Today is actress Evelyn Keyes' birthday; her year of birth seems to be disputed (1916 or 1919), but so far as I can tell, she's still with us. Keyes was born in Port Arthur, Texas, which some of you might recognize as also being the birthplace of Janis Joplin. Keyes arrived in Hollywood in the 1930s and acted in films and on TV until well into the late 1980s. She was sometimes a leading lady in 1940s films like Here Comes Mr. Jordan, The Jolson Story, and Mrs. Mike, and later played Tom Ewell's wife in The Seven Year Itch. She's been married four times, most notably to director John Huston and bandleader Artie Shaw. However, Keyes is most remembered for her small role as Suellen O'Hara, Scarlett's pill of a sister in Gone with the Wind. In fact, Keyes' autobiography, written in the 1970s, is titled Scarlett O'Hara's Younger Sister.

I'm not the fan of Gone with the Wind that I was in high school. Over the years, the racial stereotyping has started to bother me more, and I'm less convinced by Clark Gable's performance as Rhett Butler. Also, it is difficult to love a four-hour film. However, I still love reading about the making of Gone with the Wind -- the huge and lavish production, David O. Selznick's baby, has generated many fascinating stories. Looking at my bookshelf, I realize I own at least four books related to the making of the movie (including the above-mentioned Keyes bio). I also love the costumes by Walter Plunkett, especially Scarlett's dresses. The Harry Ransom Center in Austin has Selznick's archives and a lot of other material from the movie, including faithful reproductions of Scarlett's most gorgeous dresses. Take a look at the HRC online exhibition of Gone with the Wind, especially the Costumes and Makeup section. You can see pictures of all the dresses, the "makeup stills" taken of most of the cast members, including Keyes. Every photo or description is accompanied by memos from Selznick about what he wanted (or didn't like) -- he was a notorious memo writer. Many of the memos are collected in a book called Memo from David O. Selznick ... yes, I own that one too.
categories Features, Cinematical