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Gone With The Wind
The Search For Scarlett

The chronology below was prepared for Selznick in November 1938, more than two years after he began his search for the perfect actress to play the most coveted role in the history of film. The chronology lists the major events in this process and the notes to the left provide links to relevant documents in the Selznick archive.

| Girls Tested for the Role of Scarlett |
| Vivien Leigh |

  Illustration depicting Scarlett O'Hara

See "How David O. Selznick and Katharine Brown purchased the Film Rights to Gone With The Wind"

Selznick's letter to Louella Parsons illustrates his early response to the public and the problems he would have in casting the role. See also the Weekly Fan Mail Reports for 2/28/38 and 2/21/39 and the Compilation of Fan's Votes for the week of 1/9/39.

Selznick's reasons for wanting a "New Girl" are outlined in his memo of 1/7/37 and in a teletype to Jock Whitney.

Tallulah Bankhead was the only established actress seriously considered at this time.

Kay Brown's memo to Selznick outlines her plans for the first trip South.

See Silvia Schulman's memo to Brown regarding Milledgeville and George Cukor's trip South.

In her memo to Selznick titled "Invasion of the South" Brown discusses the problems she encountered during the talent search.

Brown's memo to Selznick of 11/29/36 outlines her experiences in Baltimore and Washington D.C.

May, 1936 - book first considered by us.
June, 1936 - book published (but no fanfare)
July 7, 1936 - we purchased book.

Oct., 1936 - letters are pouring in on casting of the picture. It has become a parlor game all over America. Letters not only from the public, but also from exhibitors, national figures, organizations (many recommending local belles for Scarlett). Mary Pickford wrote from Berengaria, en route to Europe, suggesting Phillips Holmes for Ashley, Gable for Rhett and Sullavan for Scarlett.

Mayor George S. Carpenter of Milledgeville wrote inviting Cukor to use Milledgeville as locale for shooting GWTW.

Since there is so much excitement as to who is to play Scarlett, definitely decided not to use established star but to try to find new personality.

11/11/36 - Bankhead is first choice among established stars -- and many votes coming in for her. She is taking Arden treatments and preparing for Cukor's arrival in NY to test her.

Decision to invade the South and try to find girl. List of all colleges in the South is gotten together and, these with Dramatic Departments were included in the itinerary. Equity, Billboard and Variety were asked if there were stock companies in the South to be included in itinerary. Information lined up on best Little Theatres throughout the South.

In New York, a breakdown of every character in the book was distributed to all agents, who were asked to fill in their recommendations for the casting.

Letters: Ga. Military College invited us to use college grounds and buildings for scenes in GWTW. Ga. State College urged our consideration of Milledgeville as location for GWTW. Governor Talmadge also wrote asking consideration of " . Presidents of Junior League of Louisville, Charleston, Lexington, Decatur, and College Alumni Societies, have all written to advise they have the perfect "Scarlett."

DOS wrote KB to have all NY Scarlett possibilities lined up for Cukor to see on arrival in NY. Then she is to leave for the South to line up people throughout the south for Cukor to see. (Cukor never did get there, tho -- so Kay wound up going alone).

11/23/36 - Response to inquiries made of Universities, stock companies, etc., as to whether they had "Scarlett" possibilities is so enormous, Kay is taking Bundsmann along to help audition. Universities not along line of route are willing (especially Washington and Lee, and U. of Va.) to let candidates miss classes to get audition. Scenes forwarded to all schools, etc., so girls will know their lines for audition. Plan is to line up most interesting of the readings for testing in N.Y. -- unless someone terribly terrific is found, in which case a test might be made in the South.

11/25/36 - Recountal of Kay's itinerary: Friday - Baltimore - auditioning 100 girls. Sat. - Washington, D.C. - auditioning girls from dramatic schools and all members of Civic Repertory theatre. Mon and Tues - Charleston - Pres. of Jr. League has lined up 40 girls.

Brown was disturbed by news -- leaks resulting in overwhelming and unruly crowds wherever she went.

Brown's 12/5/36 report to Selznick on the Southern Talent Search begins, "I shall refrain from detail about this harrowing experience. ..."

In his teletype to Brown of 3/20/37 Selznick discusses Brown's idea of casting Southern girls in smaller roles in the Barbeque Scene.

See the 2/15/37 teletype to Brown from her secretary, Harriet Flagg regarding Adele "Billie" Longmire. Cukor was especially impressed with Alicia Rhett who was eventually cast as India Wilkes, Ashley's sister.

George Cukor's letter to Selznick outlines his research trip to the South and mentions Wilbur Kurtz and Susan Myrick, both of whom were later hired as technical advisors on GWTW.

Anton Bundsmann's memo of 11/6/37 outlines the New York search and mentions several women who tested for Scarlett including Edith Marrener.

