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Featured Memorial | Evelyn Keyes

Evelyn Keyes Obituary


LOS ANGELES - Evelyn Keyes, who played Scarlett O'Hara's younger sister Suellen in "Gone With the Wind" and counted director John Huston and bandleader Artie Shaw among her famous husbands, has died. She was 91.

The actress died July 4 of uterine cancer at her home in Montecito, near Santa Barbara, producer and close friend Allan Glaser said Friday.

Glaser said the news was withheld because lawyers wanted to wait until the death certificate was filed.

Keyes was born in Port Arthur, Texas, in 1916, according to state birth records; some references give a later year. She grew up fatherless and poor in Atlanta. A glowing blond beauty with an alluring figure, she danced in nightclubs and at 17 set out for Hollywood. Cecil B. DeMille signed her to a seven-year contract and cast her in "The Buccaneer."

After a few minor roles at Paramount, she appeared in "Gone With the Wind" and then moved to Columbia, where her career blossomed. Keyes gave a frank account of her romances and marriages in her 1977 autobiography, "Scarlett O'Hara's Younger Sister." Her role in the 1939 classic led to a contract at Columbia Pictures and stardom.

Among her notable roles: as Robert Montgomery's lover in "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" (1941), the Ruby Keeler role as Al Jolson's wife in "The Jolson Story" (1946), and as Dick Powell's wife in "Mrs. Mike" (1949).

She also starred in B pictures that were later praised by movie critics as prime examples of film noir: "Johnny O'Clock" (1947), "The Killer That Stalked New York" (1950), "The Prowler" (1951), "99 River Street" (1953) and "The Big Combo" (1955).

Keyes' marriages and divorces made her the darling of gossip columns and fan magazines. Her first marriage, to an Englishman named Barton Bainbridge, ended with his suicide. Her second marriage, to a Hungarian director named Charles Vidor, ended in divorce, as did her marriages to John Huston and Artie Shaw.

After her film career and marriages ended, she turned author, producing an autobiographical novel, "I Am a Billboard," two memoirs, "Scarlett O'Hara's Younger Sister" and "I'll Think About It Tomorrow," film scripts and articles.

Keyes took a frank view of her life and career in a 1999 interview:

"To become a big movie star like Joan Crawford you need to wear blinders and pay single-minded attention to your career. Nobody paid attention to me, including me. I was the original Cinderella girl, looking for the happy ending in the fairy story. But my fantasy prince never came."


Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press


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