Casting Scarlett O’Hara

gone with the wind

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.

scarlett ohara gone with the wind

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.

vivien leigh scarlett o'hara

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