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Alicia Rhett, who was the oldest surviving member of the cast of Gone with the Wind, has died at age 98. She had a small role in the film, playing the sister of Leslie Howard’s character, Ashley Wilkes.
Rhett died Friday afternoon of natural causes at the Bishop Gadsden Episcopal Retirement Community in Charleston, a spokeswoman for the community told The Associated Press.
She had close ties to the South, which made her a perfect actress to appear in producer David O. Selznick’s Civil War epic, which won the Best Picture Oscar of 1939 and is still a revered classic. Rhett was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1915 and, according to her Turner Classic Movies biography, was the great-granddaughter of South Carolina senator Robert Brunwell Rhett, who was pro-slavery and considered the Father of Secession.
Rhett was a acting in theater when she was discovered by a scout for director George Cukor, who was supposed to direct Gone with the Wind before being fired. He initially considered her for the role of Melanie Wilkes, Ashley’s wife, but she ended up getting the supporting role of his sister because of her lack of movie experience.
Gone with the Wind is her only film credit, but she became known to fans of the film as its oldest surviving actor. Olivia De Havilland, who did play Melanie and earned an Oscar nomination for her performance, is still alive at age 97. Mary Anderson, 93, and Mickey Kuhn, 81, are still alive, the AP reports.