“I was just remembering one of the last times we had a fun talk was when she called to tell me she was sending me a recipe for peanut butter soup,” Sutherland said. “She said, ‘I know it just sounds awful, but honey it’s wonderful, and you just have to make it for that darling husband of yours.’ That’s just the way she talked.”
Rutherford, who had heart problems and was in declining health, died at her home in Beverly Hills. She was 94.
Marietta City Councilman Philip Goldstein said the actress was a friend of the city.
“She went out of her way to come to Marietta and participate in the functions with the Gone with the Wind Museum and meet fans, and she really made things happen at the events with the other stars,” Goldstein said. “She will be missed.”
During the 70th anniversary re-premiere of the celebrated film held at the Strand Theatre in 2009, Rutherford explained that when it came to snagging a role in “Gone with the Wind,” it all came down to eyebrows. Rutherford recalled bumping into producer David Selznick before being considered for the part. She complained how makeup artists pluck women’s eyebrows and encouraged Selznick to read Margaret Mitchell’s description of Scarlett’s own eyebrows in the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
“Did women have tweezers on the dressing table in 1865? No, indeed they did not. Only doctors had tweezers,” Rutherford said.
So, she told Selznick, “You must tell your makeup men to throw away your tweezers, because the minute I get to MGM tomorrow the head of our makeup department is going to grab me and put me against the nearest wall, reach in his pocket, come up with tweezers and start picking my eyebrows off like Greta Garbo.”
Sutherland said Rutherford was a champion of the city museum “in the largest way possible.”
“She loved this museum,” Sutherland said, listing off the events Rutherford attended over the years.
“She didn’t have to do it — she was a very, very well-off woman, and she didn’t have to do these jobs that she did, but she loved coming here, she loved Marietta.”
No matter how many times she spoke with Rutherford, Sutherland said she always came away a little star-struck, “because she had all of that old Hollywood flair about her. Her stories, you just never got tired of them. She is one of the last of the Golden Age.”
Rutherford played the sweetheart in the long-running Andy Hardy series, a hugely popular string of comical, sentimental films that starred Lewis Stone as a small-town judge and Mickey Rooney as his spirited teenage son.
Rutherford said in 2010 that MGM head Louis B. Mayer was going to refuse her the role in “Gone with the Wind,” calling it “a nothing part.” But Rutherford, who was a fan of the novel, uncharacteristically burst into tears and he relented.
“Anyone who had read the book sensed they were into something that would belong to the ages, and everyone was in a frenzy to read the book,” she said.
“The specialness of this is with each generation of young people who are touched by ‘Gone With the Wind,”’ she said. “As long as there are little children, there will always be a Mickey Mouse. ... On an adult version, ‘Gone With the Wind’ does that.”
Rutherford concurred with other cast members that no matter what else they had done, “Our obituary will say we were in ‘Gone With the Wind’ and we’ll be proud of it.”
Rutherford was born in 1917, according to the voter records reviewed by The Associated Press. Some sources give other dates. The daughter of an opera tenor and an actress, she began performing on the stage as a child.
She launched her movie career in Westerns while still in her teens, often appearing with singing cowboy hero Gene Autry and sometimes with John Wayne.
She joined MGM in 1937, playing a variety of roles for several years before leaving the studio to freelance.
Among her other films: “Whistling in the Dark,” with Red Skelton, 1941, and its two sequels, “Whistling in Dixie” and “Whistling in Brooklyn”; “Orchestra Wives,” with bandleader Glenn Miller, 1942; and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” with Danny Kaye, 1947.
She largely retired from the screen in 1950, but appeared in a couple of films in the 1970s, “They Only Kill Their Masters,” 1972, and “Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood,” 1976.
Vivien Leigh, who played Scarlett O’Hara, died in 1967. Evelyn Keyes, who played the middle O’Hara sister, Suellen, died in July 2008.
Rutherford recalled that the night of the “Gone With the Wind” premiere in Atlanta, author Margaret Mitchell invited the cast, including Leigh and co-star Clark Gable, to her home for scrambled eggs. Gable and Mitchell disappeared.
“Clark Gable and Margaret were hiding in the bathroom, Clark on the edge of the tub and Margaret you know where, just talking,” she chuckled. “They had to get away from the photographers.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this report