Classic Movie Travels: Evelyn Keyes

Classic Movie Travels: Evelyn Keyes

Evelyn Keyes Headshot
Evelyn Keyes

Best known for portraying Scarlett O’Hara’s little sister, Evelyn Keyes had a lengthy career that extended far beyond her time in Gone with the Wind (1939). Born Evelyn Louise Keyes on November 20, 1916, in Port Arthur, Texas, she was the daughter of Methodist minister Omar Dow Keyes and Maude Keyes. Keyes was the youngest of five children, with older siblings named Norma, Julia, Mary, and Garrett. Sadly, her father passed when she was a toddler, leading the family to relocate to Atlanta, Georgia, and live with her grandparents.

During her teenage years, Keyes studied voice, dance, and piano, and performed in various clubs in the Atlanta area. She hoped to one day become a ballerina but her entry in a beauty pageant opened the door to working as a chorus girl. Keyes moved to Hollywood soon after and crossed paths with Cecil B. DeMille, who signed her to a contract.

After executing several smaller roles for Paramount Pictures, Keyes secured her role as Suellen O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. Next, she signed with Columbia, appearing in various B-movie dramas. Some of her movies following Gone with the Wind included Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), The Jolson Story (1946), Johnny O’Clock (1947), The Mating of Millie (1948), and her final major role in The Seven Year Itch (1955).

Ann Rutherford, Vivien Leigh, and Evelyn Keyes in Gone with the Wind (1939)
Ann Rutherford, Vivien Leigh, and Evelyn Keyes in Gone with the Wind (1939)

Throughout her life, she had four marriages. She was first married to Barton Bainbridge, who committed suicide in 1940. Her following marriages were to Charles Vidor, John Huston (with whom she adopted a child named Pablo), and Artie Shaw.

Beyond her time in movies, Keyes occasionally performed on stage, including a touring production of No, No, Nanette. She also carried out guest appearances on The Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote.

Evelyn Keyes in The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Keyes in The Seven Year Itch (1955)

Aside from her work on the stage and screen, Keyes enjoyed traveling and had residences in England, France, and Mexico, even speaking Spanish and French fluently.

Keyes passed away on July 4, 2008, at the age of 91 in Montecito, California.

At this point, much of Keyes’s early residences have been razed. In 1920, her mother and siblings lived at 840 Spring St. in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1930, they lived at 1081 Sells Ave. SW in Atlanta. By 1935, Keyes lived at 11147 Aqua Vista in Los Angeles, California, with Bainbridge, later moving to 2461 N. Gower St. in Los Angeles in 1940. None of these residences remain.

Thankfully, Keyes donated memorabilia to the Museum of the Gulf Coast, located in her hometown at 700 Procter St., in Port Arthur, Texas. Various tributes to her can be viewed there.

Museum of the Gulf Coast in Port Arthur, Texas

In addition to viewing her hometown display, fans of Keyes can also learn more about her through her own recollections. Keyes wrote three books: I Am a Billboard, Scarlett O’Hara’s Younger Sister, and I’ll Think about That Tomorrow.

"Scarlett O'Hara's Younger Sister: My Lively Life In and Out of Hollywood" by Evelyn Keyes Book Author
“Scarlett O’Hara’s Younger Sister: My Lively Life In and Out of Hollywood” by Evelyn Keyes

Though few tributes to Keyes remain, it is heartening to see her remembered in her hometown and to know that her life and experiences were documented in her books.

–Annette Bochenek for Classic Movie Hub

Annette Bochenek pens our monthly Classic Movie Travels column. You can read all of Annette’s Classic Movie Travel articles here.

Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is a PhD student at Dominican University and an independent scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for Classic Movie Hub, she also writes for Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco SocietyMagazine.

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2 Responses to Classic Movie Travels: Evelyn Keyes

  1. Thank you for honoring a favorite, unsung actress. Eddie Muller got to know her well, and he has great stories that demonstrate her engaging personality, pragmatic life view and sense of humor. She was a true Hollywood survivor (as marriages to both John Huston AND Artie Shaw, neither easy men, demonstrate!).

  2. Vienna says:

    Nice to know Evelyn’s archives are in her home city. The color picture is from the finale of The Jolson Story, not The Seven Year Itch.

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