vivien leigh gone with the wind

A short little interview with Vivien Leigh from November 1939:

When David O’ Selznick shortly releases Margaret Mitchell’s famous story, “Gone with the Wind,” a little English girl, born in India, will be under the guns of Hollywood. For the comparative newcomer, Vivien Leigh, landed the role every actress in the movie colony longed to play. Is Miss Leigh, the Scarlett O’Hara of the film, afraid?

“Why afraid?” returns Miss Leigh coolly. “All that talk of hundreds of actresses trying for the part was publicity, a lot of it on the part of other studios. Actually less than a dozen made tests. Norma Shearer, who had considered the part, sent me a swell letter of congratulation after I was chosen.

“I got the role by chance. I came over from London to spend a single week in the Hollywood colony. One nighty I went to a party at Myron Selznick’s home. He suggested that we go over to his brother’s studio to watch the mimic burning of Richmond. Although they had not cast the principal roles, they were shooting some of the spectacular scenes. While we stood by, Myron Selznick said jokingly, “’How about a test for Scarlett?’ I took the test next day and got the part. I started in January, worked twenty-two weeks straight with only five free days. I hardly saw anything of Hollywood. I was too tired after work to go about, and I slept through the free days.

The film carries Scarlett from the age of sixteen to twenty-eight. It was easy to look the part until about June. I’m twenty-two but even so the strain began to show then. I felt a million years old. I’d say to myself, ‘Now, can I look twenty-eight?’ and worry.

“It isn’t as hard as you would think for an English girl to play a Dixie heroine. We English often drop our r’s and we talk in a lackadaisical way. The dialect came easy. Indeed, the director would tell me every now and then, ‘Not too Southern, Viven!’ And those rumored quarrels with Clark Gable who played Rhett Butler. We finally came to joke about the reports. We’d say when we’d meet in the morning, ‘What’ll we quarrel about today?’”

Still, in spite of all her confidence, Miss Leigh is on the firing line—or will be, now that “Gone with the Wind” is to be released. The part will make or break her.

Although she has the most coveted role in years, Miss Leigh still is unknown. She went about New York recently unrecognized, even toured the World’s Fair unobserved. It will be different after the release of the picture. She will be a name and a face then, I trust.

4 Responses to Gone with the Wednesday: Vivien Leigh, Unafraid

  1. Melanie says:

    Gotta love that bravado…or solid faith in herself. I wish I had it.

  2. barbara says:

    That is not how I remember reading about it. She read and re-read the book and made up her mind to get the part. She read it on the steamer again coming over to meet Olivier and practiced how Scarlett would look saying certain lines. Once they tested her, I think it was a sure thing. She probably didn’t have to do too much to get the part.

  3. barbara says:

    Myron was not ‘joking’ about the test. He knew about it all along. It was all planned. At least that’s how I read about it.

  4. Holly says:

    Lying about her age? She was born in Nov. 1913 so she was 24 during filming. Very smart as always good to keep them guessing. Lucille Ball said she should have lied about her age. She told them the truth from the beginning and said they always kept reminding her. lol
    I loved Vivien for telling it like it is. I knew Paulette Goddard was also up for the part.

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