going commando at a wedding, you’d feel undressed.

      Reply
  2. Lady Hermina De Pagan

    Ah, rum rasin lipstick and “smokey eyes”. I miss the grunge inspired natural make up look of the 90’s. We all looked like we stepped off a cheesy soap opera.
    I remember being excited to watch this mini-series on the star power of Whalley alone. I feel in love with her in the TV movie version of Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I adore Tom Hardy novels. Lol

    Reply
  3. Lady Hermina De Pagan

    Ok, brain freeze, Catherine Zeta-Jones played Eustatia Vye in Return of the Native. Joanne Whalley was in Willow. Thinking back I remember an article stating Zeta-Jones would have been a better choice for Scarlett.

    Reply
  4. Terry Towel

    As I recall, some of the costumes were the real deal– museum pieces. Searching in archives might provide more insight

    Reply
  5. drush76

    I rather liked it, myself. To be honest, my only real problem with this production was the second half of Episode 3, when Scarlett returned to Georgia for a brief spell. It seemed to drag a bit. Then again, I felt the same about the last hour of “Gone With the Wind”.

    Thinking back I remember an article stating Zeta-Jones would have been a better choice for Scarlett.

    I didn’t miss Catherine Zeta-Jones or anyone else. I thought Joanne Whalley did a top notch job as the older Scarlett.

    Reply
  6. Lynn Anderson

    I enjoyed Scarlett the book, but in it, Sally is described as an ugly, monkey-faced woman, which is why she gets away with all her masculine attributes. Jean Smart is much too attractive to pull that off. They should have cast Zelda Rubinstein (Tangina in Poltergeist) instead!

    Reply

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