Fabulous topic! Thanks for starting it, CyrilSebastian.
"Gone With the Wind" had a big impact on me. It is one of my favourite books and favourite movies. I read the book first - twice - before I first saw the movie, and I saw it at the cinema, not on TV. I think it is best enjoyed on the big screen, and at an old cinema, not a modern one. It is a movie that needs to be seen with curtains being drawn across at intermission. Being able to see it at will on DVD on your own TV cheapens the experience a bit, I think.
I was about 12 or 13 when I first read the book. When I was young there were a lot of western movies and TV shows with a former Confederate soldier as the hero and I was rather taken with the South and the romantic vision of it that we were being sold in those days. I developed a deep interest in the Civil War which followed me into adulthood. But I digress. The young teenage me fell for Ashley, not Rhett, so I went into the movie with a bias towards Ashley. I've never liked Clark Gable very much and I didn't like his Rhett, but that's not to say I think he didn't portray Rhett well; Clark Gable IS Rhett Butler, as Vivien Leigh IS Scarlett O'Hara and Olivia de Havilland (who recently turned 103) IS Melanie Hamilton. I don't feel as stongly about Leslie Howard as Ashley though, which might be because as much as I like him as an actor, I never fancied him and that disappointed the teenage me enormously. I have never read or seen "Scarlett", and I never will. I choose not to acknowledge the existence of that post-movie book world. I can be stubborn like that (a bit like Scarlett, perhaps).
The book and movie are very different in a number of respects, and it is the movie version that is imprinted on my brain so it is that version, and those actors, I am commenting on. (Maybe I will re-read the book.) I don't think I have ever liked Scarlett or Rhett. I liked, and admired, Melanie and Ashley. I really admired Melanie. Though one could debate it for some time, I think Melanie is the one with real courage, in the same mold as Grace Kelly's Amy Kane in "High Noon". Yes, Scarlett was strong, too, in her own way, and very useful to have around, but she also had a very nasty, selfish, bitchy streak. Not all the time, of course, and she was very young during her worst moments, and she was starting to grow up at the end of the movie.
I find the movie is a very interesting historical piece, but I don't think it is dated... until the very last scene with Scarlett's melodramatic speech about thinking about it all tomorrow at Tara and tomorrow being another day. Right to that moment I think it stands the test of time. Not that I think the moment spoils it, just puts the movie in its time.
I also think it is interesting that one of the key actors is still alive eighty years after the movie was released and 154 years after the end of the Civil War. Olivia de Havilland would have met people who were alive during the Civil War and maybe even men who fought during that conflict. The fact there is still a person living who was involved in the making of GWTW in a major way who remembers (I am assuming and hoping she does) people who were alive during the American Civil War blows my mind!