14 July 2008

Sunday 13 July 08 Chat

Very occasionally you come across someone who you might wish to have met while they were alive, had you but known of their existence. So it is with the late actress Evelyn Keyes who has died aged 91.
Evelyn was most famous for playing opposite Vivienne Leigh's Scarlett O'Hara as sister Suellen in Gone with the Wind, indeed the role so defined her career that she titled her autobiography, Scarlett O'Hara's Younger Sister.
Born in 1916 in Texas, Evelyn Keyes grew up in Atlanta. Aged 17 she set out for Hollywood and was discovered by Cecil B. DeMille who cast her in his 1938 film, The Buccaneer.
after Gone with the Wind
, appearances in dozens of movies and some leading roles, she never progressed to major motion pictures. Instead she became known for her colourful love life, quoted as saying, "I always took up with the man of the moment and there were many such moments."
Evelyn's first marriage was to an English businessman, Barton Bainbridge. Evelyn left him for the film director Charles Vidor and Bainbridge committed suicide. The story made headlines and she swore from then on to make her men leave her.
She married Vidor in 1944 but divorced him after she discovered he had been unfaithful.
Evelyn then married director John Houston, which ended painfully, and had a long relationship with producer Mike Todd, who left her for Elizabeth Taylor. During the time they were together she invested in his film, Around the World in 80 Days. The movie's success set her up for life.
In 1957 she became the eighth wife to clarinettist and band leader Artie Shaw, following Lana Turner and Ava Gardner - he was her fourth husband. The couple lived much of the time in Spain and although they separated, stayed married until the mid 1980s.
Along the way Evelyn enjoyed relationships with Kirk Douglas, David Niven, Anthony Quinn and others, documenting her many affairs in her autobiography. She also wrote a society column and several books.
Clearly a good if not great actress, Evelyn Keyes was unmistakably attractive to men, fun to be with and a courageous character. She is likely to be missed, ironically, not so much by movie fans as by those of us who cherish such characters.

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