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Mary Anderson

Actress

Actress

Born: April 3, 1918; Died: April 6, 2014.

MARY Anderson, who has died aged 96, was one of the last surviving members of the cast of Gone with the Wind, the epic 1939 romantic drama set in the Deep South against the backdrop of the American Civil War.

The film has been accused in recent times of glossing over the horrors of slavery, but it was for many years the highest-grossing film ever made, with Vivien Leigh as the redoubtable heroine Scarlett O'Hara and Clark Gable as her rascally third husband.

The search for an actress to play Scarlett prompted enormous international interest and press coverage and Anderson was considered for the role. She was a teenage college student in Alabama when spotted by director George Cukor.

Cukor was sacked, the role of ­Scarlett went to Vivien Leigh and Anderson had to be satisfied with the supporting role of Maybelle Merriwether, one of the belles at the Confederate ball.

Gentlemen are asked to bid for the honour of partnering the lady of their choice in the opening reel and one gallant begins proceedings by offering $20 to dance with Miss Merriwether. Rhett Butler horrifies the assembly by bidding $150 to dance with Scarlett, even though she is in mourning after the death of her husband.

Mary Bebe Anderson was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1918, though she often knocked a couple of years off her age.

Gone with the Wind gave her a taste of stardom and she went on to a number of major roles in the 1940s.

She was Jeanne Abadie, Bernadette Soubirous's neighbour in the religious drama The Song of Bernadette (1943), a nurse, one of the survivors of a U-boat attack, in Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat (1944) and Woodrow Wilson's daughter Eleanor in the biopic Wilson (1944).

Lifeboat was a difficult shoot with the cast often soaking wet and confined to the eponymous vessel for long periods. According to Hitchcock biographer Patrick McGilligan, Anderson tried the director's patience with the length of time she took over scenes and he was infuriated when he caught her stuffing Kleenex in her bra.

She prompted one of his most famous quips when she asked him which was her best side. He replied: "My dear, you're sitting on it."

Anderson's film career dipped in the 1950s, she worked increasingly in television and played the recurring character of Catherine Harrington on the soap opera Peyton Place (1964).

Her younger brother James Anderson followed her into acting and played the villain Bob Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). She married for the first time in 1940 to Leonard Behrens, a writer. They divorced ten years later. In 1953 she married Leon Shamroy, a four-time Oscar-winning cinematographer. They had one son, who died in infancy. They remained married until his death in 1974.

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