Alicia Rhett Dies: 'Gone With the Wind' Oldest Surviving Star Was 98

Monday, 06 Jan 2014 06:55 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Alicia Rhett, the oldest surviving cast member of "Gone with the Wind," died in a South Carolina retirement home Friday. She was 98.

Rhett played the role of India Wilkes in the classic 1939 film that starred Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Havilland, Clark Gable, and Leslie Howard among many other famous actors of yesteryear.

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Rhett died at approximately 5 p.m., Friday at Bishop Gadsden Retirement Community in Charleston, S.C., where she had been living since 2002, according to a spokeswoman for the facility, the Associated Press reported.

In the movie, India Wilkes is a sister of Ashley Wilkes and rival of Scarlett O'Hara.

The Savannah, Ga.-born Rhett had acted in several local productions before appearing in the film, her first and last time in a motion picture, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Rhett had reportedly stayed with her mother in Hollywood during the filming, and left once it was over.

"It was likely Rhett's Southern breeding, with its emphasis on absolute decorum, which kept the fledgling starlet upbeat through principal photography," said Richard Harland Smith, a film writer who summarized her career for TCM, the Los Angeles Times noted. "In interviews with the press corps, Rhett assigned only the highest marks to her costars, whom she sketched while off-camera while passing along the results to Charleston's News & Courier."

After "Gone with the Wind," Rhett returned to the South where she pursued a career in portrait painting and illustrated children's books. Rhett never married.

Considered by many critics to be one of the greatest films ever made, "Gone with the Wind," which was set against the backdrop of the Civil War and the subsequent Reconstruction era in the South, won 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress.

It remains the highest grossing film in box office history, adjust for inflation, reported.

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