Monday, 20 March 2017

Classic Movie Fact of the Week #2

Did you know that...
A total of 31 actresses were screen-tested for the coveted role of the indomitable «Southern Belle» Scarlett O'Hara in Victor Fleming's Civil War epic Gone with the Wind (1939).

When David O. Selznick purchased the screen rights to Margaret Mitchell's novel Gone with the Wind in July 1936, he began a complex, two-year search for the role of Scarlett. He mounted a nationwide casting call that interviewed 1,400 unknowns, 400 of which were asked to do readings. This was eventually useless for the film, but it created «priceless» publicity exactly what Selznick wanted. A number of established actresses were also considered, including Miriam Hopkins (the author's preference), Norma Shearer, Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Irene Dunne, Joan Crawford and Carole Lombard. However, only 31 of these names made the final cut.

Paulette Goddard and Vivien Leigh were the last two finalists in the search for Scarlett O'Hara

Below is a list of the 31 women who were tested for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. I also provided the dates on which their test(s) took place.

Louise Platt (September 1936) | Talullah Bankhead (December 1936) | Elizabeth Whitney (April 1937) | Lynn Merrill (May 1937) | Linda Watkins (June 1937) | Susan Fox (June 1937) | Adele Longmire (August 1937) | Haila Stoddard (November 1937) | Diana Forrest (November 1937) | Susan Hayward (December 1937) | Linda Lee (December 1937) | Dorothy Matthews (December 1937) | Brenda Marshall (February 1938) | Paulette Goddard (February-December 1938) | Ellen Drew (February 1938) | Anita Louise (February-March 1938) | Em Bowles Locker (February 1938) | Margaret Tallichet (March 1938) | Frances Dee (March 1938) | Nancy Coleman (September-October 1938) | Shirley Logan (September-October 1938) | Doris Jordan (October 1938) | Marcella Martin (October-December 1938) | Fleurette DeBussy (October 1938) | Austine McDonnel (October 1938) | Mary Ray (November 1938) | Lana Turner (November 1938) | Diana Barrymore (November 1938) | Jean Arthur (December 1938) | Joan Bennett (December 1938) | Vivien Leigh (December 1938) 

A shot from Vivien Leigh's Technicolor screen test for Gone with the Wind

In December 1938, the 31 actresses who auditioned for the role of Scarlett O'Hara had been downsized to two finalists: Paulette Goddard, known for her role in Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times (1936); and English newcomer Vivien Leigh. On December 21, they were both tested in Technicolor and Leigh finally won the role. This casting choice was controversial, leading to protests that someone other than a Southern woman had been chosen. Hoping to persuade the public that the young actress was right for the part, Selznick's publicity department composed a biography of Leigh and distributed it to magazines and newspapers in justification of the casting decision. Among other things, the document informed audiences that «Vivien Leigh, whose father is French and mother Irish, will play Scarlett O'Hara, whose father was Irish and mother French. [...] In her physical characteristics as well as her ancestry, Miss Leigh resembles the heroine of Miss Mitchell's book. She is five feet three, weighs 103 pounds, has green eyes, brown hair with a touch of red, and even possesses Scarlett's pointed chin.»

The Complete Gone with the Wind Trivia Book: The Movie and More, 2nd Edition by Pauline Bartel (Taylor Trade Publishing, 2014)
«The Search for Scarlett: Women Who Tested for the Role of Scarlett»
«The Search for Scarlett: Vivien Leigh»

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