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The Women Who Could Have Been Scarlett O'Hara

Updated on August 29, 2016

In 1936, Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind was the talk of the country and everyone had someone in mind for the starring roles. Most concluded that Clark Gable was born to play the male lead, Rhett Butler. The pick for the leading female role, however, became the talk of the film world and would last for over two years.

Silent Screen Star Mary Pickford suggested Margaret Sullavan for the role of Scarlett O'Hara. Miss Sullavan would not test for the role, however.





Louise Platt would be the first to be tested on September 28, 1936.








Talullah Bankhead was the frontrunner of major stars at the time.













Susan Hayward tested under her real name, Edythe Marrenner.










Paulette Goddard was eventually the frontrunner and tested seven times, more than anyone else. As a matter of fact, she tested the last time on the same day that Viviene Leigh first tested...December 21, 1938. Leigh tested again the next day and was given the part. Paulette was married to Charles Chaplin at the time who carried a lot of weight in Hollywood. Mrs. Chaplin would have been my pick if unaware of Miss Leigh at the time.







Anita Louise would be tested four times.








Frances Dee was considered one of the most beautiful women in motion pictures. After testing for the role of Scarlett, Selznick considered her for the part of Melanie, but, decided that her beauty would overshadow newcomer Vivien Leigh. She was married to my personal favorite actor, Joel McCrea for 57 years until his death.









Lana Turner who I met personally would test in the latter part of the search.










Jean Arthur tested in the last month of testing. She was one of the final four choices.









Joan Bennett tested the day before Paulette Goddard and Viviene Leigh. Joan was also in the final four along with Goddard and Arthur.











Vivien Leigh tested on December 21st and again on December 22, 1938 and captured the heart of producer David O. Selznick.

Let me hear from you. Who would you have chosen? Mostly, those of you that grew up in the 40's and 50's that were familiar with all the above let me have your vote.

Let's all go to the movies!



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    • discovery2020 profile image
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      WILLIAM EVANS 5 years ago from GARLAND, TEXAS

      My wife's favorite and one of my top ten. We watch it every time it comes on tv. Thanks, CLF.

    • cloverleaffarm profile image

      Healing Herbalist 5 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

      Great hub. There are many scenes in the movie, where you can tell that they had already filmed, and didn't have their Scarlett yet. One scene is the burning train yard. If you notice, the cut away shots the lady has her head covered. Awesome as usual.

    • discovery2020 profile image
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      WILLIAM EVANS 5 years ago from GARLAND, TEXAS

      Appreciate the comment. Thank you.

    • discovery2020 profile image
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      WILLIAM EVANS 5 years ago from GARLAND, TEXAS

      Appreciate the comment. Thank you.

    • discovery2020 profile image
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      WILLIAM EVANS 5 years ago from GARLAND, TEXAS

      BTW, since you are interested in old movies, I just published a hub on my favorite actress all-time, Irene Dunne. Should appear soon. bill

    • discovery2020 profile image
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      WILLIAM EVANS 5 years ago from GARLAND, TEXAS

      Thanks and you are certainly right about Katherine. She fell way short of the girl Selznick had in mind. I met Lana Turner, Mickey Rooney, Van Johnson, Donald O'Conner and others backstage at the old Windmill Dinner Theater in Dallas back in the 70's when they would meet with you after their performances. I really miss those up close performances. We always had seats right next to the stage. I am talking 3 ft. from the stage where we could almost reach out and touch the performers. Amazing days!

      Thanks for your comments.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I love Old Hollywood stories. I really got into it when I was taking a film noir class my junior year of college. And since then I've been watching TCM and getting more into the classic era of film. That also has to do with the fact that there are only a handful of must see films out these days. I really would be interested in how you met Lana Turner. That had to be pretty amazing :). Well, I really enjoyed this hub and remembering the actresses who auditioned. If I remember right Katharine Hepburn tried to audition but Selznick pretty much vetoed her. Anyway, this is a very interesting hub. Great job!

    • discovery2020 profile image
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      WILLIAM EVANS 5 years ago from GARLAND, TEXAS

      That was a typo. First, 1,400, not 1,500 were interviewed. Only 400 were given actual screen tests.

    • discovery2020 profile image
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      WILLIAM EVANS 5 years ago from GARLAND, TEXAS

      Yes, more than 1,500 were tested. I only listed the popular stars at the time. Selznick wanted someone new and fresh. He found her.

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      duffer 5 years ago

      I had no idea that such a search was launched to find the lead for that film. No doubt everyone knew that it would be an epic that would be everlasting.

    • discovery2020 profile image
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      WILLIAM EVANS 5 years ago from GARLAND, TEXAS

      I agree. They were very similar. But, that wasn't the only reason I voted for Goddard. She had that same southern belle way about her that Leigh had. She played similar roles in her career that reminded me of Leigh as Scarlett. Thanks for your input.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      I think Vivien Leigh and Paulette Goddard are quite similar in the 2 photos here. Make me wonder if Selznick was looking for a certain 'look'. I think Leigh has a lovely open face and such a twinkle in her eyes. She was introduced to Selznick at a party as 'your Scarlett O'Hara' and she go the job. Voted up, interesting and some excellent photos.