Saturday, March 28, 2009

Fiddle Dee Dee, I'll Just Star in The Women

I remember watching a TV movie many years ago called The Scarlett O'Hara Wars. It starred Tony Curtis as David O. Selznick and a bevy of not very well known actresses from the 1970's playing a bevy of extremely well known actresses from the 1930's, and as the title indicates, these actresses were all vying for the most coveted role of the decade (some might argue ever!), that of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind.

The teleplay told the legendary story with a comedic, almost campy twist but the segment of the movie that always stuck out in my mind was each Scarlett candidate going to George Cukor during a Hollywood party to lobby for the role of the southern vixen only to be told by the director that he had a perfect part for her in a new project he was starting called The Women. Now whether or not this was the way the classic 1939 film was actually cast, I don't know, but almost every major role in The Women starred an ex-Scarlett wannabe.

Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Joan Fontaine were all in consideration (with varying degrees of seriousness) for the part of Scarlett and Paulette Goddard was the front runner until serious questions about the validity of her marriage to Charlie Chaplin surfaced. Each of these stars (along with Rosalind Russell, Mary Boland, Marjorie Main and others) came together to create one of the cleverest, snappiest, funniest films of its kind. They may not have been perfect as Scarlett but they sure were great as The Women.


  1. It's a good thing it ended up being Vivien Leigh though, she was perfect in that role.

  2. This is another great movie everytime its on TCM I watch!

  3. The Women is a cinematic masterpiece. Only after the film ends and the euphoria wears off do you realize that you never actually saw any of the husbands who were central charaters in the story.

    I don't want to run on too long but every actress in this film is completely believable in their part. The dialogue is brilliant.
    Enough from me, thank you for profiling this wonderful movie.

  4. Another grand review of a great film mate, and another of my favourites. I prefer wise-cracking films, but this film has just enough great dialogue to keep it ahead of other "chick" flicks of the era!!!

  5. What a terrific consolation prize! Such a fascinating idea, making a film with all the runner-up Scarletts. :)

    The Women is one of my all time favs. I like it even more than GWTW. The dialogue is so witty and truthful - even 70 years on. Just as relavent now as it was then.

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  7. Joan Fontaine and Paulette Goddard?? Huh-uh! Wow. I knew that Lucille Ball had auditioned for Scarlett, but... That's interesting! Still, Vivien Leigh? I certainly didn't mind her. :)

    I haven't seen The Women, and probably won't (unless I'm forced a woman), but that is quite a cast!

  8. I always motivated by you, your opinion and way of thinking, again, thanks for this nice post.

    - Thomas

  9. In July of 1938, the same month Shearer's "Marie Antoinette" opened, Selznick sent up a trial balloon announcing Norma Shearer as Scarlett. The reaction from her fan clubs was predominately negative, feeling the role was too bitchy and would compromise Norma's 'dignity.' Margaret Mitchell herself kindly expressed that she too felt Norma miscast as Scarlett.

    Norma accepted the verdict like a pro, and quietly bowed out. And there was also the age question; at the time of filming Norma would have been 37 and a little mature for the first half of the movie. Yet the fakery Scarlett plays stealing one of her sister's fianc├ęs, and attempting to wheedle money out of Rhett when he's in jail, are scenes any Shearer fan knows she would have aced with ease.

    Had he lived, it's a tough question how hard Thalberg might have lobbied to get Shearer the part, or whether he too would have accepted the public verdict? When Selznick would not be persuaded to stay with MGM beyond 1935, Thalberg nevertheless silently invested in Selznick's new, independent company and they remained friends.

    There can be significantly less doubt however, come 1942, he would have happily accepted Norma's refusal of "Mrs. Miniver." Louis B. Mayer promised Norma it would be MGM's most prestigious film of the year (it was), and pleaded with her to do it. The culprit, as all Norma fans must acknowledge, was Norma's own vanity. At 40, she didn't want to play the mother of an army-age son.

    This is not to find a single flaw in the performance of Greer Garson. She did it perfectly. But Kay Miniver might have also revitalized Norma's career for another half decade, and that realization is a perpetual regret to her fans.



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