Most famous for being Scarlett Ohara’s younger sister In’ Gone With The Wind’ Evelyn Keyes was so much more than a spoiled younger sister. Most of her films were made for Columbia studios and were in the B category. In fact she even married Charles Vidor who was one of Columbia’s most famous directors and who directed her in ‘The Desperados’ with Glenn Ford.. Many of her films were in the film noir genre and Keyes excelled as the gritty heroine who’s tough facade often masked the desperation of a woman on edge. ‘The Killer That Stalked New York’ , ‘The Prowler’, and ‘Hell’s Half Acre’ are all film titles that automatically promise spine tingling suspense and shadowy underworld dealings. In ‘ The Killer That Stalked New York’ she plays a diamond smuggler who, whilst waiting at the police station, contracts small pocks from touching the arm of a young girl who actually has the disease. In ‘The Prowler ‘ she’s a young married woman having an affair with a cop. The cop is crooked and murders her husband to collect his insurance money. In a later film with John Payne “99 River Street’ she is the young actress ,desperate for a role in a new film , who plays a trick on a friend. The friend is an ex boxer who drives taxis for a living who also has an unfaithful wife involved with the mob. The wealthy man she is having an affair with kills her with the intention of then framing her husband but thankfully the actress believes in him and helps to prove him innocent. You get the drift? Evelyn Keyes was always getting herself involved with guys in trouble. In the movies that is. Her leading men were big names of the day including Dick Powell, John Payne and Van Heflin. With Dick Powell she made possibly one of the best in the film noir genre ‘ Johnny Oclock’ with Dick Powell. A brilliant script and an extremely talented cast including Lee .J. Cobb and jeff Chandler in a small role made this one really stand out. Keys plays the girl who’s sister has been murdered by the mob and who falls in love with the main suspect (Dick Powell ). Other films included ‘Mrs Mike’ again with Dick Powell, which she considered her favourite probably because it was such a romantic film.
Again she is the wife only this time hubby is also married to the Canadian Mounties causing many problems for the young bride who hails from Boston. ‘The Al Jolson Story’ , one of my favourites,with Larry Parkes is the story of Jolson’s meteoric rise to fame after appearing in the very first talkie supported by , you guessed it, a lovely wife played by Evelyn Keyes. It’s no coincidence, however, that Keyes seemed to often play the wife role as she was equally famous for the men in her life as she was for the roles she played on screen. Her first husband Barton Brainbridge suicided and she then became involved with Charles Vidor. She left Vidor to marry John Huston in 1946 whom she eventually divorced . She then moved in with Mike Todd , who later married Liz Taylor, and finally ended up with Artie Shaw who had been married to Doris Day. Not bad for Scarlett’s little sister who seemed to always be losing her husbands. She certainly had her revenge. How very film noir.
© Renee Dallow ( Hybiscus Bloom ) 13/9/2014