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