Originally published by “Astrology Quarterly”, spring 2006
By early December 1938, the Hollywood producer of Gone With the Wind, David O. Selznick, had a very big problem: having already shelled out $50,000 for the movie rights for Margaret Mitchell’s novel, interviewing 1400 women, listening to some 400 readings of the blockbuster script plus screen-testing 90 actresses at a cost of over $100,000, Selznick still had not found the right actress to play Scarlett O’Hara, Mitchell’s unforgettable heroine.
Selznick did the exact opposite of what any sane, reasonable producer would do: he made plans to begin filming the epic movie immediately–and he wanted to start with the most difficult and dangerous scene, the burning of Atlanta. Using stunt doubles for the main characters and the old set for his previous movie, King Kong, on 10 December 1938, with the lead female still not found and against all advice, Selznick began production of Gone With the Wind with the simple strike of a match.
Selznick’s search for Scarlett had sparked the biggest casting call in the history of cinema. He had bagged his leading men, Clark Gable (“Rhett Butler”) and Leslie Howard (“Ashley Wilkes”) without too much trouble. Olivia DeHavilland (“Melanie Wilkes“) accepted her role shortly after her sister, Joan Fontaine rejected it by sarcastically saying, “Give it to my sister, it’s perfect for her.” (The two had one of the bitterest sibling feuds in Hollywood). As Selznick watched the inferno that would eventually become the backdrop of the movie’s most memorable image, he must have been consumed with raging self doubt coupled with deep disappointment that he may eventually have to use an actress he knew would be less than perfect. Suddenly, there was a tap on his shoulder. Annoyed, Selznick turned. It was his brother Myron, a casting agent. Next to Myron stood Laurence Olivier. Next to Olivier was Olivier’s girlfriend, the British actress Vivien Leigh. Selznick had rejected Leigh as Scarlett the year before because he felt an unknown American actress should play Scarlett. But this time, the fire of Atlanta glowed on Leigh’s flawless skin and reflected in her eyes–to Selznick, she looked as if lit from within and she seemed to ooze with sparkling passion. “David,” said Myron, “Meet Scarlett O‘Hara.”
Paulette Goddard: a near Scarlett
Within a month, Vivien Leigh had perfected a deep Southern accent and had proven she could act the part of such a feisty, spoiled, passionate woman. “Vivien Leigh is Scarlett O’Hara,” sighed a satisfied Margaret Mitchell after the film’s premiere in Atlanta the following year. It is a sentiment echoed by millions of viewers who simply cannot
imagine anyone other than Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara even though Katherine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, Susan Hayward, Joan Crawford, Paulette Goddard, Bette Davis and Lana Turner all auditioned for the part and all, at different times, were leading contenders in the search for Scarlett. Like Selznick (who had purchased the movie rights for Gone With the Wind before the book was available to the public), Leigh herself knew that the movie
Bette Davis: A contender for Scarlett?
would embed itself in American culture and cinema history. Already a fan of the novel, it seems Leigh also knew she was destined to play Scarlett: One evening a few years before she would be cast, she was standing next to her well known lover Olivier, and listened as friends insisted that “Larry” would make a great Rhett Butler. “Oh Larry won’t be Rhett Butler,” she told their friends, “But I will be Scarlett O’Hara, just wait and see.”
Vivien Leigh was born in Darjeeling India on 5 November 1913. Appropriate for a beauty, she has Taurus on the ascendant with the chart ruler in the sign of its dignity, Libra, and occupying her sixth house. With the Sun conjunct her descendant in Scorpio, it is easy to understand how she would want to attract such a powerful man as Laurence Olivier. Yet Leigh was adamant that though she loved Olivier, she did not want to marry him until she established herself in her own right as an actress. As she filmed the movie, Uranus passed over her ascendant. After winning an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1940 (and when the divorce papers from her first marriage were complete), Leigh married Olivier. The role of Scarlett had completely altered Leigh’s life and like Margaret Mitchell, she was never really able to find peace ever again in her life once fans worked out how to contact her.
Mitchell and Leigh had much in common and it was even said that Leigh looked like a younger Mitchell. Although born 13 years apart, their suns are only a few degrees apart with Mitchell’s Sun only a few minutes from Leigh’s descendant. They had similar placements for Mercury and Venus so astrologically it isn’t too difficult to appreciate these two women understood each other and had similar values. In fact, Mitchell declined to give Leigh advice on how to portray Scarlett, preferring to trust the actress’ interpretation. As Scarlett O’Hara was recently voted the most memorable female character in cinema, it seems Mitchell was right to trust her instincts.
