Welcome to the Historical Fiction Online forums: a friendly place to discuss, review and discover historical fiction.
If this is your first visit, please be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above.
You will have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.
To start viewing posts, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

April 2011 BOTM: Gone with the Wind

A monthly discussion on varying themes guided by our members. (Book of the Month discussions through December 2011 can be found in this section too.)
User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Thu May 5th, 2011, 12:16 am

[quote=""Ash""]I agree about Ashley in the movie. When I first saw it, I couldn't believe that was the same character I read about! Just not believable that she'd fall for him; anyone know about the history of why that actor was chosen for the role (was there someone else they planned on?)[/quote]
I don't know the particulars, but I do know that back then studios had certain actors under contract, and then had to find jobs for them. And they couldn't use actors contracted to other studios unless the studio agreed. That's why Judy Garland did the Wizard of Oz instead of Shirley Temple -- studio contracts.

User avatar
Miss Moppet
Bibliophile
Posts: 1726
Joined: April 2009
Location: North London
Contact:

Post by Miss Moppet » Thu May 5th, 2011, 12:43 am

[quote=""Michy""]And also the fact that in the beginning Scarlett was able to cinch her waist down to 17 inches. Has anyone taken a tape measure (the flexible cloth or plastic type that dressmakers use) and looked at just how small that is? [/quote]

Yes, I did exactly that when I first read the book - and in fact it's worse, I think Scarlett can get down to 16 inches if need be. I measured out Scarlett's waist and couldn't believe how small it was, then I measured my own which was 27 inches at the time. It's never stated how big Scarlett's waist was uncorseted, but I would imagine quite a bit smaller.
It is about how big around a 2- or 3-year-old child would be. Absolutely waspish. Although it was no doubt considered extremely attractive in those days, to modern eyes it would look grotesque.
This is Dita von Teese in a 16.5 inch corset:

Image

I like her style and it's quite similar to Scarlett's actually, with the dark hair, white skin and tiny waist. But I agree it's too extreme to be attractive. When MM was writing fashion had gone in completely the opposite direction and women were wearing tube dresses with no waists at all, so her first readers likely had the same reaction, although some would be old enough to remember wearing corsets.

User avatar
Michy
Bibliophile
Posts: 1649
Joined: May 2010
Location: California

Post by Michy » Thu May 5th, 2011, 12:57 am

[quote=""MLE""]I don't know the particulars, but I do know that back then studios had certain actors under contract, and then had to find jobs for them. And they couldn't use actors contracted to other studios unless the studio agreed. That's why Judy Garland did the Wizard of Oz instead of Shirley Temple -- studio contracts.[/quote] I have the background soundtrack of the movie on CD, and with it came a booklet that has all kinds of information about the movie. According to this booklet, Leslie Howard was considered early on, but there was concern that he was too old (he was in his 40s). However, after winnowing out several other actors he became the number one choice. He definitely did not want the part; he was tired of playing "weak and sensitive" men and he did not even read the book. The studio was several months into shooting the movie before they managed to bribe him to take the part by offering him directorship of another movie -- which he did want.

I agree he looks too middle-aged and "dull" for the part; I just can't imagine Scarlett spending 14 years of her life mooning over him! (although apparently in real life, Leslie Howard was quite the ladies' man).

[quote=""Miss Moppet""]


I like her style and it's quite similar to Scarlett's actually, with the dark hair, white skin and tiny waist. But I agree it's too extreme to be attractive. [/quote] She definitely looks Scarlett-esque, and I love small waists, but this just looks grotesque to me! (talk about push-up bras, ha ha ha)

User avatar
Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 2440
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favourite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Post by Margaret » Thu May 5th, 2011, 4:41 am

Ah, memory is treacherous. I wonder if I read that Gerald O'Hara's hair was red and just assumed Scarlett's was too. I've always been a very fast reader, and sometimes I miss details.

That corset photo is amazing. In the heyday of corsets, some women even had surgery to remove their lowest ribs so they could fit into a smaller size - or so I have heard. Surgery wasn't as safe then as it is now, either. But maybe that is just my memory being treacherous again!

Women who wore corsets all the time lost muscle tone, and sometimes couldn't manage without them. If they habitually laced them extra tight, they could deform their internal organs. It's pretty astounding what people will do in the name of beauty. I can't think it was a healthy thing to do if you wanted to have babies. But somehow humankind survived.

