Thursday, May 29, 2014
SCARLET O'HARA'S YOUNGER SISTER Evelyn Keyes
Evelyn Keyes was one of those innumerable Hollywood starlets who managed to have a few major roles in minor pictures, and small parts in big movies such as Gone With the Wind. When these "also-rans" write their memoirs they fill the pages with notes on the important people they knew and worked with, and do what they can to convince everyone that their life was fabulous even though Hollywood rejected them [or they rejected Hollywood, which sounds better]. Generally these books are about settling scores and perhaps there's a little of that in Scarlet O'Hara's Younger Sister, but what sets the book apart is that Keyes can write. This is not an "as told to" book where everything is interpreted by somebody else, but Keyes' story in her own generally well-chosen and witty words; it reads like a good novel where you're anxious to see what happens to our heroine next. The book is frank -- Keyes makes no bones that she slept with and married powerful men in the industry [directors Charles Vidor and John Huston, among others] -- although she claims it was a daddy fixation. The book, full of amusing anecdotes, explores the sleazy underbelly of Hollywood and the crappy way that women, instantly disposable, were treated by most males in the industry. The most interesting passages deal with Keyes' several-years affair with Mike Todd, which almost led to the altar [except he met Liz Taylor], and her marriage to nutty chauvinist bandleader Artie Shaw, whose punctilious behavior would have driven anyone crazy. [Keyes was still technically married to Shaw when this book was published. When he died several years after their 1985 divorce, Keyes successfully sued for half of his estate, but she herself was gone only a couple of years later.] If you're looking for behind-the-scenes stories of the movies Keyes appeared in, look elsewhere; she doesn't even have that much to say about The Killer that Stalked New York, in which she gave an excellent performance. Keyes also gave notable performances in The Face Behind the Mask and Ladies in Retirement.
Verdict: Absorbing life of a Hollywood insider. ***1/2.