Monday, December 1, 2014

The Supporting Players of Gone With the Wind: Evelyn Keyes

Evelyn Keyes as Suellen O'Hara
Evelyn Keyes will always be remembered as Scarlett O'Hara's little sister, but she was a talented actress and dancer in her own right.

Keyes was one of the few native Southerners in the Gone With the Wind (1939) cast. She was born on Nov. 20, 1916, in Port Arthur, Texas. Her family moved to Atlanta when she was 3 years old and while growing up there she began to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. Keyes began taking dance lessons and performing at local clubs while she was still a teenager.

Evelyn Keyes gets her makeup done for her debut performance in The Buccaneer (1938).
Keyes' dancing gigs paid for a train ticket to Hollywood and she was discovered by legendary director Cecil B. DeMille when she was 18. Keyes made her film debut in DeMille's The Buccaneer (1938), the story of pirate Jean Lafitte (Fredric March) and his involvement the War of 1812.
Gone with the Wind (1939/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) back cover
Evelyn Keyes was prominently featured in a playbill for Gone With the Wind (1939).


Keyes appeared in several B pictures before winning the role of the middle O'Hara daughter, Suellen, in Gone With the Wind. Keyes made the most of he opportunity, even though playing the bratty and whiny Suellen was a thankless task. Keyes does use her excellent comic timing to great effect in scenes where she is required to bawl about how Scarlett is making her work and stealing her husband.


Evelyn Keyes
Evelyn Keyes dancing in The Jolson Story 1946).
Keyes signed a contract with Columbia Pictures after the huge success of Gone With the Wind. She mostly appeared in B movies, but she did have some notable successes. She played the love interest in Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) the story of a boxer who dies before his time and comes back to earth in a different body. Keyes co-starred in one of the biggest 1940s blockbusters The Jolson Story (1946) as entertainer Al Jolson's (Larry Parks) wife (Keyes character is based on Jolson's third wife Ruby Keeler). Keyes favorite film was Mrs. Mike (1949), the story of a woman who marries a member of Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Dick Powell) and moves with him to the Canadian wilderness.

Evelyn Keyes (left) in 2002 at a Gone With the Wind reunion with co-stars Ann Rutherford (Carreen O'Hara) and Rand Brooks (Charles Hamilton).


Keyes last significant role was opposite Marilyn Monroe In The Seven Year Itch (1955). She did make a few cameo appearances in the coming years, but mostly she retired from films.  Keyes returned to the spotlight in 1977 when she published her autobiography, "Scarlett O'Hara's Younger Sister: My Lively Life In and Out of Hollywood." The book detailed Keyes tumultuous personal life, including details of her four marriages and many love affairs. Keyes died of cancer in 2008. She was buried in Santa Barbara Cemetery in Santa Barbara, California.

Go here for profiles of Keyes' onscreen parents, Thomas Mitchell and Barbara O'Neil.

No comments :

Post a Comment