1938– a year full of suspense and speculation in regards to Gone with the Wind. Who would be Rhett? Who would be Melanie? Who would be Ashley? And especially…who will play Scarlett? To call the book a sensation would be an understatement. In three separate celebrity interviews from that year, magazines stated that young Judy Garland “spent last Christmas reading Gone with the Wind,” Deanna Durbin “has read Gone with the Wind twice!” and–the horror–“Nelson Eddy admits he has not yet read Gone with the Wind!” There was a lot at stake for this cast…

In February, Photoplay magazine reported:

Our monthly “Gone with the Wind” Department…whispers now have it that most likely Scarlett O’Hara is that new 20th Century-Fox discovery, Arleen Whelan…Selznick wants her, but so far Zanuck won’t give…judging by her photography exclusively, I’d say she is much more Scarlett than Paulette Goddard, next most rumored candidate for the role.

Arleen popped up in Motion Picture magazine too:

arleen whelan

She is the girl who was chosen, months ago, to play Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. And the only reason why she won’t be playing Scarlett is that the studio to which she is signed (20th Century Fox) won’t sell her contact to the studio producing the picture (Selznick International). Fifty thousand dollars were offered for her contract–and refused….

How did the Selznick-International people become interested in her–an untried newcomer at another studio?

“Sidney Howard, who wrote the script for Gone with the Wind, saw me in the Brown Derby. He thought I ‘looked like Scarlett,’ and he said he knew I was an actress ‘by the way I ate.’ I’ve been self-conscious about eating ever since. They arranged with Mr. Zanuck to test me. Then they set me to studying a Southern accent, learning how to wear those grand old Southern clothes. I’ve never enjoyed any experience so much as that. I’m still studying with the coach I had there–Gertrude Fogler.”

She isn’t breaking her heart over the impasse that prevents her from playing that other unpredictable Southern girl, Scarlett O’Hara. She told me, with a warm smile, “Everything always happens for the best.”

By March Motion Picture magazine declared:

paulette goddard gone with the wind

But by May, someone else seemed to be edging Paulette out:

We hope by the time you read this you will know more about the casting plans for “Gone with the Wind” than Hollywood does at present.

However, the  latest moves seem to indicate that Frederic March is a sure bet for Rhett with Katharine Hepburn nominated as the lucky Scarlett. But then, of course, Clark Gable and Paulette Goddard are also rumored “in the running”—STILL!

Photoplay followed that blurb up with a whole article about Katharine Hepburn being the most likely candidate for Scarlett– “What! Another Scarlett O’Hara?” In the article, they called her casting “inevitable.”

katharine hepburn scarlett ohara gone with the wind

Hepburn is Scarlett O’Hara at heart. George Cukor said in a recent interview: “Scarlett is typically Southern. That kind of woman couldn’t have happened anywhere else. She is very female and like the average woman has no abstract sense of proportion. She hasn’t much of a mind and has no nobility. Yet she has a lot of character. I know at least five woman in Hollywood and on the stage not as stupid as Scarlett, but who have her kind of temperament. They all came from the South and they have cut a wide swath.”

…Doesn’t a modern quote like this from Hepburn’s own lips sound a little as though Scarlett O’Hara might have spoken had she been a young star in Hollywood?

“I have moods,” said Miss Hepburn. “Well, they’re mine. Why should I change? If I don’t feel like having my picture taken at a tennis match, why should I? If I feel like putting my hands over my face, why shouldn’t I? Posing for pictures takes time. You know that I will not be anything but myself for anybody. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

Hollywood magazine made a case for newcomer Louise Platt (Stagecoach) who “turned down two screen tests to make the first screen test for Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind and waited six months for another Hollywood call.”

louise platt

They also gave their support to another new face, Susan Hayward. George Cukor offered her a screentest for Scarlett.

susan hayward

[Recalled Susan:]”They gave me a screentest in a Long Island studio and there must have been something about it that pleased them because they brought me to Hollywood where I was tested again and again. For some reason, never explained, they changed their minds, and I found myself in the ranks of the also-rans in the Scarlett race.”

