HAWAII ROMANCE FESTIVAL
Ann Rutherford, famous for playing Careen, Scarlet O'Hara's sister in "Gone with the Wind," returns to Honolulu for the Hawaii Romance Festival this weekend.
Still riding ‘Wind’
Actress Ann Rutherford returns to the isles this week for a screening of "Gone With the Wind" at the Hawaii Romance Festival
In the nearly 70 years since "Gone With the Wind" premiered, Ann Rutherford has lost none of the confidence and charm that landed her the small but enduring role of Scarlett O'Hara's younger sister, Careen, in the late 1930s. Rutherford returns to Honolulu this week to participate in a screening of the epic film during the Hawaii Romance Festival. As one of the few remaining cast members, she's made a second career of attending such occasions around the country.
'Gone With the Wind'
Screening with Ann Rutherford, interviewed by Nick Clooney:
» When: 5 p.m. Monday
» Place: Hawaii Theatre
» Tickets: $13 to $23
» Information: www.hawaiiromancefestival.com
Behind the scenes of a classic
» Ann Rutherford told producer David O. Selznick to instruct his makeup artists to stop using tweezers on ladies' eyebrows. "We were trying to get our eyebrows to grow; we all wanted to look like Ingrid Bergman," she said. He noted it, and the comment made it into his book of memos.
» The simple gold necklace Careen wears in the movie belonged to Rutherford. Selznick spotted it during a costume fitting and encouraged her to keep it on when filming began. She wears it to every screening of "Gone With the Wind."
» The movie won eight Academy Awards in 1939, including best picture, best director, best actress for Vivien Leigh (Scarlett) and best supporting actress for Hattie McDaniel (Mammy), who was the first African American to win an Oscar.
» Nobody anticipated the enduring nature of "Gone With the Wind." In those days a movie ran for a year. "Then I think they made guitar picks out of the film," Rutherford said. "It just vanished!" Thankfully, this one didn't.
"That nothing part has turned my golden years into platinum," she said from her home in Los Angeles. "Every year, somebody's having some romantic festival with 'Gone With the Wind.' I just let them prop me up and wheel me out. Last year I did about six."
She's thrilled to visit her old stomping grounds at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, her summer home of sorts in the early 1950s. "We'd come over and stay for a month at a crack," she said. "At that time, Kalakaua was a two-way street! I'm so happy I got to see Waikiki before it became Miami Beach."
When asked to confirm her age at 88, she laughed. "Oh, I celebrate but I don't count. I don't want to think about it. Besides, today's 80 is yesterday's 60."
Rutherford's acting career began in her early teens, during the Great Depression. She and her friends roller-skated to and from school in Los Angeles and often stopped by the local radio station to watch the actors work. One day, Rutherford inquired about a job. A series of events led to an audition. Despite her lack of training and experience, she became a wage earner at 15 when she found her way onto the serial radio show "Nancy and Dick and the Spirit of 76."
Soon movie executives came calling. Her mother allowed Rutherford to say she was 18 to secure a contract -- something Rutherford thought was "nifty" and "cool." In those days, however, signing with a studio meant hard labor six days per week. Consequently, she completed 14 movies (including four with John Wayne and four with Gene Autry) in the first nine months, leading to total exhaustion.
Eventually she signed with MGM, and that's when the legendary Louis B. Mayer agreed -- after much begging from Rutherford -- to loan her to his son-in-law, producer David O. Selznick, for the movie nobody realized would become a classic.
"I would have done anything to be in 'Gone With the Wind,'" Rutherford said. "Nobody has ever written a book that has captured the world the way Margaret Mitchell's did."
Even when she wasn't working, Rutherford came to the lot to watch -- especially when the popular Clark Gable was filming. "He was not spoiled," she said. "He did not fancy himself a large star."
Apparently, author Mitchell was equally enchanted. When she hosted the cast at her home after the premiere, Mitchell apologized to Selznick for trying to convince him to hire Basil Rathbone instead of Gable. Rutherford remembers the party as vividly as she does nearly all other details of the past nine decades.
"Honey, I've seen milk being delivered by a horse and wagon in San Francisco!" she chuckled. "It's been a fascinating life. I wouldn't have missed it for the world."