Evelyn Keyes

Born: Nov. 20, 1916 in Port Arthur, Texas

Died: July 4, 2008

Evelyn Keyes was born in Port Arthur, Texas, to Omar Dow Keyes and Maude Ollive Keyes, a Methodist minister's daughter. After Omar Keyes died when she was three years old, Keyes moved with her mother to Atlanta, Georgia, where they lived with her grandparents. As a teenager, Keyes took dancing lessons and performed for local clubs.

 

Actress Evelyn Keyes began her career as a dancer and used money from weekend jobs to pay for her train fare to California. She was introduced to Cecil B. DeMille, who in her own words, “signed me to a personal contract without even making a test.” Ms. Keyes made her film debut in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Buccaneer (1938). She had numerous other roles soon after, sometimes uncredited. Altogether, she appeared in forty-seven feature films and multiple stage, radio, and television projects. Most famously, Keyes played Suellen O’Hara in Gone With the Wind (1939). The title of Keyes's memoir, Scarlett O’Hara’s Younger Sister, reflects how Gone With the Wind came to define her career. 

 

Other film credits include The Jolson Story, The Face Behind the Mask, and The Mating of Millie. Stage credits include performances in I Am a Camera, No No Nanette, and Breaking Up the Act. Keyes' last major film role was a small part as Tom Ewell's vacationing wife in The Seven Year Itch (1955), which starred Marilyn Monroe.

 

She married and divorced director Charles Vidor (1943–1945), actor/director John Huston (23 July 1946 – February 1950), and bandleader Artie Shaw (1957–1985). Keyes said of her many relationships: "I always took up with the man of the moment and there were many such moments." While married to Huston, the couple adopted a Mexican child, Pablo, whom Huston had discovered while on the set of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

 

Among the many Hollywood affairs, she recounted in Scarlett O'Hara's Younger Sister were those with producer Michael Todd (who left Evelyn for Elizabeth Taylor), Glenn Ford, Sterling Hayden, Dick Powell, Anthony Quinn, David Niven, and Kirk Douglas. Keyes also wrote novels heavily influenced by her personal life. In 1971, I Am a Billboard was published. Other works include I’ll Think About That Tomorrow and Sex Object.

 

Upon her death, she was cremated and her ashes were divided among her relatives and the remaining half sent to Lamar State College in Port Arthur. The last of the cremated remains being buried with her relatives in the family plot at The Waco Baptist Church Cemetery, Waco, Georgia. The tombstone reads "Gone with the Wind." At her direction, a small amount of her ashes were placed in a lantern on display at the Museum of the Gulf Coast. Evelyn Keyes was inducted into the Museum of the Gulf Coast, Notable People Hall of Fame in May of 2000.