There has probably never been a more extensive search for an actress for a certain role than there was for that of Scarlet O’Hara. The character is a product of Margaret Mitchell’s best selling 1936 civil war novel, Gone With the Wind. The book had gained immense popularity throughout the country. It’s no wonder then that when producer David O. Selznick bought the movie rights to the book, he took his sweet time deciding on the perfect actress to impersonate Scarlett, the story’s main character.
Selznick bought the rights for $50,000, then took the better part of the next two years until 1939 searching for Scarlett. The producer had already identified the man who would play one of Scarlett’s main love interests, Rhett Butler. This actor was Clark Gable, Hollywood’s most sought after leading man at the time. Selznick interviewed about 1,400 actresses who were interested in playing Scarlett O’Hara. Eventually, he chose British actress Vivien Leigh, who would later on win a Best Actress Oscar for the role. So, who were the other hundreds of ladies who were not as lucky? Here are 8 of the most notable movie actresses who wanted to be Scarlett O’Hara and failed:
That’s right, the great Katharine Hepburn auditioned for the role, but Selznick didn’t think she was the right woman for it. Katherine is still considered as one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood. You’ll find that in his search for Scarlett, Selznick did dismiss a lot of talented, Oscar award winning actresses.
Joan Crawford had worked with Clark Gable on the 1933 Dancing romance musical Dancing Lady, and there was undeniable chemistry between the two. She had a romantic relationship with Gable in real life, but not even her closeness with the leading man improved her chances of becoming Scarlett.
Another actress who had worked alongside Gable before, Carole believed she was the right lady for the job. She never got the part. In March 1939, she married Clark Gable.
Had Selznick grown weary of the search and decided to make a choice with who he already had in his sights, Paulette Goddard could have been his first choice actress to play Scarlett. The only other actress he had considered was Tallulah Bankhead. Selznick was however unable to cast any of them due to morality clauses that had been introduced by most Hollywood studios. Paulette apparently couldn’t prove that she was officially married to Charlie Chaplin, and that cost her the well sought after role.
A young and upcoming actress at the time, Lana Turner’s age played a part in her rejection, with Selznick commenting he found her inadequate for the role.
Lucille wasn’t yet the popular comedienne she later became at the time she went to audition for Scarlett’s part. She also joined the long list of rejected actresses.
The public wanted Bette Davis, and even Warner Bros. was willing to make a deal with MGM and loan her to Selznick. He was however not convinced she was who he had been looking for.
In the end, little known Vivien Leigh’s casting was announced in January 1939, after a long public search for Scarlett that did a lot of good in publicizing the movie.