‘I Love Lucy’ Star Lucille Ball Auditioned for Scarlett O’Hara in ‘Gone With the Wind’

by Jennifer Shea

“I Love Lucy” star Lucille Ball may not have thought so at the time, but she got lucky when producer David O. Selznick passed her over for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in the movie “Gone With the Wind.”

Lucille Ball Was One of Many Actresses to Audition for the Part

Ball auditioned for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in 1939. It did not go well, as Nylon Magazine reports. Ball showed up to the audition drenched after running through a sudden rainstorm. And on top of that, she’d had too many drinks to soothe her nerves before the audition.

She did not get the part. However, Ball was in good company there, according to Social Gazette. While Ball had mostly acted in B movies up until that point, plenty of Hollywood A-listers also tried out for the role and got turned down.

For example, Katharine Hepburn auditioned for Selznick. He thought she wasn’t right for the role. Joan Crawford, who had worked with Clark Gable, the actor playing Rhett Butler, and had a romantic relationship with him offscreen, was likewise rejected.

Bette Davis was a fan favorite to play O’Hara. Her studio, Warner Brothers, had signaled it would make a deal with MGM to let her work with Selznick. But Selznick did not believe she was the right fit for the role.

British actress Vivien Leigh ultimately got the role. She would go on to win a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of O’Hara.

If Ball Had Gotten the Role, She Might Never Have Met Desi Arnaz

It was soon after she auditioned for Selznick that Ball first encountered Desi Arnaz, in 1939 or 1940. They both appeared in the RKO Pictures adaptation of the Broadway musical “Too Many Girls,” in which Arnaz had starred. They fell for each other instantly.

The couple married in November 1940 in Greenwich, Connecticut, according to the Connecticut Post. They had to get a judge to waive the required five-day waiting period because they wanted to get married as soon as possible.

“Maybe it doesn’t sound romantic, but actually it was,” Ball explained later. “The judge took us there because he said all young people who are going to spend a lifetime together should start off in as romantic a setting as possible.”

Their relationship was tempestuous, however. Both were jealous, and Arnaz was a notorious womanizer. The couple divorced in 1960.  

Still, their marriage produced two children, Lucie and Desi Jr. And Ball publicly wept after Arnaz died of lung cancer in 1986.