Cammie King Conlon. Bonnie Blue Butler: A Gone With the Wind Memoir. Fort Braggs, Ca.: Cypress House, 2009.
The author was chosen for a role in “Gone With the Wind” at age five. Years later she would read of imposters claiming to have been her in that role.
There was much media speculation for years over who would be cast in this movie. Many wanted Clark Gable to star. Yet Clark Gable feared people were placing too high expectations on the role. Gable needed to be coaxed into accepting the part.
The author was told she was cast because someone at Selznick Studios had stated that her older sister Diane looked like she could be the daughter of the leaders Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh, who would play her parents in the movie. Yet six months later, Diane looked too old for the role and Cammie, the younger sister, was cast. Cammie disbelieves this casting story. Only four months stood between when Vivian Leigh and she were cast. She found records stating she had passed intelligence and acting abilities tests. Plus, she was being promoted for the role. She now believe her mother invented the story so her sister wouldn’t feel jealous.
The author remembers filming at the Selznick Studios lot, where the house known as Tara was a studio home. She notes that several times people have insisted to her they lived in an actual house that was used as Tara.
The author remembers how hot it was to wear heavy 19th century costumes under movie lights. Lights in 1939 were indeed warmer than lights used today. She also recalls the smell of heated metal and wood. The smell was one that felt enticing to be an actress.
One the author forgot her lines. The director Victor Fleming made her feel guilty, although she never again forgot her line. He did this by telling her “Cammie, do you see all these men working with us…They all have little girls and boys at home to take care of and that’s why they come to work every day. And Cammie, when you don’t know your lines, we can’t do our jobs and take care of our children.”
The author went to a riding academy to learn to ride a horse for her part. She learned to do more than what was needed within a month. During filming, she was surprised to learn her horse had a double for when the lead horse wouldn’t follow directions.
The author was also surprised to learn that she had a stunt double when she saw someone dressed just like her on another horse. She was further surprised to discover her double was a 30 year old man.
A mask was made of the author’s face. She blinked when her eyes closed, so a still mask was placed over her face for the scene when her character dies. Clark Gable is seen holding her while wearing the mask.
The author’s mother was her hairdresser, something in retrospect means union rules were likely circumvented.
The crew spoiled her by giving her gifts and sneaking her gum, which her parents did not allow. A camera operator, Arthur Arling, told her years later she stuck her gum on is camera.
King recalls Clark Gable’s moustache scratched when, as playing her father, he kissed her.
King’s mother was, in her opinion, a stage mother. They lived near the studios. Her mother took publicity shots and ran them in industry publications when she was three.
King was the voice of Faline in “Bambi”. She then received a role in the movie “Men in White”. Yet she developed chicken pox on the first day of shooting. Her movie career was over.
King knew Judy Lewis, Gable’s illegitimate daughter who did not receive final confirmation that Gable was her father until 2000. King learned later while reading Lewis’s autobiography that she used to pretend that Gable was thinking of her when he held King in the movie. King never realized the extent of her friend’s pain prior to that.
King filmed a scene with Vivian Leigh discussing their hopes that Leigh’s character would reunite with Gable’s character. The scene was cut from the movei.
King worked for four weeks on “Gone With the Wind” for which she was paid $250.
Year later King learned four girls read her lines to dub voice. She is not certain whose voice was used. One movie expert told her the voice used sounds the same as her voice in “Bambi”.