After the novel Gone with the Wind was published in 1936, the search for the right actress to play Scarlett in the MGM film adaptation had begun. 1,400 actresses were interviewed for the part and 400 were asked to do readings. In contrast, the public and the studio were unanimous about who should play the leading man, Rhett Butler. That was Clark Gable.
Just a few of the actresses considered: First colomn to last: Paulette Goddard, Tallulah Bankhead, Lana Turner, Lucille Ball, Joan Bennett, Katherine Hepburn, Olivia de Hallivand, Norma Shearer, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford
In Katharine Hepburn’s autobiography Me: Stories of my Life, she says that she was considered a back up option for Scarlett if they couldn’t find a better fit. George Cukor was hired as the director (and later fired) and he had worked with Katharine on A Bill of Divorcement and Little Women (later they would make The Philadelphia Story together). He thought she wasn’t the right type of girl and so they kept searching. Of course, in the end the two serious contenders are said to have been Paulette Goddard and Vivien Leigh.
Vivien Leigh was unknown in America but David Selznick, the producer, was impressed with what he had seen of her. Yet he considered her “too British” for the role. Vivien got a second chance to impress when she met Selznick through Laurence Olivier. He discovered that just like Scarlett, Vivien was half Irish and half French. They had found their Scarlett. Vivien Leigh went on to win an Oscar for her performance.
I’ve been getting into silent films lately. I decided to sit through The Birth of a Nation to start with. Would not recommend. It’s three hours long and not very exciting. Of course, it’s also racist. They use white people to play black characters which confused the heck out of me. You have to remind yourself that that obviously white guy is playing a black political leader. Sigh…
Next up was The Sheik which I also didn’t love but it was ok. It seems a lot more commercial than other films I’ve watched from the 20s and 30s but now I understand why girls wept at the death of Rudolph Valentino. What a handsome fellow! I would say he’s the best reason to watch the film. I watched the sequel The Son of the Sheik which was much the same.
A film that I did love was Flesh and the Devil. Here comes my Garbo crush again. She was captivating in this film, divine! Just watch this scene…It makes me want to get a matchstick tattoed on my body (Ok maybe not. Maybe just a tiny portrait of Greta Garbo ;-) )
Another great film that I watched was 7th Heaven. It’s a lovely romantic film set in France at the time of the First World War.