It’s quite possible that Scarlett would not have been nearly as interesting without her perfect foil, the dashing Captain Rhett Butler. Although Clark Gable didn’t win an Academy Award for his portrayal, his line “Frankly my dear, I just don’t give a damn,” is one of the most instantly recognisable ever uttered in a movie. Costing MGM Studios a hefty fine for breeching obscenity laws, Selznick knew it would be worth it.
Gable–like many men–was not impressed with “Gone With the Wind.” Neither was Leslie Howard who simply didn’t want the role of Ashley Wilkes because he feared being typecast. And both of these men portrayed characters who were, to different degrees, the objects of Scarlett’s affection.
Since both Leigh and Gable were involved in relationships with other people and the romance of their characters was imperative to the storyline of the movie, they must have felt the pressure to walk a very fine line between fantasy and reality. There can be little doubt that their on-screen relationship was anything but convincing. In reality, Leigh hated kissing Gable because of his excessively bad breath (Leigh may have been a little tetchy because although she worked twice as many days as he did, she was only paid one-fifth of his salary). In one scene, Gable had to carry Leigh up a long flight of stairs–a scene that had to be filmed several times. “One more time, Clark,” called director Victor Fleming. Wincing, Gable picked up Leigh and carried her up the stairs. “Thanks Clark,” said Fleming. “We didn’t really need that shot. We just had a little bet that you couldn’t do it again.” Long hours of work plus long bouts away from their respective partners meant that filming was far from easy for the pair. And yet, they pulled off the greatest romance of cinema, a feat aided by Gable’s Sun on Leigh’s Moon and Leigh’s Mars opposite to Gable’s Venus. True teamwork is also shown with Gable’s Jupiter on Leigh’s Saturn–in the eighth house, no less: she held his confidence in check, he helped her to open up.
As noted in Gone With the Wind: The Zodiacal Parade, Mitchell used the zodiac as a basis for her characters with the feisty, independent heroine Scarlett O’Hara personifying the sign of Aries. Unfortunately, Mitchell did not leave a trail of dates and times of birth to use as clues for constructing natal charts. In fact, the only clue was that Scarlett was sixteen years old at the start of the Civil War (which meant she would have been born in 1845). And, no matter how real she might seem, Scarlett is a fictional character and therefore, does not have a birth chart. However, Scarlett’s phenomenal success was due to a blend of author’s invention and actress’ interpretation. Could Scarlett’s birth chart be the Mitchell/Leigh composite chart? And could this composite chart reflect the personality of Scarlett O’Hara herself?
Second best can sometimes be better
It would have been wonderful if the Sun of the composite chart was in Aries and in the first house. That would have made things a lot easier for a lazy astrologer. As a composite chart uses the midpoints of planets, it cannot be expected that the sun in a composite chart of two Scorpios could be anything but Scorpio. Initially it would seem a composite chart of Mitchell and Leigh could not possibly describe Scarlett. Further disappointment lies in the composite chart’s ascendant in the watery sign of Cancer and even worse, conjunct Neptune. It sounds far too wimpy to suit the Scarlett with whom we are familiar. However, an astrologer’s mood may lift when told that Mitchell’s first choice of name for her fiery heroine was not Scarlett but “Pansy.” Mitchell only changed the name in the final draft. Further encouragement comes with the thought of the traditional ruler of Scorpio–Scorpio shares its Mars rulership with the sign of Aries. It might be the wrong sign but it’s the right pl net. It’s enough to persuade an astrologer to take a better look at the ruling planet.
The composite chart’s ruler, the Moon, is conjunct the MC and in the sign of Aries (phew). That makes for a pretty sparky personality. Scarlett was certainly protective of her home and aggressively guarded her family and loved ones. Even better though, the Moon is part of a grand cross in the cardinal signs involving Uranus, Venus and Neptune. If one takes the view that the MC represents the mother and the IC the father, the moon’s conjunction to MC could explain Scarlett’s desire to have the grace and decorum of her mother, a social do-gooder. Venus on the IC then would represent Scarlett’s father–who happened to be a land-loving Taurean in Mitchell‘s zodiacal parade. With a Moon-Venus opposition, Scarlett was spoiled rotten by both her parents and this was one of the main reasons she found it so difficult to deal with the hardships of war. She was expected to do nothing but rely on her feminine wiles to attract a rich husband and live on the fat of the land. But when the going got tough, Scarlett’s favourite distraction was fantasising about life as the spouse of Ashley Wilkes–as demonstrated by a T-Square formed with the Moon/Venus opposition square to Neptune in Cancer. Ashley’s preoccupation with honour and prestige could only belong to the archetype of a Capricorn. That Ashley spurned Scarlett for “mealy mouthed” Melanie, a shy, sensitive, small-busted woman who died following the complications of a miscarriage, was an puzzle to Scarlett (but not to astrologers who can easily understand the attraction of a Capricorn to a Cancer). Its surprise for Scarlett is perhaps reflected in Neptune’s opposition to Uranus in Capricorn: Scarlett simply couldn’t figure Ashley out.
