Classic Travel: Evelyn Keyes
Best known for portraying Scarlett O’Hara’s little sister, Evelyn Keyes has had a long career that stretched well beyond her time in Blown by the wind (1939). She was born Evelyn Louise Keyes on November 20, 1916 in Port Arthur, Texas, the daughter of Methodist pastors Omar Dow Keyes and Maude Keyes. Keyes was the youngest of five children with older siblings named Norma, Julia, Mary, and Garrett. Unfortunately, her father died when she was a toddler, which resulted in the family moving to Atlanta, Georgia, and living with their grandparents.
During her teenage years, Keyes studied singing, dance and piano and performed in various clubs in the Atlanta area. She hoped to become a ballerina one day, but her participation in a beauty pageant opened the door to work as a choir girl. Keyes moved to Hollywood shortly afterwards and crossed with Cecil B. DeMille, who signed her.
After Keyes took on several minor roles for Paramount Pictures, she secured her role as Suellen O’Hara in Blown by the wind. She next signed with Columbia and appeared in various B-movie dramas. Some of their films follow Blown by the wind included Here comes Mr. Jordan (1941), The Jolson story (1946), Johnny O’Clock (1947), The pairing of Millie (1948) and her last leading role in The darn seventh year (1955).
She has had four marriages throughout her life. She was first married to Barton Bainbridge, who committed suicide in 1940. Her subsequent marriages were Charles Vidor, John Huston (with whom she adopted a child named Pablo), and Artie Shaw.
In addition to her time in films, Keyes made occasional appearances, including a touring production of No, no, Nanette. She also performed guest appearances The love boat and Murder, she wrote.
Aside from her stage and screen work, Keyes enjoyed traveling and having residences in England, France, and Mexico, and was even fluent in Spanish and French.
Keyes died on July 4, 2008 at the age of 91 in Montecito, California.
At this point, many of Keyes’ early residences were razed to the ground. In 1920 her mother and siblings lived at 840 Spring St. in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1930 they lived on Sells Ave. SW 1081 in Atlanta. Keyes lived with Bainbridge at 11147 Aqua Vista in Los Angeles, California until 1935 and later moved to 2461 N. Gower St. in Los Angeles in 1940.
Fortunately, Keyes donated memorabilia to the Museum of the Gulf Coast in her hometown of 700 Procter St. in Port Arthur, Texas. Various homages to them can be seen there.
In addition to seeing their hometown exhibit, fans of Keyes can learn more about them through their own memories as well. Keyes has written three books: I’m a billboard, Scarlett O’Hara’s younger sister, and I will think of it tomorrow.
While Keyes pay few tributes left, it is encouraging to see her hometown remembered and to know that her life and experiences have been documented in her books.
–Annette Bochenek for Classic Movie Hub
Annette Bochenek writes our monthly column Classic Movie Travels. Here you can read all the articles on Annette’s classic travel films.
Annette Bochenek from Chicago, Illinois is a PhD student at Dominican University and an independent researcher on Hollywood’s Golden Age. She runs the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, where she writes about her travels exploring the legacies and hometowns of the stars of the Golden Age. Annette also moderates the film series “Hometowns to Hollywood” in the entire Chicago area. She has appeared in Turner Classic Movies and is the President of the Chicago Chapter of TCM Backlot. Not only does she write for Classic Movie Hub, but also for Quarterly silent film, Nostalgia digest, and Chicago Art Deco SocietyMagazine.