Actress speaks of era ‘Gone With the Wind’

Allison Smith

Actress Ann Rutherford spoke in Rockwell Hall as part of the presentation Tales of Hollywood’s Golden Age put on by the Kent State University Museum. She is known for her roles in movies like Gone with the Wind and the Andy Hardy films. GLENNIS SIEGFRIED

Credit: DKS Editors

When Ann Rutherford found out David Selznick was producing the movie version of “Gone With the Wind,” she made it her job to make sure he did it right. The year was 1939, in the midst of Hollywood’s Golden Age, and it was custom for makeup artists to pluck out women’s eyebrows and draw them back on.

“I told him, ‘During the Civil War, women didn’t have tweezers to get rid of their eyebrows,'” Rutherford said. She wanted every actress in the film to have real eyebrows.

Rutherford was an actress during Hollywood’s Golden Age. She has been in films such as “Pride and Prejudice” and “A Christmas Carol.” She is perhaps best know for playing Polly Benedict in the Academy Award-winning Andy Hardy film series. Rutherford spoke last night in “Tales of Hollywood’s Golden Age” at the Kent State University Museum.

Years later, she asked Selznick why she didn’t have to put up a fuss to get a part in “Gone With the Wind.”

“He said, ‘When you had asked me to look at your eyebrows, all I could see was your nose,'” Rutherford said. The producer had just cast the woman who would play Rutherford’s mother, and the two bore a resemblance.

Rutherford spoke fondly of her fellow actors in “Gone With the Wind.” She remembers Vivian Leigh, who played Scarlett O’Hara, as the hardest -working person she knew.

“She is in virtually every scene that has women in it in ‘Gone With the Wind,'” Rutherford said. “She was such a pro; she knew every word of her dialogue. She knew every word of everything.”

Rutherford remembers Clark Gable as thoughtful. She said instead of going back to his dressing room between scenes, he would play games with the crew. She said they all liked him.

“There was something about Clark Gable that was just such a guy thing,” Rutherford said. “He just was gorgeous.”

She said before she got the part in “Gone With the Wind,” she was already well-known from the “Andy Hardy” film series, which starred Mickey Rooney. She remembers Rooney as being very talented.

“Mickey was endowed at birth with all these talents,” Rutherford said. “He was so gifted, so instinctively good that it was scary.”

Rutherford retired from acting in 1973 but left behind a legacy. Not only has she worked with actors like Leigh and Gable, but she was able to work with John Wayne, Red Skelton and Gene Autrey.

Rutherford said she also worked with Laurence Olivier in “Pride and Prejudice.” Rutherford said she loved being able to work with leading men like Gable and Olivier.

“My cup runneth over,” she said.

After Rutherford retired, she devoted most of her time to talking about “Gone With the Wind,” she said.

“You can’t kill ‘Gone With the Wind,'” Rutherford said. “It has given me so many wonderful opportunities that I wouldn’t have had, had I not had a nothing part in ‘Gone With the Wind.'”

Rutherford said she has been able to travel all over the world talking about her life and the movie. She remembers Hollywood in a different way from today’s generation of actors.

“You never said your age. You always said ‘How old do you want me to be?'” she said. Rutherford said she remembers when she traveled by train to New York City, and as soon as they got there, a man would be waiting to ask her what shows she wanted to see. But she said she accepts change.

“If we didn’t have changes, we wouldn’t have a butterfly,” she said.

Contact news correspondent Allison Smith at [email protected].