Scarlett O'Hara, as she appears in Gone With the Wind.
|Appears in||Gone With the Wind (book)|
Gone With the Wind (film)
(1st husband; decased)
Wade Hampton Hamilton
(2nd husband; deceased)
Ella Lorena Kennedy
Eugenie "Bonnie Blue" Victoria Butler
Katie "Cat" Colum Butler
(daughter in Scarlett)
|Age||16 - 28 (Gone With the Wind)|
c. 30s (Scarlett)
|Affiliations||Confederate States of America|
Fayette Female Academy
|“||Death and taxes and childbirth! There's never any convenient time for any of them!||”|
—Scarlett O'Hara, Chapter 38
Scarlett O'Hara, born Katie Scarlett O' Hara (credited as Scarlett Hamilton - Kennedy - Butler), is the protagonist in Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel Gone with the Wind and in the later film of the same name.
Scarlett was born in 1845.
She also is the main character in the 1970 musical Scarlett and the 1991 book Scarlett, a sequel to Gone with the Wind that was written by Alexandra Ripley and adapted for a television mini-series in 1994. During early drafts of the original novel, Mitchell referred to her heroine as "Pansy", and did not decide on the name "Scarlett" until just before the novel went to print.
Scarlett O'Hara is not beautiful in a conventional sense, as indicated by Margaret Mitchell's opening line, but a charming Southern belle who grows up on a Clayton County, Georgia plantation named after Tara in the years before the American Civil War. Scarlett is described as being sixteen years old at the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, which would put her approximate birth date in early 1845 . She is the oldest of three daughters. Her two younger sisters are the lazy and whiny Susan Elinor ("Suellen") and the gentle and kind Caroline Irene ("Carreen"). Her mother also gave birth to three younger sons, who were all named Gerald Jr. and died as infants. Selfish, shrewd and vain, Scarlett inherits the strong will of her Irish father Gerald O'Hara, but also desires to please her well-bred, gentle French American mother Ellen Robillard, from a good and well respected Savannah, Georgia family. Scarlett is secretly in love with Ashley Wilkes, her aristocratic neighbor, but when his engagement to meek and mild-mannered Melanie Hamilton is announced, she marries Melanie's brother, Charles Hamilton, out of spite. Her new husband dies early in the war of measles, and Tara falls into the marauding hands of the Yankees. In the face of hardship, the spoiled Scarlett uncharacteristically shoulders the troubles of her family and friends, and eventually the not-so-grieving widow marries her sister's beau, Frank Kennedy, in order to get funds to pay the taxes on and save her family's beloved home. Her practical nature leads to a willingness to step on anyone who doesn't have her family's best interests at heart, including her own sister. One of the most richly developed female characters of the time on film and in literature, she repeatedly challenges the prescribed women's roles of her time. As a result, she becomes very disliked by the people of Atlanta, Georgia. Scarlett's ongoing internal conflict between her feelings for the Southern gentleman Ashley and her attraction to the sardonic, opportunistic Rhett Butler—who becomes her third husband—embodies the general position of The South in the Civil War era. Scarlett, a sequel written after Mitchell's death by Alexandra Ripley, was a controversial best-seller after its publication in 1991.
Searching for ScarlettEdit
In the 1939 film version of Gone With the Wind , Scarlett O'Hara is similar to the character in the original novel, but there are some noticeable differences. In the book, Scarlett gives birth to three children: Wade Hampton Hamilton, Ella Lorena Kennedy, and Eugenie Victoria "Bonnie Blue" Butler. In the film version, only Bonnie is featured. In the sequel book, Scarlett, she has another daughter with Rhett, Katie Colum O'Hara more commonly known as "Cat".
While the studio and the public agreed that the part of Rhett Butler should go to Clark Gable (except for Clark Gable himself), casting for the role of Scarlett was a little harder. The search for an actress to play Scarlett in the film version of the novel famously drew the biggest names in the history of cinema, such as Bette Davis (whose casting as a Southern belle in Jezebel in 1937 took her out of contention), and Katharine Hepburn, who went so far as demanding an appointment with producer David O. Selznick and saying, "I am Scarlett O'Hara! The role is practically written for me." David replied rather bluntly, "I can't imagine Rhett Butler chasing you for ten years." Jean Arthur and Lucille Ball were also considered, as well as relatively unknown actress Doris Davenport. Susan Hayward was "discovered" when she tested for the part, and the career of Lana Turner developed quickly after her screen test. Joan Bennett was widely considered to be the most likely choice until she was supplanted by Paulette Goddard.
