The search for Scarlett O'Hara was one of the largest, if not the largest, casting campaigns in film history. But actress Ann Rutherford was one actress who wanted any role if it meant the chance to appear in "Gone With The Wind" (1939). It almost wasn't meant to be but when it was, Rutherford remarked in one of her interviews, "[It] made my golden years into platinum."
At the time of the film's production, Rutherford was still under contract with MGM Studios. Producer David O. Selznick made the call to Louis B. Mayer, wanting to borrow an actress for the role of Carreen O'Hara, one of Scarlett's sisters. The first one to come to mind was Judy Garland but she was filming another epic film at the time, "The Wizard of Oz." Eventually, Selznick mentioned Rutherford's name to Mayer and wanted to her to play Carreen.
While Mayer delivered the news to her in his office, she was elated until he told her that he objected to the offer in her best interest. He told her it was a "nothing" part. It was a major letdown to the actress's hopes of appearing in the film because being a huge fan of Margaret Mitchell's Civil War epic, the opportunity was truly once in a lifetime. She begged for Mayer to let her appear in the film. Or as she said in a 2010 interview, with the Times, "I said, 'Please let me do it. I will sweep the floor, I will empty the wastepaper basket.' I just wanted to watch the book come to life."
But Mayer was not an easy person to give in to her pleas. It was not until Rutherford burst into tears right in front of him, that Mayer agreed to let Selznick cast her. The actress did indeed have the time of her life. She met Clark Gable for the first time, where she had her reservations on what to expect from the King of Hollywood. But from what Rutherford observed on set, he was a humble man who hung out with the crew on set.
When "Gone With the Wind" was released, it as they say, the rest is history. At the time, the world was in love with the book and fortunately, the film was just as loved and just as epic. It topped the box office and still tops the box office after adjusted gross. It also won 8 Academy Awards including Best Actress for Vivien Leigh and made history with the Best Supporting Actress statuette going to Hattie McDaniel.
Afterwards, Rutherford continued to co-star in films including "Pride and Prejudice" (1940) where she portrayed "Lydia Bennett." After formally retiring in 1972 at the age of 75, Rutherford made her second career in attending screenings and festivals dedicated to "Gone With The Wind" (1939). While in attendance, she was happy to relate her stories of being on-set and her contribution to the film's legacy. However, her second career and the film's success was not a surprise to her. Rutherford knew that "Gone With The Wind" was going to be iconic from the moment she read the book to the day she arrived on set.
In the 1990s, when James Cameron was working on his own epic drama "Titanic," the part of Rose Calvert was offered to Rutherford but she turned it down. In 2011, she was also a guest at the 2nd annual Turner Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, California for a screening of "An American in Paris." Rutherford also has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame - The Golden Boot Award for western movies and television as well as a star for Television.
With the passing of Ann Rutherford on June 11, 2012, there are four remaining cast members of "Gone With The Wind" (1939). Alicia Rhett, who played "India Wilkes" is the oldest. Also, Olivia De Havilland who played "Melanie Wilkes", "Mary Anderson wh played "Maybelle Meriweather", and "Mickey Kuhn" who played Beau Wilkes.