Tuesday, October 9, 2012

With Paulette at the premiere of GONE WITH THE WIND, 1939

Paulette was one of the top contenders for the role of Scarlett O'Hara, but evidently lost out when she could not provide proof of her marriage to Chaplin. Years later, Paulette said that she was not given the role because Charlie would not release her from her contract: "Charlie and I had a meeting with David [Selznick], and I was crying, sitting on the floor and sobbing because Charlie said, 'It'll take you a year longer if you use Paulette. She wants to go to parties, she wants to go out, she wants to have a good time, and she's not serious, so I won't release her." (Opposite Attraction by Julie Gilbert)
I'm sure there's some truth to Paulette's claim. From what I've read, the Selznicks were more concerned about Charlie's contractual rights to Paulette than whether or not they were married. If Charlie was indeed responsible for Paulette not getting the role, she never seemed to hold a grudge against him.


  1. In Vance's book he still claims that Paulette lost the role because she failed to provide the proof, although he also uses the book Opposite Attraction as a reference. Many other sources say the same thing. However according to this letter Selznick did not seem consider it a very big problem http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/web/gwtw/scarlett/desp1.html

    About the problem with her contract to Chaplin, in this letter in May 1937 http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/web/gwtw/scarlett/contenders/pg.html , Selznick said that he would not even make screen test with Paulette if they could not solve the problem with her contract with Chaplin, but eventually she had many screen tests up to the end of 1938, when Vivien Leigh emerged.
    Another point: right from the beginning, he said that he preferred a new girl to a known one, and he repeated this again and again during the search.

  2. Charlie, a nice man! *lol*
    Poor Paulette.

  3. I had never thought at the legend of the "not marriage proof" because if to Selznick was so important to prevent scandals, he should gave the role neither to Vivien: her reputation about her private life was not so immaculate (Vivien and Olivier were just lovers at the time and their affair was well known)

    1. That's correct but Vivien's relationship with Oliver was not as publicized as Paulette's relationship with Chaplin. Anyway from Selznick's letter it seems that he did not care much about this.
      But even Paulette's version of the reason her loss of the role relating to the contract is not more reliable. To my knowledge, apart from Paulette, no one else ever mentioned this.
      I wonder why nobody thinks that Vivien got the role simply because her performance was convincing (plus she was new and Selznick wanted to create a new star) and just blames on some black secret for Paulette's loss.

    2. According to "Opposite Attraction", Selznick wrote the following in a letter to George Cukor in 1938:
      "Incidentally, the point in her contract, concerning Chaplin's rights, should be straightened out immediately. It might be wise for you to make clear to Goddard that unless this point is straightened out...and unless we get a further extension of the contract to a full seven years, she is not going to play Scarlett."

    3. Oh I missed that, thanks for pointing it out :)
      However, that letter was near the end of November 1938 and still before Selznick's first meeting with Vivien. According to the book Memo from David o. Selznick, he said about his impression of Vivien "I took one look and knew that she was right - at least as far as her appearance went - at least right as far as my conception of how Scarlett O'Hara looked. Later on, her tests, made under George Cukor's brilliant direction, showed that she could act the part right down to the ground, but I'll never recover from that first look." and told her wife that "she's the Scarlett dark horse".
      Despite his concern about Paulette's contract with Chaplin, she continued to have screen test up to 20-21 of December (Vivien's test were on 21-22) and just a few days later, on 25, Cukor told Vivien that she was chosen.
      Of course all of what I said does not totally exclude the possibility that the problem with Chaplin played some role, maybe they tried to negotiate with him up to 25th Dec, but it seems there was little proof for this possibility.

  4. Have any of you ever seen Paulette's screen test for Scarlett? If you had, you'd agree she wasn't right for the part.


    1. I've seen it, Phil. I agree with you, I don't think Paulette had the acting chops for Scarlett.

      Here's the link to the screen test for those who might want to watch it. It includes other actresses as well: