Gone With the Wind Baby Wars: Was There One Infant Actor, or Two?
Dawn Soler is convinced the baby in this scene of Gone with the Wind is her mother — not Greg Giese, who's long been credited.
Who played Scarlett's baby in Gone With the Wind?
You'd think this would be long-settled, a matter of fact, not opinion. But when last week, we wrote about Greg Giese, who is long believed to have played both of the babies in Gone With the Wind at less than a month old, Dawn Soler, an executive for ABC Studios, emailed to say that she believes the facts are more complicated.
Giese, she wrote, may have played the baby born to Melanie, played by Olivia de Havilland. "But my mother, Joanne Johnson, was the baby whom Rhett (Clark Gable) picked up out of the cradle in the film." Scarlett, portrayed by Vivien Leigh, was that baby's mother.
Each baby appears only briefly - which for most films would make this a matter of little interest. But this is Gone with the Wind, the highest grossing movie of all time, a film subject to endless anniversary screenings. Even bit players can cash in by autographing memorabilia and mingling with superfans.
If Soler is correct, her mother, who now goes by the name Kelly Griffin, could be added to the list of six surviving members from the iconic 1939 film. Besides de Havilland, who is 97, and Mary Anderson, who had a small role, the other survivors all played the two children at various ages.
Reached by phone at her home in Santa Barbara, Griffin says that she was told by her mother that she was in some baby scenes that were shot.
"Whether they were used or not is something else again," she says.
Connie Sutherland, director of the Gone with the Wind Museum in Marietta, Ga., questions whether Johnson appeared in the film.
"I believe that Greg Giese played both of those babies," Sutherland says. "He's still got the original copy of the studio contract that his mother signed, as well as other documents. He's been visible at many of the film's reunions over the years, and has gone unchallenged. As for Joanne Johnson, or Kelly Griffin, it's hard to believe that someone could have been in the movie, and has now waited until 75 years later to come forward. And she has no documentation."
Griffin says that her only connection with the film over the years has been attending one of the intermittent anniversaries. But she is vague about which one, and Giese, who has attended almost all of them, can't recall meeting her.
Griffin's older sister, Barbara McCollum, who acted briefly in the early "Our Gang" comedies, also thinks Griffin was in Gone with the Wind, and remembers her being taken in a limousine to an anniversary party in Santa Barbara. McCollum was 7 when Gone with the Wind was made. She said her father, Hollis Johnson, ran the soda fountain at the famous Schwab's Pharmacy and became a friend of Gable, who sometimes came in. It was Gable, according to McCollum, who was the link that landed her sister a part in the movie.
If the passed-down story is true, the timing would fit - Griffin was born on Oct. 1, 1939, three days before an infant Giese was put under contract. It's possible Selznick used her in addition to Giese.
Now 74, Griffin says that she appeared, under the name of Johnson, in several films, all uncredited parts, and worked as a stand-in for Natalie Wood. She studied at the Pasadena Playhouse before she married, ending her acting career at age 21.
"They could call this 'The Gone with the Wind Baby Wars,'" Dawn Soler jokes.
Griffin is less interested than her daughter in righting the record.
"It's all pretty stupid," she said. "All it does is call attention to how old I am."
Giese is indifferent. He plans to attend the film's 75th anniversary party in Marietta in June.
"I don't give a shit," he says.
For a Gone with the Wind alum, "I don't give a damn" might have been a better fit.
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