Fred Crane, who played Brent Tarleton in the classic Gone with the Wind passed on August 21 at the age of 90. He had been hospitalised a few weeks ago for complications from diabetes. The cause was a blood clot in his lungs. He was the oldest surviving male cast member of the classic film.
Fred Crane was born as Herman Frederick Crane in New Orleans on March 22, 1918. He attended Tulane University and Loyola University. He acted in local theatre productions. At his mother's request Crane went to Los Angeles to try his hand in Hollywood. Once in Hollywood Crane contacted his cousin, former silent film actress Leatrice Joy, who took him to see the Selznick studio, where her daughter was auditioning for the part of Scarlet's sister Suellen. She didn't get the part, but Crane's Southern accent caught the attention of the casting director who called director George Cukor. Cukor and the casting director took Crane to meet Selznick, who set up a screen test with Vivien Leigh. As Brent Tarleton, one of Scarlet's suitors, he had the honour of uttering the first lines in the film. While on the set he made friends with future Superman George Reeves, who played Stuart Tarleton, Brent's twin. He was friends with Reeves until his death and still believed the star's death was not a suicide.
Crane's acting career would be sparse after Gone with the Wind, although in 1946 he would become an announcer of classical music at Los Angeles radio station KFAC. He became the station's programme director in the Seventies. He would remain with the station until 1987 when the station's owners fired many of the station's older employees. Thereafter he successfully won a age discrimination lawsuit.
In addition to his work as an announcer on KFAC, Crane also acted on various radio shows. Most notably, he appeared on The Lucky Strike Show, with Jack Benny.
Crane was also a talent instructor at Crossroads of the World for quite a while. Often called America's first modern shopping mall, he worked there with future Star Trek producer Gene L. Coon.
As to Crane's acting career, following his role in Gone with the Wind, he did not appear in another film until The Gay Amigo in 1949. Crane would appear on television, making his debut on the medium in a 1961 episode of Surfside 6. He also appeared on Lawman, Lost in Space, and provided voices for cyborgs on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
Crane also owned a registered historic 1846 Confederate home and Civil War hospital in Barnesville, Georgia, which he and his wife converted into the Tarleton Oaks Bed & Breakfast. It operated for many, many years.
Fred Crane may not have had an extensive acting career, but having played in Gone with the Wind (even having the first lines in the film) and having been a classical radio announcer for years, he left his mark on pop culture nonetheless. Indeed, he was the oldest surviving male cast member of the classic film. With his death, it seems yet another generation has passed.
Book Review: When Broadway Went to Hollywood
2 days ago