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Scarlett O'Hara Casting


JamesN
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I believe the casting of Vivien Leigh was one of the best casting choices in movie history. She was tailor made for the part. I always wonder how other fans of this movie feel concerning alternate casting choices for the role of Scarlett O'Hara besides the ones indicated in the screen tests on the DVD extras for GWTW such as Paulette Goddard. There is one and only one actress I can see in the role of Scarlett O'Hara other than Vivien Leigh and that is Gene Tierney. Especially after seeing her performance as a Southern Belle in 1940's Belle Starr. When I see Ms. Tierney in some of her other film roles I definately can see some of the characteristics of Scarlett coming through. I was wondering if any other TCM fans have thought that Gene Tierney would have done a good job in the Scarlett role. I believe at the time Gene might have been a tad young and she was under contract to 20th Century Fox thus making her ineligible for a screen test. That being said I think she would have tested well. I am curious to hear from others on this subject.

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I never thought of that, but Gene Tierney did do a decent Southern accent in that movie, didn't she? That was before she took up the cigarette habit to lower her speaking voice that killed her eventually. But even though she's one of my favorites, I do feel she would have been too young.

 

I never thought Paulette Goddard would be good as Scarlett. Her talent aside, she just looked too old for the part to me (that was the problem with most of the actresses tested...I mean, Tallulah Bankhead??). I was surprised to learn how old Jean Arthur really was, but even she couldn't reasonably pass for sixteen. Vivien Leigh seemed believable to me as a teenager and aged appropriately in the scenes set during and after the war.

 

BLU

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I disagree with you concerning Goddard as Scarlett. She did a good "southern" woman in Reap the Wild Wind. Francis Dee could have been a fine Scarlett as well. I felt that Leigh did a better acting job in Waterloo Bridge.The perfect casting in GWTW was Gable, he was never better.

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> {quote:title=JamesN wrote:}{quote}I believe the casting of Vivien Leigh was one of the best casting choices in movie history. . .

{font:Arial}{color:black}Of course it was! The whole situation rested on a last minute deal that might have not happened, had it not been for David O. Selznick’s brother, Myron (an important agent) showing up at the studio with Leigh, on the evening of shooting the “burning of {font}{font:Arial}{color:black}Atlanta{font}{font:Arial}{color:black}.” Yet, there is a sort of misconception that relates to this now legendary meeting. Selznick had already known of Leigh as a possibility to play Scarlett. Her name had been on a list, drawn up by the casting department. According to some sources, Selznick had even met her early on, during a party being held at a Hollywood nightclub! The problem at first was that he couldn’t envision an English actress in the role, fearing something of a backlash of criticism from the film community and mostly the fans. Luckily, his mind was not made up yet on the night Myron brought Leigh with him. As to why he relented to consider Leigh, when it all appeared as if the frontrunner, Paulette Goddard would win the role, has been the real unsolved or unanswered mystery to the myth surrounding everything about the casting of Scarlett. Theories abound on this issue. One of them focuses on the controversy of Goddard’s relationship and assumed marriage to Charlie Chaplin that was never proven to be legal. This created a technical hindrance for Selznick, because there had already been a possible scandal over the marriage looming in the press. {font}

 

 

 

{font:Arial}{color:black}In true traditional, motion picture form, Selznick played it safe by demanding Leigh have a screen test, so that his mind could compare her performance to the other contenders, especially Goddard. This was a last ditch effort to be clear over the issue and perhaps finally come to a decision. Leigh’s screen test proved that Myron’s hunch about her possibility was both exciting and definitely impressive. There was no doubt that Leigh had an overpowering, visually strikingly beauty, filling the motion picture screen. Everyone who first saw her screen test experienced something of a wonderful surprise. She came across so convincingly connecting to the role, it appeared as if she had thoroughly understood the character, beyond any of the other contenders. The big difference was as Kay Brown, secretary to Selznick remarked: she came on with a self-assurance that was just so overwhelmingly strong. Brown felt like everyone else who saw the screen test, Leigh was simply stunning beyond anyone's expectations towards an imagery that sparkled and made one beleive she was right for the role. But, I’ve always believed that lurking in the shadows was a presumption, relating to an article two years earlier, in the magazine “Photoplay” that had a drawing of Clark Gable (the undisputed choice as leading man), costumed as Rhett Butler with a presumed image of Scarlett. The drawing of the southern belle astonishingly resembled Leigh! In the article, the fans were asked to consider their choice to play the coveted role. At the time, the various choices made to “Photoplay” from the fans didn’t really visually relate to the drawing. Well, years after the whole fanfare died down about the movie, it was revealed that Selznick had read and kept a copy of the article in his office! Whether or not he was in fact influenced by the magazine article could never be proven. Still, it’s an interesting, intriguing possibility leading to his finally deciding on casting Leigh as Scarlett. Despite the sudden enthusiastic response to Leigh, Selznick was definitely taking a huge gamble that in the end was probably the biggest and most successful payoff in motion picture history! The only other one I can think of was Julie Andrews in 1963 for Walt Disney's fine production of "Mary Poppins."