The Grand Cross practically guaranteed Scarlett would be misunderstood by those she loved. This was especially true with her relationship with her children (in the novel she had three children–a child with each of her three husbands–but in the film she had only one child, Bonnie Blue Butler, the daughter she shared with Rhett). Mitchell was said to be puzzled by Scarlett being regarded as a heroine when she was such a reluctant and negligent wife and mother. (“A cat’s a better mother than you,” Rhett told Scarlett). Instead Mitchell preferred the caring, sensitive Melanie–whose demise near the end of the film had audiences reaching for their hankies. Even Scarlett, who so regularly disregarded her with open contempt, recognised the goodness in Melanie when she died. It was as if Scarlett finally realised that there would be no other who could act out her Neptune as well as Melanie. If Mitchell had known of the other side of Scarlett’s grand cross, Neptune in the twelfth house square to her Venus-Moon opposition, perhaps she might have better comprehended the character’s fear of losing her sense of individuality, her love of the chase of romance and her reluctance to make long term commitments. The grand cross can make even the worst thing Scarlett does–stealing her sister’s long term fiancé and marrying him for his money–a little more understandable.
If an emphasis of cardinal signs weren’t enough, the composite chart also contains a grand trine in fire, involving Mars in Leo (in the first house, making Mars very difficult to ignore), Mercury in Sagittarius and again, remarkably, the Moon in Aries. Scarlett eventually fell in love with, married and had a child with Rhett Butler, who as a Leo was far more concerned about the status of his family than his wife. Since women tend to look to the men in their lives to act out their Mars energy (not that Scarlett needed any help!), a Leo man for Scarlett might seem a good match. Besides that, it’s pretty hard to resist a man who says “You need kissing and kissing often–and by someone who knows how!” (if you can pardon his bad breath that is). The other angle of the grand trine in fire was Mercury in Sagittarius in the fifth house. As the fifth house represents children, this may explain the rather reckless behaviour of the young Sagittarius, Bonnie Blue, who died whilst attempting to jump a fence on her steed. Thus, the Butler family completed the element of fire.
The Moon in Aries, as the chart ruler cj the MC, and the pl net on which a grand cross in the cardinal signs and a grand trine in fire share a common point isn’t a bad second place to an Aries Sun.
The year 1938 was a big one for the United States. Not only was it a bumper year for movie production (besides “Gone With the Wind,” “The Wizard of Oz,“ “Good-bye Mr Chips” and “Mr Smith Goes to Washington” were also made), it was also the first Neptune return for the US. These film classics would meet in a head-to-head competition at the 1939 Academy Awards but it was “Gone With the Wind“ that walked away with Best Picture, Best Actress (for Vivien Leigh‘s portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara), Best Supporting Actress (for Hattie McDaniel, the first Black actor to win an Academy Award), Best Director (for Victor Fleming, the only credited director) and Best Screenplay (posthumously awarded to Sydney Howard), eight Academy Awards in total.
Although all these movies would eventually be seen by audiences all over the world, originally they were for Americans. If the Mitchell/Leigh composite chart can reflect the personality of Scarlett, can it also explain its enduring appeal? Using the Sibley chart for the US and the chart for Scarlett in a bi-wheel can help answer this question.
The Sun of the US shone on the Neptune of the composite chart, highlighting the romance of the character of Scarlett O’Hara. The popularity of the character was boosted by the US Pluto on the composite’s N. Node. In return, the Mars of the composite chart is conjunct the N. Node of the US chart, making it seem as if the fighting spirit (not to mention sex appeal) of the character would seem attractive to American audiences. The composite chart’s Mercury so close to the US ascendant would give Americans much to talk about but it is Scarlett’s Venus near to the Saturn of the US that looks like everlasting love.
The Mitchell-Leigh composite chart seems to echo the personality of Scarlett O`Hara perfectly. There are, of course, many astrologers who do not use or even approve of composite charts since they are not based on real time. It is possible, for example, to be able to draw up a composite chart with the Sun opposite to Mercury. There will be astrologers who would have stopped at the Scorpio Sun of Scarlett and have shaken their heads. Astrologically, as in real life, the search for the perfect Scarlett O’Hara involved rule-bending, experimentation, a lot of faith and a bit of blind luck. It’s a formula that Margaret Mitchell, author of “Gone With the Wind” and who had a natal Uranus/Jupiter conjunction, would have understood.