Ann Rutherford

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Ann Rutherford (Associated Press Photo)
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Ann Rutherford, the demure brunette who played the sweetheart in the long-running Andy Hardy series and Scarlett O'Hara's youngest sister in "Gone With the Wind," has died. She was 94.

A close friend, Anne Jeffreys, told the Los Angeles Times that Rutherford died Monday night at her home in Beverly Hills. She had heart problems and was in declining health.

The Andy Hardy series, a hugely popular string of comical, sentimental films, Mickey Rooney as a spirited teen. Rutherford first appeared in the second film of the series, "You're Only Young Once," and went on for 11 more. She played Polly Benedict, the ever-faithful girlfriend Andy always returned to after a more glamorous girl caught his eye. (Among the other girls: Judy Garland and Lana Turner.)

It was said Rutherford won the part of Carreen, the youngest of the three O'Hara sisters in "Gone With the Wind," because Judy Garland was filming "The Wizard of Oz."

Ru therford told the Times in 2010 that MGM head Louis B. Mayer was going to refuse her the role, calling it "a nothing part." But Rutherford, who was a fan of the novel, burst into tears and he relented.

She's the sister who, early in the film, begs to be allowed to go to the ball at Ashley Wilkes' plantation. "Oh, Mother, can't I stay up for the ball tomorrow? ... I'm 13 now," she says in a sweet voice.

In 1989, she was one of 10 surviving "Gone With the Wind" cast members who gathered in Atlanta for the film's 50th anniversary.

"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.

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 g ive other dates. The daughter of an opera tenor and an actress, she began performing on stage as a child. She largely retired from the screen in 1950.

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."

___

This report includes biographical material written by former AP writer Polly Anderson.


Copyright © 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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