Sunday, April 06, 2014

Searching for Melanie

Scarlett O'Hara wasn't the only role that needed a lot of screen tests for the film version of "Gone with the Wind." As you can see in this publicity still from November 11, 1937, even the roles of goody-two-shoes Melanie Hamilton and bad-girl Belle Watling were not solidified quickly.


At last cameras begin to grind in screen tests of prominent actresses for roles in the picture version of the highly-successful "Gone with the Wind." Pictured left to right during the tests at Selznick Studios in Astoria, L.I., are, left to right: Katherine Locke, who may play Melanie; Lenore Ulric, who will essay Belle Watling; Director George Cukor, and Cameraman Rudy Mate. Although the studio purchased the picture rights when the book was still in the proof-sheet stage, but two characters have been cast and actual production has not yet begun.

The irony of this photo is that not one single person in it ended up being used in the finished film, including Cukor (who was replaced by Victor Fleming) and Mate, who was a highly respected cinematographer ("Gilda" and "The Lady from Shanghai" are on his credit list).

As we all know, the roles eventually went to Olivia DeHavilland and Ona Munson. Katherine Locke was mainly a stage actress who had a few bit parts, including one with DeHavilland years later in "The Snake Pit" (1948). I wonder if they ever discussed the role of Melanie. Ulric was also mainly known for her stage career, although she had a few bit parts, including "Camille" with Garbo and "Notorious" for Hitchcock.

Here is the scene that was being filmed in the test as it appeared on screen:

You can see some of the original tests for Scarlett in this montage on youtube:

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