 

Gee, I hope this whole Scarlett casting thing works out…

vivien leigh

clark gable vivien leigh gone with the wind

This week, featured is another article from the archive, Gone with the Wind Indeed!, Photoplay magazine, March 1937. This article is all about the pressing issue of casting the great civil war epic:

Time was when you could call a man a rat in Hollywood and get yourself a stiff poke in the nose. But now what you get is–”Rhett? Rhett Butler? Well–I don’t know about that ‘profile like an old coin’ stuff, but I’ve been told I am rather masterful and–” Yes and there was a day when you could call a woman scarlet in this town and find yourself looking into the business end of a male relative’s shotgun. But now it’s–”Scarlett? Scarlett O’Hara? Oh, do you really think so? Well, I wish you’d say that around Mr. Selznick. Of course, my eyes aren’t exactly green, but unless they use Technicolor–”

Ever since that very small but very un-Reconstructed Rebel, Mistress Peggy Mitchell, of the Atlanta Mitchells, wrote a book called “Gone with the Wind”, which went like a seventy-mile gale over the country and whipped up a grade-A tornado, a civil war, the like of which Jeff Davis never dreamed, has been raging uncontrolled way out in Hollywood.

Houses are divided, brother against brother, husband against wife, butler versus pantry maid.

“Why, Judge,” a woman told the court the other day, “this bum says the only man to play Rhett Butler is Warren William. How can I go on living with a cretin like that?”

“Yeah,” countered the defendant, “and, Your Honor, she embarrassed me before my friends plugging for Ronald Coleman. Ronald Coleman–imagine! My business dropped off.” “Divorce granted,” murmured the court, “although personally I’ve always thought Gary Cooper would be a natural for the part.”

Who will win? Well–here are the favorites, complete with clockings, handicaps, and pole positions. You pay your money and you take your choice:

Ladies first, which means Rhett Butler–

Clark Gable is the odds on favorite. He probably will play the part. If he doesn’t there may be a Revolution. The nationwide choice, by a wide margin, he runs neck-and-neck with Warner Baxter in the South, which, incidentally, will have plenty to say about the casting of this picture. Gable is also the big Hollywood favorite, although if you can’t see him you can’t see him at all. It’s that way. Letters have poured in threatening boycotts and reprisals (honest) if he’s cast as Rhett. The same if he isn’t.

Clark is the right age, the perfect build, the effective sex quotient. On a very touchy point–whether or not he can put on a Southern accent and wear it becomingly–he is doubtful. He would give a year of his life to play Rhett–why not? It would be the biggest money gland his career could conceivably manage.

But–Gable is among the most jealously hoarded of MGM stars. And Selznick International, not MGM, copped this prize story of the century. MGM turned it down! Selznick International means John Hay Whitney and David Oliver Selznick. But again–David Oliver Selznick is married to Louis B. Mayer’s daughter. Would Gable be available? What do you think?

Frederic March is the only actor so far officially tested for Rhett. Was the early choice, but seems to have faded in the back stretch. Would be available, eager and willing to play Rhett on a moment’s notice. Runs about third in the terrific straw balloting which increases every day. Is regarded by millions as a great actor–many others do not agree. Played the other great sensational best seller title part, “Anthony Adverse.” Consensus of opinion is that Frederic would be an adequate Rhett, but that’s all. Lacks the sinister sex considered absolutely essential to a great performance.

Warner Baxter has surprising support from Atlanta and the deep South. Is the best “sympathy” actor in the race. His recent sock hit in “To Mary–With love” is considered an apt build-up. Warner has the strong support of all who picture Rhett Butler as a man who suffered and suffered. Is keeping his fingers crossed day and night because if he landed it would be “In Old Arizona” all over again for him. His contract, of course, is with Twentieth Century Fox, which makes him eligible. Darryl Zanuck who is a borrower of stars in the talent market wouldn’t dare bite the hand that feeds him and keep him locked in the closet. Warner, too, is about the right age, a little on the oldish side. His weakness, too, is no powerful sex appeal.

Ronald Colman popped into the running through an erroneous press dispatch. But once in has remained a strong contender. Chief advantage is his spot as long term contract star with Selznick International, his decided romantic charm, suavity, age and sympathetic personality. Chief disadvantage is ever-lovin’ Britishness, hard for the folks down South to swallow when the story is almost a sectional issue.

