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As the greatest Hollywood Civil War epic of them all approaches its 75th birthday, now is as good a time as any to take a look back at the movie that Roger Ebert, in his four-star 1998 review, called “a towering landmark of film.” (Gone With the Wind debuted on Dec. 15, 1939, in Atlanta.)
“Gone With the Wind,” Ebert wrote, “presents a sentimental view of the Civil War, in which . . . the war was fought not so much to defeat the Confederacy and free the slaves as to give Miss Scarlett O’Hara her comeuppance. But we’ve known that for years; the tainted nostalgia comes with the territory. [It] is still a towering landmark of film, quite simply because it tells a good story, and tells it wonderfully well.”
Here, LIFE.com presents photos from the recent book, Gone With the Wind: The Great American Movie 75 Years Later.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.