Howard College’s ‘Almost Scarlett’

 GWTW Collage

Fiddle-dee-dee! Last weekend, movie theaters around the country held special showings of the Academy Award-winning Gone with the Wind to commemorate the film’s 75th anniversary. In January of 1940, the film debuted in Alabama at Birmingham’s historic Ritz Theatre.  The picture was so popular in Birmingham that it was shown in multiple theaters for over three months, unusual for the time. This movie remains a classic of the American cinema, widely beloved (and reviled) by some.

Howard College had a small part in the phenomenon that became Gone With the Wind. Scarlett O’Hara was the central character in the film (as in Margaret Mitchell’s novel). The iconic role was portrayed by Vivien Leigh, but the British actress was not the first choice for the role. Some sources report the film’s original director, George Cukor, (know for his work with Judy Garland on A Star is Born (1957) and Audrey Hepburn on My Fair Lady among other films) wanted Howard’s own Mary Anderson to play Scarlett.

Co-ed Mary Anderson ’39, known to her friends as “Bebe,” got her big break appearing in the play Excursion at the Birmingham Little Theatre. While touring the South for the right actors to recreate Mitchell’s characters in the film version of Gone With The Wind, Cukor attended the performance at the Little Theatre. Cukor immediately sent Anderson to New York for a screen test. She later reported to Hollywood to play the supporting role of Scarlett’s cousin, Maybelle Merriweather. Following the release of Gone with the Wind, Anderson went on to star in many movies and television shows, including Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Lifeboat.  In 1960, she earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is not surprising that the class of 1939 named her Howard’s most glamorous girl!

anderson GWTW pic

(Mary “Bebe” Anderson, Howard Entre Nous 1937)

Adapted from:

The Howard Crimson, February 1, 1940.

Howard College Entre Nous, 1937.

Lewiston Evening Journal, August 22, 1964

Hollywood Reporter, April 7, 2014

International Movie Database



  1. Thank you for a fine informative article of Mary Anderson. Wish I knew more of her college years and plays she performed in. I just love to watch her movies. She did play significant roles in a few. Such a lovely actress. I have so many questions of her. Seems she did a few Broadway plays as well. And, she may have appeared in other movies for which her scenes were deleted or she was an extra…not credited. I have a small collection of original photos from several of her movies. I also have most all of her movies with the exception of a few really hard to find. I was fortunate to find her movie short of “Mendelssohn’s Wedding March”, 1939. That movie was actually done in Technicolor and she looks absolutely beautiful in her peasant girl costume. She also does a very pretty dance to violin music. I also have several articles and magazine covers of her. I have been successful in finding a few of her TV show episode appearances. Some are difficult to find as they have not survived the years or are simply lost. I am always on the look-out for more. I wish I could find this particular issue of “Silver Scream” as I am interested in seeing page 55. Not to mention that she looks so pretty on the cover. I am always anxious to learn more of her. I’ll always remember “Bebe”.

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