Desperately seeking Scarlett

Scarlett O’Hara screen test 

Turner Classic Movies is rerunning the original Gone with the Wind tonight, all four hours of it. They ran a documentary first about the making of the 1939 classic.

David O. Selznick, the producer, spent two years and a ton of money searching for the right woman to play Scarlett O’Hara.

More than 1,000 actresses, famous and unknown, were interviewed or tested for the most important role in Hollywood history.

The part finally went to a newcomer from England who had been a ‘dark horse’ in the running.

Vivien Leigh won over Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Paulette Goddard (the runner-up), Joan Bennett, Jean Arthur, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, Lana Turner and Susan Hayward.

There was practically no testing for the role of Rhett Butler. American movie-goers, in a poll taken at the time, had overwhelmingly voted for Clark Gable, the King of Hollywood.

Scarlett O’Hara screen tests

The movie went on to win eight Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actress (Vivien Leigh), Supporting Actress (Hattie McDaniel), Director (Victor Fleming), Screenplay (Sidney Howard), Color Cinematography, Art Direction and Editing.

The screen tests for Scarlett ranged from funny to bad; here also are tests for the parts of Melanie and Ashley Wilkes.

Anatomy of a screen test

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Scarlett O’Hara screen tests


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5 comments

  • The First Technicolor film with complicated 3 camera massive system along with Oselsnicks Benzedrine fueled production methods how else could he not search relentlessly to find a woman who embodied strength stubbornness and vulnerability sex appeal and futility in a time of strained social tragedy traditions being dismantled. Shattered dreams illustrated when the little Bonnie died on the pony, so symbolic of the Antebellum South with no future, slain by misadventure like the Confederacy. We can’t imagine Anyone else but Vivian Lee in the roll. Casting Perfection Herself of English origin like slavery itself from England’s King.

  • Yes, there was so much more to the movie than mentioned in my post. Thanks for filling in some of the gaps.

  • This is a really fun post about the most epic of classic films. I love the documentary. It was great to see the Scarlett and Melanie tests again. Thanks!

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