Chatter: Gone with the Wind, Hitler, and America First with Sarah Churchwell

David Priess, Sarah Churchwell
Thursday, August 18, 2022, 12:00 PM

David Priess sat down with Sarah Churchwell to discuss Gone with the Wind, how it reflects a mythologized "Lost Cause" version of the Old South, and its connection with today's increasing political violence.

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Gone with the Wind—the top-grossing movie of all time, adjusted for inflation—remains an iconic influence in American culture, despite its deeply troubling portrayal of social and political dynamics in the South during and after the Civil War. The continued popularity of the film points to a need to examine its influence on nearly a century's worth of American race relations, fascistic movements, and denialism in the United States. And why did Adolf Hitler reportedly love it so much?

David Priess spoke with cultural and literary historian Sarah Churchwell of the University of London, author of The Wrath To Come, a book that dives deeply into the film, how it reflects a mythologized "Lost Cause" version of the Old South, and its connection with today's increasing political violence. They discussed the popularity of the movie, its differences from the book it was based on, some of the challenges for filmmaker David O. Selznick and for the film's actors, the "Lost Cause" theme that the movie conveys, its intersection with fascist thinking in America and with modern racism, why it attracted Adolf Hitler and other Nazi leaders, its links to various iterations of the Klan and "America First" campaigns, and how even disturbing movies like this can spur social progress.

Chatter is a production of Lawfare and Goat Rodeo. This episode was produced and edited by Cara Shillenn of Goat Rodeo. Podcast theme by David Priess, featuring music created using Groovepad. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Among the works discussed in this episode:

The movie Gone with the Wind

The book Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

The book The Wrath To Come: Gone with the Wind and the Lies America Tells by Sarah Churchwell

The article "Agglutination Test for Americanos" by Leslie L. Jones, The Smart Set magazine, May-Aug 1922.

The book Behold, America: The Entangled History of "America First" and "the American Dream" by Sarah Churchwell

David Priess is Director of Intelligence at Bedrock Learning, Inc. and a Senior Fellow at the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security. He served during the Clinton and Bush 43 administrations as a CIA officer and has written two books: “The President’s Book of Secrets,” about the top-secret President’s Daily Brief, and "How To Get Rid of a President," describing the ways American presidents have left office.
Sarah Bartlett Churchwell is a professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, UK.

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