The ridiculously fetching Paulette Goddard (or Paulette Goddard Chaplin Meredith Remarque) was a finalist for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in ‘Gone With The Wind’. David O. Selznick apparently liked her well enough to include her in the final grouping of possible Scarlett’s which included Jean Arthur, Joan Bennett and of course Vivien Leigh. Above are some screen tests (in Technicolor) of Goddard, being directed from off-camera by George Cukor. It’s impossible, once a film is made and is successful, to imagine any alternate actors in the roles of the actors who were actually cast. Thus the idea of ‘Casablanca’ starring Ronald Reagan or ‘The Maltese Falcon’ starring George Raft seems absurd (both were offered the roles and turned them down before Bogart was approached). But of the above named actresses I’d have put my money on Paulette. Jean Arthur just seems like flat out miscasting for the role and Joan Bennett simply isn’t an interesting enough actress (for my taste). Vivien Leigh was very much a long shot and a somewhat peculiar choice, being English and having little to no profile in America. From the look of these tests, Goddard would have given Scarlett exactly the colors that Leigh did–bold, flirtatious, smart, treacherously charming–and would have probably meant bigger box-office insurance for Selznick’s independently financed super-movie. Nonetheless, the producer followed his gut and hired the least famous actress for the role. There’s some speculation that Goddard’s hazy marital status with Charlie Chaplin (nobody was ever quite sure that they made it legal) also tipped the scales away from her, as Selznick perhaps feared a scandal backlash. Goddard remains my secret crush–or perhaps not so secret anymore since I revealed a few weeks ago that I wrote her what was more or less a mash note when I was a teenager. Keep it under your hat, will you?


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