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{font:Arial}{color:black}For Selznick during the time of the Scarlett O’Hara casting, there was this sense of duty to give the role to an American actress. He believed as most did at the time to select one the movie going public could accept as well as identify with. However, the selection of Leigh, would instantaneously quelled most of the fears and criticism of her not being American, because she was an outsider, basically unknown and a fresh new beautiful face the audience would have a curiosity to see. Naturally, the publicity generated to find the right choice, gave the film an advantage of interest not ever seen before or since! This whole ordeal practically guaranteed instant international stardom for Leigh. This is something that doesn’t come around very often, since the time motion pictures became a standard form of entertainment on a world wide basis. The historic significance “Gone With The Wind” has in certain ways connected so vividly with the original novel, in terms of the personalities, style and atmosphere Selznick was able to bring onto the motion picture screen that became a global sensation, just as the Second World War began. Together with the long standing success of “The Wizard of Oz” that was released that same year, Selznick’s efforts have made “Gone With The Wind” a standard of motion picture quality. And, the casting of Vivien Leigh, as well as that of the mighty Clark Gable, created an inspiration and dream for those countless others who love or aspire to be part of motion picture magic!{font}

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Kind of a moot point, isn't it James? Yes, Tierney might have done well as Scarlett. She certainly had the chops. But Leigh did seem more capable of giving that pouty, snooty facial expression that would have been required to flesh out Scarlett's character, or rather, lack of it.

 

 

The only casting problem I have is Leslie Howard. Fine actor, Howard was, but that British accent just couldn't pass it off for me. If he was cast for his talent, then a little sense can be made of it. If he was cast for the LOOK, then maybe Franchot Tone might have been a better choice. If it would have been a matter of who worked for what studio, well, they HAVE been known to loan out actors regularly.

 

 

The legend has it that some producer or agent or someone like that, brought Leigh along for the ride when it was hastily decided to film the backlot fire to use later for tha Atlanta burning scenes( notice the stunt doubles in the wagon rolling past the big gates from "King Kong" burning in the background). Goldwyn supposedly turned around, saw Leigh standing there and declared, "SHE'S THE ONE!" Don't know how true that is...

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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Goldwyn supposedly turned around, saw Leigh standing there and declared, "SHE'S THE ONE!" Don't know how true that is...

 

Not too likely since Goldwyn had nothing to do with the film. You're probably thinking of David O. Selznick, whose brother Myron (an agent) supposedly brought her to the set and told David that "this is the one." How much of that is apocryphal I don't know, but it makes for a nice story.

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> The legend has it that some producer or agent or someone like that, brought Leigh along for the ride when it was hastily decided to film the backlot fire to use later for tha Atlanta burning scenes

 

That would have been agent Myron Selznick, David's brother. He brought Leigh and Olivier with him and told his brother, (paraphrasing), "Here's your Scarlett."

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It would appear that my original query has turned into a discussion as to how Vivien Leigh was cast in the role. In my humble opinion I can still see Gene Tierney in this part if Vivien Leigh did not exist. I believe a skilled director such as Victor Fleming could have coaxed an excelllent performance out of her. Gene had the youth, beauty & attitude to the part. Just saying.

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Gene was not a very good actress during her early years. The role of Scarlett would of been too much for Gene. Leigh was a lot more experienced and she had done complex roles while working in Britian. Gene's acting got a lot better as time marched on but in 39 she was close to ready for a role like Scarlett.

 

 

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I love Gene Tierney, but she hadn't made a movie yet in 1939. It wasn't until about four or five years later where she became a decent actress. She'd actually be a good for Scarlett if they had chosen to remake the film in the 40's or something (don't know why they would have).

 

Another woman who'd make a terrific Scarlett if they made the film in the 50's, would have been Liz Taylor. She'd have played the spoiled, Southern belle perfectly.

 

But in the end, Vivien is the all time best choice to play that role and is the part she's most synonymous with. The story of her getting the role is one of the biggest miracles and upsets in acting history. A relative unknown wound up being the best fit for the role. The whole movie is a miracle really.

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{font:Arial}{color:black}Not that I want to debate the issue, but I believe Gene Tierney would have never been right for the role of Scarlett O’Hara. I say this because there are issues relating to the personality of Vivien Leigh that connect fully with what was expected in interrupting the role or bringing it to life. Leigh was on all counts, a real, hard-knocks diva; she was a spoiled child, as an actress she could be difficult to work with and always demanded she get her way and when she didn’t all hell broke loose! Gene was on the other hand, too sweet a person, venerable, yet she did have an affluent background growing up. Upon becoming an actress, Gene didn’t really have much in the way of the gutsy fortitude of Leigh that was necessary for any actress to succeed in playing Scarlett.{font}

 

{font:Arial}{color:black}Essentially, what I’m saying is that in many ways, Leigh had a firm determination in bringing to the role of Scarlett attributes of her own life. This I think is the true high quality or mark of any actress that comes to understand a role and then transcends it to a point of attaining a reality beyond its factional characteristics. While I would rate Gene as a good, dependable actress, she really wasn’t such a great one, lacking a certain amount of skill towards advancing herself beyond what could be considered as routine to the point of a satisfactory performance. In hindsight, Gene never had the experience and lifestyle needed to successfully portray Scarlett, on the grounds that her emotional range was in some ways restrained and this I think is the key to what David Selznick was finally looking for. He was smart enough to realize his final choice in Leigh, attained that special bond that only an actress who had lived along the lines of the factional character could achieve the success and triumph beyond everyone’s expectations.

