Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

Search Collections

Tallulah Bankhead

Gone With The Wind
The Search For Scarlett
Tallulah Bankhead

The legendary actress Tallulah Bankhead was known primarily for her work on the stage. For more than a year she was the only established actress to have tested for the part of Scarlett. As illustrated in the two memos below, Selznick thought she would make a fine Scarlett but was afraid she could not look young enough in the first part of the film.

Her most memorable film role was in Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat.



INTER-OFFICE COMMUNICATION

SELZNICK INTERNATIONAL PICTURES, INC.

CULVER CITY, CALIF.

TO: Miss Katharine Brown

SUBJECT: TALLULAH BANKHEAD

FROM: Silvia Schulman

DATE: 11/19/36

Dear Kay:

Mr. Selznick was terribly impressed with the photographs of the 'new'
Tallulah. I am holding them here to show George Cukor, as soon as that
elusive gent makes his appearance. Things are getting so bad, I may
even get a leave of absence from the office and go over and visit him
on the set. He told me that if I did this, he would fire at me on sight!

Mr. Selznick expressed the hope, as he looked at the photographs, that
you would be able to line up a really good cameraman for her tests.
I know the difficulty you will find doing this in New York, so I thought
I would give you advance notice.

ss


DECEMBER 24, 1936
TO MR. J H WHITNEY FROM DOS
DEAR JOCK HAVE WIRED TALLULAH AS FOLLOWS-
"DEAR TALLULAH THE TESTS ARE VERY PROMISING INDEED STOP AM STILL WORRIED
ABOUT THE FIRST PART OF THE STORY AND FRANKLY IF I HAD TO GIVE YOU
AN ANSWER NOW IT WOULD BE NO BUT IF WE CAN LEAVE IT OPEN I CAN SAY TO
YOU VERY HONESTLY THAT I THINK THERE IS A STRONG POSSIBILITY STOP I
SHOULD LIKE TO CONTINUE LOOKING AROUND AND A LITTLE LATER ON CONSIDER
THE ADVISABILITY OF MAKING FURTHER TESTS WITH YOU EITHER IN NEWYORK OR
HERE USING DIALOGUE SCENES FROM SCRIPT DIRECTED BY GEORGE STOP THESE
TESTS SHOULD BE BENEFICIAL TO YOUR CHANCES BECAUSE CERTAINLY ONCE YOU
GET A CHANCE TO ACT, YOU SHOULD BURN UP THE SCREEN AND FROM OUR STAND-
POINT THEY WOULD REALLY GIVE US CLEAR IDEA AS TO HOW YOU WOULD BE AS
SCARLETT AND HOW MUCH YOUR PERFORMANCE WOULD OFFSET OTHER POSSIBLE
DRAWBACKS STOP IN SHORT I SHOULD LIKE TO SAY TO YOU VERY SINCERELY
THAT I THINK YOU ARE A DEFINITE POSSIBILITY BUT I CANNOT GIVE YOU AN
ANSWER FOR SOME TIME CORDIALLY - DAVID SELZNICK"

I APOLOGIZE FOR THE REDUNDANCY OF ABOVE BUT IT WAS ONLY WAY IN WHICH
I COULD MAKE MY FEELINGS CLEAR AND I MEAN EVERYTHING I SAY IN IT STOP
AIRMAILING THE TESTS TO YOU AND ANXIOUS HAVE YOUR OPINION AS SOON AS
YOU HAVE SEEN THEM.