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