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Bette Davis wanted to play Scarlet O’Hara. And according to her, Jack Warner, head of Warner Brothers, had even offered the part after her frustration with the lack of good parts (read about that here).
Gone with the Wind director George Cukor said, “When the book became a huge success, selling over a million copies in six months, every studio in Hollywood wanted to make the movie, and every actress between the ages of thirteen and sixty-two wanted to play Scarlet O’Hara.”
Those interested included Katharine Hepburn, Irene Dunne, and Joan Crawford.
Producer David Selznick, who owned the book’s rights, made the rounds at different studios to see what talent they might offer. Warner Brothers suggested Davis, Erroll Flynn, and Olivia de Havilland.
Davis said, “I wanted to do Scarlet very much, but Errol Flynn was all wrong for the part of Rhett.”
In the end, of course, the coveted role went to Vivien Leigh.
So Warner Brothers decided to do their own Southern drama with Davis – Jezebel.
When the star heard about the news, she wrote Warner: “I am thrilled to death about Jezebel. I think it can be as great, if not greater than Gone with the Wind.”
The film was a major success for Davis’ career, and for her performance, she was awarded her second Academy Award in 1939.
She said, “I was always challenged by women [like Jezebel], because it was really something to work with, and it did become known as a Bette Davis part.”