British writers seem to me to be more skilled than Americans at the omniscient style that dips into different people's minds within the course of a single scene. If not handled with extreme skill, I find it terribly jarring. But there are authors who can do it with grace and smoothness. The old novels of manners, where the author would go around a roomful of people and show all the unkind thoughts everyone was thinking about everyone else while they were chatting politely, really needed omniscient point-of-view to be effective. But it's kind of rare for people to write novels like that nowadays. We're more interested in the individual psyche than in analyzing a repressive social structure. Plus, it sometimes seems as though people nowadays are more likely to err on the side of rudely divulging exactly what they're thinking than on the side of hypocritical politeness.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

User avatar
Michy
Bibliophile
Posts: 1649
Joined: May 2010
Location: California

Post by Michy » Thu May 5th, 2011, 5:17 am

[quote=""Margaret""]
That corset photo is amazing. In the heyday of corsets, some women even had surgery to remove their lowest ribs so they could fit into a smaller size - or so I have heard. Surgery wasn't as safe then as it is now, either. But maybe that is just my memory being treacherous again! [/quote] I've heard that, also. I don't know for sure if it's true, either, but it seems possible; after all, removing a rib wouldn't involve any organs, so as surgeries go it would be fairly low-risk (other than the risk of puncturing a lung). But the recovery would have been excruciatingly painful, especially without modern-day painkillers. I know from experience that thoracic surgery is just about the most painful surgery there is; anyone who has cracked or broken a rib can also attest to how sensitive the chest wall is to pain!
We're more interested in the individual psyche than in analyzing a repressive social structure. Plus, it sometimes seems as though people nowadays are more likely to err on the side of rudely divulging exactly what they're thinking than on the side of hypocritical politeness.
Isn't that the truth. Yikes! :eek:

User avatar
LoveHistory
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3751
Joined: September 2008
Location: Wisconsin, USA
Contact:

Post by LoveHistory » Thu May 5th, 2011, 6:06 pm

Do remember however, on the corset issue, that a small boned 16 year old girl who has not borne children would not look as grotesque with a 17 inch waist as Dita von Teese does. Also the contrast between hip size and waist size would have been hidden by the hoop skirts puffing out around her.

User avatar
Miss Moppet
Bibliophile
Posts: 1726
Joined: April 2009
Location: North London
Contact:

Post by Miss Moppet » Thu May 5th, 2011, 7:01 pm

I have a very interesting book by Valerie Steele on the history of the corset (review here). It's a while since I read it but I think she says the rib removal was a myth. Anyway, I hope so!

User avatar
Michy
Bibliophile
Posts: 1649
Joined: May 2010
Location: California

Post by Michy » Thu May 5th, 2011, 8:19 pm

[quote=""LoveHistory""] that a small boned 16 year old girl who has not borne children would not look as grotesque with a 17 inch waist as Dita von Teese does. [/quote] I disagree -- 17 inches is extremely small and I think it would look grotesque on anyone older than 10 years old. However, you are correct that much of it was hidden by the voluminous clothing. So probably the only ones who saw the "full effect" were the ladies' maids and the husbands. ;)

[quote=""Miss Moppet""]I have a very interesting book by Valerie Steele on the history of the corset (review here). It's a while since I read it but I think she says the rib removal was a myth. Anyway, I hope so![/quote] Even if rib removal wasn't completely a myth, I suspect it was quite rare. Given the aforementioned pain factor, once a woman went through it and her family and friends saw how long and painful the recovery was, they doubtless decided that it wasn't worth it. Especially since a satisfyingly small waist could be achieved without it.

As for the "myth" of the 17-inch waist; yes, I am sure that most waists weren't cinched smaller than the low 20s, as the author asserts. People who take GWTW to mean that 17 inches was the norm miss the point entirely. Remember that Scarlett's 17-inch waist was the "smallest in three counties"; that means it was a rare feat even in those tightly-corseted days.

User avatar
Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 2440
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favourite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Post by Margaret » Thu May 5th, 2011, 9:53 pm

I think the main reason Scarlett's 17-inch waist didn't look grotesque to people is that it was in style and other women had similarly small corseted waists. To the Chinese of past centuries, a bound foot didn't look grotesque, either.

To me, a woman wearing the intensely red lipstick that Dita is wearing the picture looks a little bit on the grotesque side, as well, if I see it in person. It looks OK in photos, because I'm used to seeing fashion models wearing it. It also looked OK to me when I was a kid in the 1950s and early 1960s when all the women wore bright red lipstick - in fact, a woman who wasn't wearing it looked really odd to me back then, as though she was not fully dressed.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

User avatar
Michy
Bibliophile
Posts: 1649
Joined: May 2010
Location: California

Post by Michy » Thu May 5th, 2011, 11:56 pm

You are right; the extremely tiny waists were considered very attractive in the 1850s and '60s -- it is to modern eyes that they look bizarre.

For those of you who don't have cloth or plastic tape measures (which I assume is everyone except us rare seamstresses :) ) here's a visual to help you see just how small 17" is (because even the photo of the corseted model doesn't give the full effect) --- I have two different sets of teacups and saucers, and 17" is the diameter of the saucers in one of the sets. It is slightly smaller than the saucers in the other set. :eek:
Last edited by Michy on Thu May 5th, 2011, 11:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Locked

Return to “Feature of the Month”