Those are the favorites. But Cary Grant, Basil Rathbone, Edward Arnold haven’t given up yet.

Now gents–it’s your turn.

For Scarlett O’Hara–

Tallulah Bankhead–shared the same bum steer announcement that brought Ronald Coleman in. Was tested by Selznick twice, once in Hollywood while on the stage in “Reflected Glory.” It was a simple color test but it gave the newshawks ideas. Tested again in New York by Director George Cukor. Is a professional choice, being considered the best actress of all candidates. Would satisfy Dixie, hailing originally from Alabama. Her pappy represents the state as Speaker of the House of Representatives in Washington. Talu could probably recapture a sugar-lipped drawl, all right, buy the years and an aura of sophistication are against her. The part would be like long delayed manna from Heaven for her, bestowing the great screen break her rooters have long wailed has been denied a great artiste. Only a lukewarm choice in the popular response. But vigorously opposed by an opinionated minority.

Miriam Hopkins is the red hot choice of Atlanta and the South. Leads other actresses by a nice margin in the letter deluge. One reason, she hails from Bainbridge, Georgia, right close to home. Is a good subject for color, if it is used, except she’ll have to wear a wig. Played Becky Sharp, the character generally compared to Scarlett O’Hara, but that might work against her.

Bette Davis is the number one Hollywood selection. Just missed cinching the part by a matter of minutes. On her way to England, Bette was told by Warner’s New York story board they were buying a great story for her, “Gone with the Wind.” But by the time they wired Hollywood for an okay, the hammer had dropped. The day His Majesty’s courts decided that Bette was a “naughty girl” and “must go back to jail” her low spirits were lifted by a columnist’s clipping calling her the ideal Miss O’Hara. Answers to Scarlett now around the Warner lot. Bette is the only Yankee girl to score below that well-known line. Ranks third in the Cotton Belt. Is considered to be just the right age to handle the assignment and blessed with the right amount of–er–nastiness. No complaints from the home folks on her southern accent in “Cabin in the Cotton” or as Alabama Follansbee in “The Solid South” (stage).

But–Bette is in the doghouse chained and collared, and one of the main issues of her legal whipping was her loan out demand. Warners can–probably would keep her in the cooler. Selznick, in fact, is supposed to have said, “Bette Davis? Great–but could we get her?”

Margaret Sullavan holds the second spot in returns from down yonder. Is a Virginia girl, and knows what to do when a lady meets a gentleman down South. Handed brilliantly the lead in “So Red the Rose”, another Civil War picture. Fractious and fiery enough to make Scarlett a vivid character. Tagged next to Bette Davis in Hollywood.

And the Field–Katharine Hepburn, Claudette Colbert and Jean Harlow.

Now as if puzzling about all this were not enough to set a body weaving baskets in the clink, Messrs. Selznick and Company announce that they want for Scarlett and Rhett not Hollywood stars at all. No–instead they have arranged to canvass all the finishing schools of Dixie, and ogle Junior Leaguers at the very lovely teas and discover and “unknown” Scarlett. A similar search, minus the tea, is hoped to dig up an indigenous Rhett.

Thus, they say, everything will not only be peaches and cream for professional Southerners, but what is much more important, two brand new stars will be born. Why take other studio’s stars and build them? Isn’t this going to be the greatest picture of all time?

Well–as to the first idea–it’s great if it works, is the opinion of the Hollywood wise ones. But it won’t work, they say. Whom are you going to find in the sticks to handle parts like those? Whom could you dare gamble on?

And that “greatest picture of all time” stuff. It smacks strongly, I grant you, of the old mahoskus. It’s press agent oil of the most ready viscosity and has flowed freely around every epic from “The Great Train Robbery” to Shirley Temple’s latest cutrick. But this time the answer that snaps right back out of your own skeptic brain is, “Why not?”

These gentlemen–Whitney and Selznick–have, and they know what they have, the greatest screen story of our day. If you don’t think so, here’s the cold cash proof: The day after they laid $50,000 on the line for the picture rights, another studio offered them $100,000. The next offer was boosted to $250,000. The last bid, not long ago, was $1,500,000 and an interest in the picture besides! Tie that.

