“I have often wondered what my life would have been like if I had needed a size 38 bra instead of a modest 34.” –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).
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.
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.
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.
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.