Mary Anderson dies: She played Maybelle Merriwether in ‘Gone With the Wind’


Film actress Mary Anderson in 1947. (United States Steel Corp.)
April 12

Mary Anderson, a redheaded actress who auditioned for the part of Scarlett O’Hara in the 1939 epic “Gone With the Wind” but wound up playing a supporting role as Maybelle Merriwether, died April 6 in Burbank, Calif. She was 96.

The cause was complications from strokes, said a friend, Betty Landess.

Ms. Anderson was one of the last surviving cast members of the film adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s Civil War novel. Among the credited actors still living are Olivia de Havilland, who was nominated for an Academy Award as the resilient Melanie Wilkes, and Mickey Kuhn, a former child actor who portrayed Melanie and Ashley’s son Beau Wilkes. Alicia Rhett, who played Ashley Wilkes’ sister India, died in January at 98.

Sometimes called Bebe, Ms. Anderson was born in Birmingham, Ala., on April 3, 1918, although she often reported her birth year as 1920.

While attending Birmingham’s Howard College (now Samford University), she was discovered by director George Cukor, who was searching for an actress to play the leading role of Scarlett O’Hara. After firing Cukor, producer David O. Selznick eventually chose Vivien Leigh, who would go on to win the best actress Oscar, and cast Ms. Anderson in the minor role.

She went on to appear in films in the 1940s and ’50s, including “Cheers for Miss Bishop,” “Wilson,” “The Song of Bernadette” and Alfred Hitchcock’s wartime drama “Lifeboat.”

She also acted on stage, including the 1942 Broadway production of “Guest in the House,” and on television, with a recurring role on “Peyton Place” in 1964.

Her brother, James, became an actor who specialized in westerns. He died in 1969.

Ms. Anderson’s first marriage, to writer Leonard Behrens, ended in divorce. In 1953, she married cinematographer Leon Shamroy, who won four Academy Awards for “The Black Swan” (1942), “Wilson” (1944), “Leave Her to Heaven” (1945) and “Cleopatra” (1963) and received 14 other Oscar nominations. Shamroy died in 1974.

Survivors include her companion, Gordon Carnon.

— Los Angeles Times

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