The only aspect in Gene's favor was her beauty that might have been easily enough to accept; especially those gorgeous green eyes of hers! She would have appeared lovely and fashionable in those colorful Civil War period costumes. Yet, despite her having a respectable career in motion pictures, she failed terribly to hold on to her star status, later on to suffer the foes of so much cerebral stress. In an ironic sense, both Gene and Leigh would end up psychologically drained and they never really recovered enough to stay viable over the long haul of their careers in motion pictures.{font}

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I don't know if Vivien Leigh and Scarlett O'Hara had a symbiotic relationship. I don't really CARE. I always thought the main aspect of acting WAS acting. Seems to me if I were an actor, I'd shy away from roles where I could personally relate to the character. I mean, where's the challenge in THAT? But if I were producing GWTW, and had already wasted so much time trying to CAST the part, Then it'd be OK with me. Viv would seem just fine.

 

 

But I STILL have issues with Leslie Howard!

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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The thing about Vivien Leigh was that she was physically right for the role. This is extremely important in casting Scarlett. And she was a good actress. If Leigh hadn't come along Paulette Goddard might have done a good job (role could have propelled her into super stardom). And what about Joan Bennett. Physically right and later turned out to be a very good actress in her Fritz Lang films. Again the movie might have made her a major player in H'wood. Weren't they the two ladies on the short,short list to play Scarlett?

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When Vivien Leigh was cast as Scarlett, roundabouts January 1939, Gene Tierney was only 18 years old. She had yet to be cast in her breakout role on Broadway in "The Male Animal", much less been offered a contract by 20th-Century Fox (1940). So she would not have been in the running for Scarlett. Even if she had tested, most likely she would have been considered too green and inexperienced for such an important role. As already mentioned here, she did develop as an actress as her movie career progressed, but at the beginning she was more decorative than talented.

 

This youth and inexperience mirrored another player, one actually tested, Susan Hayward. A starlet just graduating to featured parts, she was deemed too young and inexperienced by Selznick. Later, in the late 40s, she played a couple of movies with aspects of Scrlett about her character, in TAP ROOTS and TULSA. So while she wasn't ready in 1939, she did a creditable job in similar roles.

 

IMHO Goddard and Bennett would have done fine (especially the former), but two others on the shortlist (and polarizing figures here), Kate Hepburn and Loretta Young, I don't feel were quite right (especially the former).

 

One of the things that has been speculated about Leigh's portrayal, that added to it, was that she was on edge over her relationship with Laurence Olivier.

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> {quote:title=Arturo wrote:}{quote} Gene Tierney was only 18 years old. So she would not have been in the running for Scarlett. Even if she had tested, most likely she would have been considered too green and inexperienced for such an important role. This youth and inexperience mirrored another player, one actually tested, Susan Hayward.

And, lets add Lana Turner to that list of inexperienced actresses, hoping against all odds to win the role of Scarlett! Lana's test was to put it mild, simply terrible. Lana, just like Tierney needed time to finally reach stardom and receive some reasonable respect as an actress.

 

> One of the things that has been speculated about Leigh's portrayal, that added to it, was that she was on edge over her relationship with Laurence Olivier.

As far as I'm concern, this is absolutely true! What Selznick was looking for had more to do with a vast amount of strong personality for the role, in as much as he wanted a good actress. Leigh had many traits in her personal life similar to that of the fictional character she ended up portraying. While this isn't necessarily a requirementt for any actress, it sure as hell helps and adds something truly worthwhile! Selznick was in some regard, swayed by what he would find out about Leigh's background. After which, all he needed was a bit of acting ability or talent and everything else would simply fall into place. While Selznick did make a sort of carnival out of the casting situation, due in large part to the public interest, he had to have an actress that essentially, tore into the role of Scarlett, with no holds barred! This is where Leigh's personality fit right into the mold of Scarlett so perfectly. Even after Leigh's screen test and casting her, Selznick was still wondering if it was all going to work. It wasn't until, Selznick viewed the first rushes of film he was finally convinced his surprise decision would pay off big. Every single staff member at Selznick International Pictures would also come to quickly realize, they had a winner in their hands. The theory of Leigh's personality being key to her winning the role, comes into full circle, when it was later revealed so clearly, her numerous off-camera feuds with Clark Gable on the set, aside from her making hell for director Victor Fleming. Selznick did little to calm the situation down, because he didn't want to bruise any possible angle relating to Leigh's performance as Scarlett, knowing all too well that it takes a good, real "B" to play a "B" and the rest is magnificent movie history.

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