|Subject: ARCHIVE: January 3, 2014 ~Actress Alicia Rhett, at the time of her death, one of the oldest surviving credited cast members of the 1939 classic film, "Gone With The Wind" -her sole film credit! Later, she an accomplished sketch and portrait artist, dies at 98. ...
Bio & PHOTO
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Date Posted: Thursday, January 03, 11:26:07am
American actress and portrait painter who is best remembered
for her role as India Wilkes in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind. ...
[ Mary Alicia Rhett ]
(February 1, 1915 – January 3, 2014)
At the time of her death, Rhett was one of the oldest surviving credited cast members of the movie, the only others being Olivia de Havilland (born July 1, 1916), who played India's sister-in-law Melanie Wilkes, Mary Anderson (born April 3, 1918; died April 6, 2014), who played Maybelle Merriweather, and Mickey Kuhn (born September 21, 1932) who played Beau Wilkes.
Early years …
Rhett was born in 1915 at Savannah, Georgia to Isobel Murdoch, an immigrant from Liverpool, England, and Edmund M. Rhett, an American army officer and engineer based in Savannah. Her grandfather was Col. Alfred Moore Rhett, the commander of the 1st South Carolina Artillery for most of the civil war, and her great grandfather was Robert Barnwell Rhett, Alfred Rhett's father. After her father's death during World War I, Alicia and her mother moved to Charleston, South Carolina. Rhett became a theatre actress in Charleston. A newspaper article in 1939 quoted a Selznick International Pictures news release as saying that Rhett Butler's first name was chosen by Margaret Mitchell because "Since earliest Colonial days, the Rhett family has occupied a prominent position in the South generally, and, more particularly, in and around Charleston, S.C.". Alicia Rhett graduated from Memminger High School in Charleston.
Gone with the Wind …
During a performance of The Recruiting Officer in 1936, Rhett was spotted by Hollywood director George Cukor, who was impressed by her charm and beauty. The director was scouting for an actress to play the role of Scarlett O'Hara after producer David Selznick purchased the film rights to the Margaret Mitchell novel. Previously, she had been suggested by talent scout Kay Brown as a possible Southern belle for the film.
Miss Rhett, seen here on set with British-born actor Leslie Howard,
of whom she said, "Leslie Howard had charm to burn." …
Rhett auditioned for the part of Melanie Hamilton, but the role went instead to Olivia de Havilland. In March 1937, Cukor offered Rhett the role of India Wilkes, sister of Ashley Wilkes. After the success of Gone with the Wind, Rhett left Hollywood and returned to South Carolina and retired from filmmaking in 1941, citing a lack of suitable roles. Rhett later became an accent coach for aspiring actors and a radio announcer at station WTMA in Charleston.
Portrait painter …
Prior to appearing in Gone with the Wind, Rhett showed talent as a sketch artist and portrait painter.
Between takes on Gone with the Wind, she made sketches and drawings of her fellow actors.
Here is a Rhett sketch of actor Fred Crane, done on set of the film in 1939. …
Soon, Rhett was creating portraits of American servicemen in the Charleston vicinity. Some of her later works included portraits of Admiral Louis Emil Denfeld, and librarian Estellene P. Walker, the latter of which is on display in the South Carolina State Library. Coincidentally, Rhett was commissioned to paint the portrait of a then 19-year-old Charleston resident Alexandra Braid, later known as Alexandra Ripley, author of Scarlett (1991), the sequel to Gone with the Wind.
Rhett illustrated a number of books, including South Carolina Indians (1965), written by Beth Causey and Leila Darby. Of particular note, Charlotte Brown Lide commissioned Ms. Rhett to paint a portrait of her late husband, Claudius Murray Lide, Sr., and the same year painted a reproduction of William Harrison Scarborough's "The Miller Sisters". These two portraits are housed in the home of Claudius Murray Lide, Jr. in Columbia, South Carolina.
Alicia Rhett died of natural causes on January 3, 2014, at Bishop Gadsden Episcopal Retirement Community in her longtime hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. In her obituaries, Rhett was inaccurately cited by news media as "the oldest living actor from Gone With the Wind"; however, that distinction went to actor Shep Houghton (born June 4, 1914, then later died on December 15, 2016), although his part was small and his character identified only as a "Southern dandy." Alicia Rhett was laid to rest beside her parents at Saint Philips Episcopal Church Cemetery, in Charleston, South Carolina, under a large standing granite stone, marked by her name, dates, with the simple description, "Daughter of Edmund M. and Isobel M. Rhett -Portraitist". …
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