Alicia Rhett, the oldest surviving credited cast member of the 1939 film ‘Gone with the Wind’, has died aged 98. It was her only film role.
She had been residing for the last 6 years of her life in the Bishop Gadsden Episcopal Retirement Community in South Carolina.
In the film she played India Wilkes, who spies Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) in an embrace with Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard), despite being married to Rhett Butler (Clark Gable).
Her gossiping of what she sees sullies O’Hara’s reputation and forces Butler to confront her at Ashley’s birthday party.
Alicia Rhett was born on February 1 1915. Her great-grandfather was a South Carolina senator who was pro-slavery. Her father, Edward, died of influenza when she was 3 years old.
She was cast in Gone With the Wind after location scouts spotted her in South Carolina, as they were researching about life on plantations.
The film created so much interest, that merely her selection for a screen test in New York made headlines in her town’s newspaper.
‘Miss Rhett Summoned to Selznick Studios’ the Herald-Journal reported in 1937. ‘Miss Rhett Gets Contract for Gone With the Wind’ it proudly announced the following week.
When asked about her good fortune at being cast, Alicia Rhett replied ‘Dear me. I don’t know. It’s grand – I can’t think of any other words.
Am I pleased? I should say so! I think it’ll be a most interesting experience and lots of fun anyway, just to see how it’s all done’.
With her passing there are now 4 known surviving cast members.
Mickey Kuhn (who played Beau Wilkes), Mary Anderson (who played Maybelle Meriweather) , Olivia de Havilland (who played Melanie) and Shep Houghton (IMDB list him as still living at age 99. Uncredited role).