California Lives: Every Thursday, read an obituary of a notable Californian from the archives

Mary Anderson dies at 96; actress had role in 'Gone With the Wind'

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 Sunday. She was 96.

A longtime resident of Brentwood, Anderson died under hospice care in Burbank. She had been in declining health and had suffered a series of small strokes, said her longtime friend Betty Landess.

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, Anderson was born in Birmingham, Ala., on April 3, 1918, although she often reported her birth year as 1920. While attending 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 Anderson in the minor role.

She went on to appear in films in the 1940s and '50s, including "Cheers for Miss Bishop," "The Song of Bernadette" and Alfred Hitchcock's "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.

Anderson received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.

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

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.

Anderson is survived by her companion, Gordon Carnon.

Services will be private.

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