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 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 an extensive 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, 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.|
Below is a list of the 31 women who were tested for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, as well as the date of their screen tests.
- 1936: Louise Platt (September); Tallulah Bankhead (December).
- 1937: Elizabeth Whitney (April); Lynn Merrill (May); Linda Watkins (June); Susan Fox (June); Adele Longmire (August); Haila Stoddard (November); Diana Forrest (November); Susan Hayward (December); Linda Lee (December); Dorothy Matthews (December).
- 1938: Brenda Marshall (February); Paulette Goddard (February-December); Ellen Drew (February); Anita Louise (February-March); Em Bowles Locker (February); Margaret Tallichet (March); Frances Dee (March 1938); Nancy Coleman (September-October); Shirley Logan (September-October); Doris Jordan (October); Marcella Martin (October-December); Fleurette DeBussy (October); Austine McDonnel (October); Mary Ray (November); Lana Turner (November); Diana Barrymore (November); Jean Arthur (December); Joan Bennett (December); Vivien Leigh (December).
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 Leigh was right for the part, Selznick's publicity department composed a biography of the young actress 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.» Leigh was acclaimed for her performance, winning the Oscar for Best Actress.
The Complete Gone with the Wind Trivia Book: The Movie and More, 2nd Edition by Pauline Bartel (Taylor Trade Publishing, 2014)