They said “No” and they are still saying the same. Mr. Whitney and Mr. Selznick are not ribbon clerks. They shot $2,200,000 on “The Garden of Allah.” They will pinch no pennies on “Gone with the Wind”. If color will help it (and it probably will) they’ll shoot and extra million. Sidney Howard is writing the script. George Cukor will direct. Walter Plunkett is designing costumes. These men are all top flight.

So you can reasonably be sure of this–when you finally see “Gone with the Wind” you’ll see a picture dressed in the best trappings of modern production, primed with meticulous preparation, artistic thoroughness and as many millions as it can comfortably stand.

But as for who will be Scarlett and who will be Rhett–well, the riot squads are doing a nice business, thank you. And good citizens of Hollywood scowl across Cahuenga Pass at North Hollywood muttering. “Dam’ Yanks!” While out in Beverly Hills the South Side of the Tracks is threatening to secede if somebody will only fire on the Brown Derby.

It looks as if we’ll fight it out on this line if it takes all summer. Everybody’s welcome, and usually it doesn’t require a second invitation. Just casually mention the subject. You’ll see. Matter of the fact, the only person I can think of offhand who doesn’t seem to be at all upset about the matter is the lady who wrote the book.

Early in the fray, Margaret Mitchell allowed it would be nice if a Southern girl could play Scarlett. But the reaction was so violent that it must have surprised her. At any rate she announced the other day it was her one desire to remain only as the humble author, and to a close friend she confided:

“I don’t care what they do to ‘Gone with the Wind’ in Hollywood. Just so they don’t make General Lee win the war for a happy ending!”

These choices really crack me up. JEAN HARLOW?? CARY GRANT?? EDWARD ARNOLD?? CLAUDETTE COLBERT?? Really atrocious.

You can read the article in its entirety in the Article Archive.

 

Some of my favorite finds when I am scouring through old fan magazines are candids of random stars together. “I never knew that Blank ever even met Blank!” I often think, particularly now during “awards show season”, how the generations to come won’t feel similar joy, since there are thousands of pictures taken at every red carpet event, awards show and party and so thus the surprise of seeing stars posing together has dwindled.

Here are some shots of Clark with other Tinseltown folk…

clark gable robert taylor

with Robert Taylor

george burns gracie allen clark gable

with George Burns and Gracie Allen

clark gable errol flynn

with Errol Flynn

clark gable judy garland

with Judy Garland

clark gable margaret o'brien

with Margaret O'Brien

mickey rooney clark gable

with Mickey Rooney

marlene dietrich clark gable

with Marlene Dietrich

paulette goddard clark gable

with Paulette Goddard

jack lemmon clark gable

with Jack Lemmon

marilyn maxwell clark gable

with Marilyn Maxwell

roy rogers clark gable

with Roy Rogers

clark gable ann dvorak

with Ann Dvorak

clark gable susan peters

with Susan Peters

clark gable elizabeth taylor

with Elizabeth Taylor

clark gable ginger rogers

with Ginger Rogers

clark gable ann sheridan

with Ann Sheridan

clark gable shirley temple

with Shirley Temple

clark gable jayne mansfield

with Jayne Mansfield

clark gable marie dressler

with Marie Dressler

clark gable katharine hepburn

with Katharine Hepburn

clark gable james stewart

with Jimmy Stewart

 

nancy davis clark gable

with Nancy Davis

gary cooper clark gable

with Gary Cooper

clark gable bette davis

with Bette Davis

clark gable spencer tracy robert taylor william powell

with Spencer Tracy, Robert Taylor and William Powell

See more in the gallery.

Let’s follow Clark around Los Angeles…

Culver Studios. Formerly Selznick International Studios, this is where Gone with the Wind was filmed. The white house and manicured gardens are well-remembered as the opening shot of GWTW, then with a white sign in front that said, “A Selznick International Picture.”

Selznick International

The scene where Mammy, Prissy and Pork stand in front of Scarlett and Rhett’s enormous Atlanta mansion and exclaim over its size (“Lordy, she sure is rich now!”) was filmed right here, in front of this building, with a matte painting standing in for Scarlett and Rhett’s mansion.

Culver Studios

Culver Studios

Culver Studios

Culver Studios

Culver Studios

Carole Lombard made Nothing Sacred and Made for Each Other here. It was later home to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s production company, Desilu.

