Olivia de Havilland did not want to be Scarlett O'Hara.
So many actresses, from veterans to newcomers, yearned for that role, fought for it tooth and nail. But Olivia de Havilland wanted to play Melanie.
The mug shot and her surname misspelled on the placard may reflect the assembly line nature of The Golden Age of Hollywood, but they do not detract from the elegance, the power of the woman who knew who she was, and who knew who Melanie was.
We take a moment today to marvel at the 100th birthday tomorrow of this glorious actress, and to recall at least one quality that made her different. As regards her role as Melanie in Gone with the Wind (1939), Olivia responded in an interview for the Academy of Achievement.
Jack [Warner], for example, said, "Oh, you don't want to play Melanie. You want to play Scarlett." I said, "I don't want to play Scarlett. I want Melanie." It's because I was so young. I had for four years been earning my own living, going through all the problems of a career woman, self-supporting and even contributing to the support of others, which is what Scarlett did. That's what Scarlett did. So, I knew about being Scarlett in a sense, but Melanie was someone different. She had very, deeply feminine qualities. Scarlett was a self-absorbed person. She had to be. Career women have to be, that's all there is to it. But, Melanie was "other people-oriented," and she had these feminine qualities that I felt were very endangered at that time, and they are from generation to generation, and that somehow they should be kept alive, and one way I could contribute to their being kept alive was to play Melanie, and that's why I wanted to interpret her role.
Happy Birthday, Olivia de Havilland. There is much to celebrate in your career. Thank you.
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