The young English actress Vivien Leigh, virtually unknown in America, saw that several English actors, including Ronald Colman and Leslie Howard, were in consideration for the male leads in Gone with the Wind. Her agent happened to be the London representative of the Myron Selznick talent agency, headed by David Selznick's brother, a co-owner of Selznick International Pictures. Leigh asked her agent to put her name into consideration as Scarlett on the eve of the American release of her picture Fire Over England in February 1938. David Selznick watched both Fire Over England and her most recent picture, A Yank at Oxford, that month, and from that time onward, Leigh had the inside track for the role of Scarlett. Selznick began highly confidential negotiations with Alexander Korda, to whom Leigh was under contract, for her services later that year. Leigh was informed of Selznick's interest, and told that she would not need to screen test for the role at present as he would view her movies.
For publicity purposes, David Selznick arranged to first meet Leigh on the night in December 1938 when the burning of the Atlanta Depot was being filmed on the Forty Acres backlot that Selznick International and RKO shared. The story was invented for the press that Leigh and Laurence Olivier were just visiting as guests of Myron Selznick, who was also Olivier's agent, and that Leigh was in Hollywood hoping for a part in Olivier's current movie, Wuthering Heights. In a letter to Selznick's wife two days later, he admitted that Leigh was "the Scarlett dark horse," and after a series of screen tests, her casting was announced on January 13, 1939. Just before the shooting of the film, Selznick informed Ed Sullivan: "Scarlett O'Hara's parents were French and Irish. Identically, Miss Leigh's parents are French and Irish.
In any case, Leigh was cast—despite public protest that the role was too "American" for an English actress—and Leigh eventually won an Academy Award for her performance. Adaptations
In the 1994 TV mini-series based on the sequel Scarlett, the character was played by English actress Joanne Whalley.
In the Margaret Martin musical Friday, the role of Scarlett O'Hara was originated by Jill Paice.
Part of Scarlett's enduring charm for women is her proto-feminism and strength, though recent critics have pointed out that many events in the novel are degrading to women. There is Rhett's ravishing of Scarlett (after which Scarlett is shown to have enjoyed herself immensely), Scarlett's apparent need of a man to be happy (whether it's Ashley Wilkes or Rhett Butler), and Melanie's sweet but submissive character (who is much adored by everyone).
However, there have been many defenses for this. First of all, Melanie is not offensive to women, she is simply a more traditional character - she has equal determination as Scarlett (see the scene in Tara when Scarlett kills a Northern soldier who wanted to loot the house; Melanie helps hide the corpse and approves of Scarlett killing him). Many believe the 'rape scene' quickly becomes consensual (this theory is backed by the novel Scarlett, although it was not written by Mitchell). And again, Scarlett is an individual character, and her need for a man should not be interpreted as universal. (Indeed, her three marriages obviously have ulterior motive, whether these motives are to upset and startle those around her, such as the Hamilton marriage, or for financial security and betterment, for which Scarlett married both Kennedy and Butler.)
Scarlett is by far the most developed character in Gone with the Wind. She stands out because she is strong and saves her family but is incredibly selfish and petty at the same time. She challenges nineteenth-century society's gender roles repeatedly, running a store and two lumber mills at one point. Scarlett is in some ways the least stereotypically feminine of women (in other ways the most), and the more traditional Melanie Wilkes is in many ways her foil. But Scarlett survives the war, several marriages, the birth of children, and even a miscarriage. Melanie, on the other hand, struggles with fragile health and a shy nature. Without Melanie Wilkes, Scarlett might simply be seen as harsh and "over the top," but beside Melanie, Scarlett presents a fresher, deeper female characterization; she lives a complicated life during a difficult period of history.
Some of Scarlett's lines from Gone with the Wind, like "Fiddle-dee-dee!," "Tomorrow is another day," "Great balls of fire!" and "I'll never go hungry again!", have become modern catchphrases.
Similarities between Scarlett and the actress who played her (Vivien Leigh) are striking: Both had strong career ambitions, and wanted little to do with motherhood. Both swore they would never again have a child.
Scarlett's father was Irish, and her mother was French. Leigh's mother was Irish and father was French.
Both Scarlett and Leigh were famed for their appearance, their heart-shaped faces, their unusual eyes, and petite body proportions.
Both were reputed to be "difficult" in relationships.
|Scarlett O'Hara · Melanie Hamilton · Rhett Butler · Ashley Wilkes · Aunt Pittypat · Gerald O'Hara · Will Benteen|
|Georgia · Tara · Twelve Oaks · Atlanta · Five Points · Rough and Ready · Macon|
|Introduction · Picnic of Twelve Oaks · Off to War · Move to Atlanta · The Confederate Ball · Messages of Death · Home on Furlough · Siege of Atlanta · Journey Back to Tara · The Neighborhood in Ruins · Death of a Yankee · A Fresh Start · Home from the War · The Return of Jonas · Rhett's Imprisonment · Fanny Elsing's Wedding|