The Millennium Biltmore Hotel, which was the site of the Academy Awards for a few years in the 1930’s. Clark accepted his one and only Oscar here on the stage of the ballroom called The Biltmore Bowl on February 27, 1935.

Biltmore Hotel

Biltmore Hotel

Biltmore Hotel

Biltmore Hotel

Clark attended the Oscars again the following year with Merle Oberon as his date, when he was nominated for Mutiny on the Bounty. Clark and Carole attended the awards here in 1937 when Carole was nominated for My Man Godfrey.

Biltmore Hotel

Unfortunately, when we were visiting, there was a conference being held in that room and despite our best efforts, we couldn’t go inside. Some very nice employees saw our disappointment at not getting into The Biltmore Bowl so they let us in the Crystal Ballroom to take some pictures. Not a bad consolation prize…

Biltmore Hotel Crystal Ballroom

Biltmore Hotel Crystal Ballroom

The Beverly Hills Hotel. This place is ripe with Hollywood history. Both Irene Dunne and Loretta Young had ownership interest in it at one time. Elizabeth Taylor honeymooned here. Marilyn Monroe lived here. So did Norma Shearer. Katharine Hepburn liked to play tennis here and after one particularly sweaty game, she jumped in the pool fully clothed. Jean Harlow liked to swim here. As did Joan Crawford. Spencer Tracy and Douglas Fairbanks used to have drinks after their polo matches at the Polo Lounge in the lobby. Oh, and a little couple named Clark Gable and Carole Lombard used to meet up in Bungalow #4 for some alone time during their dating days.

Beverly Hills Hotel

Beverly Hills Hotel

Beverly Hills Hotel

Beverly Hills Hotel

We had lunch in the quaint little Fountain Coffee Shop on the bottom level. The food was delicious!

The Chateau Marmont, a gorgeous, castle-like hotel sitting on a hill overlooking Sunset Boulevard. Built in 1927, its history is also rich with celebrity. Montgomery Clift recovered from his car accident here. Judy Garland sang in the lobby here. Greta Garbo lived here. Jean Harlow and Harold Rosson honeymooned here. John Belushi died here. Clark stayed here in a few times in the 1930’s, probably with a lady guest, when he didn’t want to go home to second wife Ria. It remains a Hollywood hotspot to this day.  

Chateau Marmont

Chateau Marmont

Clark and Carole’s favorite restaurant, The Brown Derby, was located here on Vine Street just past Hollywood Boulevard. Not only the Gables’ favorite, it was the place to go to see stars in Hollywood.  Clark proposed to Carole here and the Derby catered their second anniversary party.  The building was largely destroyed by a fire in 1987 and  is now, sadly, a W Hotel.

Brown Derby

Then

Former site of the Brown Derby

Now

Another restaurant, this one is still standing. Musso and Frank’s, which has been a Hollywood Boulevard standard since 1919. Clark and Ria used to eat here often in the early 1930’s  and in the 1950’s Clark was a frequent guest, sharing cigars with friends. He was apparently quite fond of their gravy. We ate lunch here and yup, they have good gravy.

Musso and Frank

Musso and Frank

Paramount Studios. Clark made No Man of Her Own (with Carole Lombard) behind these famous gates, and, many years later, Teacher’s Pet and But Not For Me. Carole made many films here, including The Princess Comes AcrossBolero, True Confession and Hands Across the Table.

Paramount Studios

Paramount Studios

The last place Clark ever went, alive–Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital. He was taken here on November 6, 1960 and died here ten days later. His son was born here the following March.  I must say, it is quite a distance from the Encino ranch home, especially in those days before the main interstate.

Hollywood Presbyterian HospitalHollywood Presbyterian HospitalHollywood Presbyterian Hospital

From March 1940:

Talk of Hollywood, recently, is how much luck the girls who did NOT get the Scarlett O’Hara role in Gone with the Wind had!

