About Alicia Rhett
Alicia Rhett (February 1, 1915 – January 3, 2014) was an American actress and portrait painter who is best remembered for her role as India Wilkes in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind.
At the time of her death, Rhett was the oldest surviving credited cast member of the movie, the only others being Olivia de Havilland (born July 1, 1916), who played India's sister-in-law Melanie Wilkes, Mary Anderson (born April 3, 1920), who played Maybelle Merriweather, and Mickey Kuhn (born September 21, 1932) who played Beau Wilkes.
Rhett was born in Savannah, Georgia to Isabelle Murdoch, an immigrant from Liverpool, England, and Edmund M. Rhett, an American army officer and engineer based in Savannah. After her father's death during World War I, Alicia and her mother moved to Charleston, South Carolina. Rhett became a theatre actress in Charleston.
Gone with the Wind
During a performance of The Recruiting Officer in 1936, Rhett was spotted by Hollywood director George Cukor, who was impressed by her charm and beauty. The director was scouting for an actress to play the role of Scarlett O'Hara after producer David Selznick purchased the film rights to the Margaret Mitchell novel. Previously, she had been suggested by talent scout Kay Brown as a possible Southern belle for the film.
Rhett auditioned for the part of Melanie Hamilton, but the role went instead to Olivia de Havilland. In March 1937, Cukor offered Rhett the role of India Wilkes, sister of Ashley Wilkes. After the success of Gone with the Wind, Rhett left Hollywood and returned to South Carolina and retired from filmmaking in 1941, citing a lack of suitable roles. Rhett later became an accent coach for aspiring actors and a radio announcer at station WTMA in Charleston.
Prior to appearing in Gone with the Wind, Rhett showed talent as a sketch artist and portrait painter. Between takes on Gone with the Wind, she made sketches and drawings of her fellow actors. Soon, Rhett was creating portraits of American servicemen in the Charleston vicinity. Some of her later works included portraits of Admiral Louis Emil Denfeld, and librarian Estellene P. Walker, the latter of which is on display in the South Carolina State Library. Coincidentally, Rhett was commissioned to paint the portrait of a then 19-year-old Charleston resident Alexandra Braid, later known as Alexandra Ripley, author of Scarlett (1991), the sequel to Gone with the Wind.
Rhett illustrated a number of books, including South Carolina Indians (1965), written by Beth Causey and Leila Darby. Of particular note, Charlotte Brown Lide commissioned Ms. Rhett to paint a portrait of her late husband, Claudius Murray Lide, Sr., and the same year painted a reproduction of William Harrison Scarborough's "The Miller Sisters". These two portraits are housed in the home of Claudius Murray Lide, Jr. in Columbia, South Carolina.
On January 3, 2014, Rhett died in Charleston, South Carolina, aged 98. In her obituaries, Rhett was inaccurately cited by news media as "the oldest living actor from Gone With the Wind", however that distinction goes to actor Shep Houghton (born 1914), although his part was a small uncredited part.
Gone with the Wind (1939) as India Wilkes.