Page last updated at 10:53 GMT, Saturday, 12 July 2008 11:53 UK

Actress Evelyn Keyes dies aged 91

Evelyn Keyes
Keyes starred in more than 40 Hollywood films in the 1940s and 50s

Evelyn Keyes, who played Scarlett O'Hara's sister Suellen in Gone With The Wind, has died aged 91.

The actress was almost as famous for her love life as her film roles, which included Here Comes Mr Jordan, 99 River Street and The Jolson Story.

Among her four husbands were director John Huston and band leader Artie Shaw.

Keyes died of uterine cancer at her home in Montecito, near Santa Barbara, on 4 July. The news was withheld until a death certificate was issued.

Born in Port Arthur, Texas, in 1916, Keyes grew up fatherless and poor in Atlanta.

A glowing blonde with an alluring figure, she danced in nightclubs and at 17 set out for Hollywood.

I was always interested in the man of the moment, and there were so many such moments
Evelyn Keyes
There, she was discovered by producer Cecil B DeMille, who cast her in his 1938 pirate picture The Buccaneer.

One year (and six movies) later she was cast as Gone With The Wind's pouting Suellen O'Hara - whose elder sister steals her fiance to help pay taxes on the plantation.

The role came to define her career, to the extent that her tell-all autobiography was simply titled Scarlett O'Hara's Younger Sister.

The book glossed over experiences on dozens of film sets to spill the beans on her marriages and other turbulent relationships with the likes of Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn.

"I was always interested in the man of the moment," she once said, "and there were so many such moments."


Her first marriage, to English businessman Barton Bainbridge, ended in headlines when Keyes left for film director Charles Vidor and Bainbridge committed suicide.

She and Vidor married in 1944, but divorced the next year when Keyes discovered her new husband had been unfaithful.

Husband number three was John Huston, director of The Maltese Falcon, whom she met at a Hollywood dinner party.

According to some accounts, the couple separated after Huston was given a chimpanzee by actress Jennifer Jones.

David Niven wrote in his memoir that Keyes became exasperated at the non-housebroken animal and issued an ultimatum: "One of us has to go. It's the monkey or me."

Huston is said to have replied: "Honey, it's you."

Evelyn Keyes
Keyes last on-screen performance was on TV show Murder She Wrote in 1993
However, Keyes reported in her own memoir that it was the chimp that got the boot.

The Huston marriage did end in 1950, however, and Keyes sought analysis to recover from the failure.

Her conclusion: "I was always looking for the same man - a strong father figure."

Her search continued with producer Mike Todd, who left her for Elizabeth Taylor in 1956. The next year, she became the eighth wife of Artie Shaw - whose former spouses included Ava Gardner and Lana Turner.

The couple spent many years in Spain and Connecticut. Although they separated in the 1970s, they remained married until 1985.

After Shaw died in 2004 at age 94, Keyes battled in court for a share of his estate. She was awarded $1.42m (714,000) but the executor of the estate vowed to appeal.

'No roots'

As an actress, she never made the leap to leading lady, and her film career had petered out by the time of her marriage to Shaw.

She later settled into writing, penning a society column for the Los Angeles Times and three well-received books.

She left no immediate survivors, but that may have been the way she planned it.

''I have no roots,'' she told The New York Times in 1977. ''I deliberately set out to destroy them, and I did.

"If there's any such thing as a hometown for me, it's Hollywood. I was formed here as an adult.''

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