See Maxwell Arnow's report on his talent search through the stock companies of the Hollywood studios and Little Theatres and Drama Schools in the Los Angeles area.


Wed- Atlanta: Jr. League group; four little theatres; Macon Little Theatre; Georgia Tech; Agnes Scott college.

Plan to stop in Louisville, as reputedly the most beautiful girls N.Y. and then relayed to us by wire -- because "everything pertaining to GWTW is nobody's business but the South's and everything is immediately broadcast to the winds."

12/4/36 - 500 people auditioned already.

12/5/36 - Letter from KB marked "B".

12/9/36 - KB in New Orleans. Adele Longmire creates excitement and arrangements are made to test her in NY.

1/8/37 - Cukor is in New York and hasn't seen anyone very interesting from the interviews lined up for him there. Thinking seriously about advisability of another Southern trip. Because publicity has gone out thru the South calling Kay's trip a "stunt", idea is advanced that Cukor might sign one southern girl, to appear somewhere in the picture (Barbecue?) to prove our sincerity -- or else to bring several southern girls to NY for auditions.

1/15/37 - Darrow signed to help on trip. (Cukor is still auditioning people in NYC)

2/15/37 - Alicia Rhett is signed. Longmire's parents will not permit trip to NY for test.

2/19/37 - Louisa Robert signed.

Feb., 1937 - Serlin also working on search in NY.

3/20/37 - Alicia Rhett, Louisa Robert and Susan Falligant tested in NY.

3/25/37 - Cukor definitely going South, Itinerary: Milledgeville, Atlanta, Macon, Savannah, New Orleans, Charleston, Natchez. (Hobe Erwin also went with Cukor)

4/16/37 - Cukor reports, from South, that almost every college in the South has been covered. Only 10 fairly interesting girls so far.

4/21/37 - While Cukor, Darrow and KB are touring the South, Bundsman and Sinclair are still interviewing people in NY.

June, 1937 - DOS in NY and, with Cukor, is still interviewing girls.

July, 1937 -- DOS cautioned KB to let girls, who considered themselves Scarletts, know that their chances of playing the role are about a million to one.

DOS covering, in NY: stage people; agents' suggestions; Powers' models; P.W.A. Theatres (Madalyn O'Shea brought in her best people); NY radio field (as well as Chicago, en route home); college girls.

In L.A. we had covered: all girls in local area who had written in for interviews; Radio people (L.A. and S.F.); stock companies of other studios; extras; little theatres; universities and girls' schools; agents' submissions; Hollywood Studio Club.

Clark Gable signed his contract for the role of Rhett on August 25, 1938. Due to restrictions in the contract, it was determined that principal photography must start no later than January 1939.

Arnow's report of 11/16/38 details the last Southern Talent hunt. In the first paragraph he mentions Marcella Martin who was eventually cast as Cathleen Calvert in the Barbeque Scene.

Selzick's memo to Cukor of 10/21/38 and his memo to his executive secretary Marcella Rabwin of 11/12/38, six weeks before the start of principal photography, show his growing anxiety and despair over the Scarlett casting situation.


8/27/38 - Arnow hired on basis of $400. wk plus $5000. bonus if finds new girl for Scarlett, $2500. bonus for Ashley, $2500 bonus for Melanie.

8/30/38 - Arnow in NY. Interviewing candidates not seen before, including many who wrote in cold and asked for appt. DOS in NY, too. Saw Diana Barrymore, etc.

10/28 - Arnow leaving for Southern trip. Itinerary and places attached, marked "A".

November, 1938 - Despairing of finding new girl. Margaret Sullavan can be tested, by permission of MGM. Considering established actresses now.

Inter-Office Communication

Selznick International Pictures, Inc.

To: Mr. Birdwell

Subject: GONE WITH THE WIND - statement

Date: 1/10/38

Dear Russell:

Please prepare a statement for me along the following lines (this in order to
pave the way for selection of a known actress for Scarlett, in case we are forced to it):

"I am reaching the end of my rope on a search for a new girl to play Scarlett O'Hara. We
have gone to great extremes of effort and expenditure to find such a girl, but I am frankly
almost willing to admit now that I have bitten off more than I can chew and that the search
for Scarlett is not likely to be as successful as the search for Tom Sawyer, if only
because of the requirements of youth and enormous acting talent, which in themselves are
contradictory because of the lack of experience in newcomers and girls of the right age.
I am setting myself a deadline and if within it we do not find a new girl, we will
select a known actress."

Please let me see the statement when you get it drawn up.



Shortly after Selznick sent the above memo to Russell Birdwell, head of publicity for Selznick International, Paulette Goddard made her first screen test for the role of Scarlett.

Girls Tested for the Role of Scarlett

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