Of course, Vivien Leigh was the “lucky” one who got the part. But look at the others–

Bette Davis did Jezebel instead and won an Academy Oscar; Norma Shearer, in The Women, did such a swell job that she may get the next Award; Tallulah Bankhead, when she flopparooed on Scarlett, did the stage play that’s getting her international raves…ditto Katharine Hepburn, who also did NOT get the O’Hara plum, but who scored hugely behind the footlights in Philadelphia Story. And Susan Hayward, Paulette Goddard and Miriam Hopkins, who also went pfft on their O’Hara tests, are running tops in the Hollywood handicap in other films.

Margaret Tallichet was another Scarlett also-ran. But instead of getting a part-time role as the O’Hara, she got herself a full-time role as Mrs. Willie Wyler!

And Carole Lombard!–whee, without even being IN the picture, much less Scarlett O’Hara–Carole got Rhett Butler all for herself!!!

____

Today and tomorrow I am attending the festivities in Marietta, GA the Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum is hosting to celebrate thne 75th anniversary of the novel! Details are here. I will have a full report!

We’ve reached 9,000 images in the gallery! Wahoo! New this week are screenshots from Men in White.

No surprise, since we’re having Carole Lombard month, that this month’s movie is the only Clark and Carole film, No Man of Her Own, from 1932.

noman57

Thanks to the legendary romance of Clark and Carole that would begin about four years later, this film has now become a fan favorite, whereas maybe if Clark’s co-star hadn’t been Carole it would be dismissed as another soapy melodrama.

But actually there is some substance in it, and even overlooking the Clark and Carole legend, it’s a good little pre-code. Clark is Babe Stewart, a womanizing card cheat.  As he says to a pining Dorothy Mackaill early on, “You know I’m a hit and run guy–never have to comb any gal out of my hair. I’m free, see, and ankle chains give me the jitters.”

noman25

Enter Carole as Connie Randall, the librarian in a small town where Babe is hiding out from the cops after a cheat goes bad. Babe is smitten from first sight but she plays hard to get. Instead of his usual conquests who fall at his feet, she won’t go to bed with him—she wants to get married! Imagine! They decide to flip a coin to see if they should get married and Connie wins. Thus Babe returns to New York with a naive wife in tow. Troubles arise as Connie doesn’t know what Babe does for a living–but it doesn’t take long for her to figure it out.

noman41

I remember before I saw it for the first time that I had read in biographies that the chemistry between Clark and Carole was extremely hot and that it was from their characters calling each other “Ma” and “Pa” that they got the idea to call each other that years later. Well the chemistry is undeniable, that is certain. These two heat up the screen with every pre-code take. But I don’t know where the “Ma” and “Pa” business came from, because it certainly isn’t in the film.

noman68

It does have its pre-code steaminess, including Clark and Carole in the shower (separately, of course!)

noman62

Clark was the bigger star and was billed above the title and featured more prominently while Carole was second fiddle. In fact, Miriam Hopkins was to have played Carole’s role (when the project was titled No Bed of Her Own) but balked at being cast below Clark and so was replaced by the less-demanding Carole.

noman76

Carole famously gave Clark a ten pound ham with his picture plastered on it when filming concluded. Typical of Carole! They got along on set fine but there were no romantic sparks. Carole was married to William Powell and Clark had his hands full with wife Ria and his latest side dish, Elizabeth Allan.

I do love the sassy shots of Clark and Carole at the Parmamount commissary during filming! Who knew that this platinum-haired rising star and this mustache-less, fresh faced young chap would soon be Hollywood’s leading couple?

noman8

It is a shame that Clark and Carole didn’t reteam. I’m sure that their love affair would have heated their onscreen chemistry to a boiling point. And 1930’s audiences would have flocked to see them! Carole had dreamt of being Scarlett to Clark’s Rhett, but that of course was not meant to be. I love Carole, but she’s no Scarlett O’Hara. Carole had read the script for Woman of the Year (1942) and had wanted it for her and Clark to star in. She was very disappointed to learn that Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy were all set to star in it. I actually think Clark and Carole could have really done those parts justice. I especially think Carole could have really nailed this scene in the kitchen!

It’s interesting to contemplate. The film was a hit for Spencer and Katharine and led to them becoming one of the screen’s top teams—as well as starting their romance,which would go on for over 20 years. So, if Clark and Carole had had the chance to star in it, it might have changed Katharine and Spencer’s entire path afterward.

noman60

No Man of Her Own is available on DVD.