Saturday, July 12, 2008

Actress Evelyn Keyes Passes On

Evelyn Keyes, one of the last surviving cast members of Gone With the Wind passed on July 4 at the age of 91. The cause was ovarian cancer.

Keyes was born November 20, 1916 in Port Arthur, Texas. She grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. While still a teenager she danced in nightclubs. She left for Hollywood at the age of 17. She was discovered by director Cecile B. DeMille. He cast her in his 1938 film The Buccaneer. Keyes played several uncredited parts in movies, as well as more substantial parts in Sons of the Legion, Sudden Money,and Union Pacific. It was in 1939 that she was cast in the part for which she was best known, that of Scarlet O'Hara's younger sister Suellen in Gone With the Wind.

Although never a major star, Keyes would go onto several significant roles in film. She was the female lead in Before I Hang in 1940. In 1941 she starred in Here Comes Mr. Jordan. She appeared in A Thousand and One Nights, The Jolson Story, and Mrs. Mike. She appeared in several low budget films noir, including Johnny O'Clock, The Prowler, and The Big Combo. In the Fifties she appeared in The Seven Year Itch and in a small part in Around the World in Eighty Days. Keyes retired in 1956, but would make a few appearances on film and television afterwards. She appeared in Return to Salem's Lot and Wicked Stepmother, and guest starred in Murder She Wrote.

Keyes was nearly as well known for her personal life as she was her movie roles. Among others, she married directors King Vidor, John Huston, bandleader Artie Shaw, and producer Mike Todd. She wrote a popular autobiography, Scarlett O'Hara's Younger Sister, as well as the novel I Am a Billboard and the memoir I'll Think About It Tomorrow.

Evelyn Keyes was a fairly talented actress. She starred in a variety of films, from epics to horror. In some ways, however, she was even more talented as a writer. Her autobiography, Scarlett O'Hara's Younger Sister was a funny and witty look at Hollywood during the Golden Age of movies. She will probably be remembered best as Scarlet O'Hara's younger sister, but she should be remembered for more.

1 comment:

dennis said...

Dennis would like to read her novel and memoirs.