The image of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh together in Gone with the Wind is so firmly established in the iconography of popular culture that it seems almost impossible to imagine anyone else as Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara.
Producer David O. Selznick had his sights set on Gable almost from the start, but Leigh was cast only after a two-year search. Ever the opportunist, Selznick turned his quest for the perfect Scarlett O’Hara into a grand publicity stunt, interviewing 1,400 unknown actresses in a nationwide casting call and auditioning dozens of Hollywood actresses.
In this fascinating clip from the 1989 film Making of a Legend: Gone with the Wind, we see some of the 32 screen tests that were made for Scarlett, along with a few for other roles. Those trying out for Scarlett include Tallulah Bankhead, Susan Hayward, Lana Turner, Joan Bennett, Jean Arthur and finalist Paulette Goddard, who narrowly missed getting the part. Selznick eventually chose Leigh, a relatively unknown actress who he first thought was “too British” for the role of a southern belle. One thing Leigh had in common with Scarlett was self-assurance. In July of 1937–a year and a half before Selznick ever laid eyes on her–Leigh told a reporter for the London Evening News, “I’ve cast myself as Scarlett O’Hara. What do you think?”