Skip to main content

'Gone With the Wind' actress Alicia Rhett dies at 98

By Mayra Cuevas and Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 11:30 AM EST, Sat January 4, 2014
Alicia Rhett was cast as India Wilkes, sister of plantation owner Ashley Wilkes, in
Alicia Rhett was cast as India Wilkes, sister of plantation owner Ashley Wilkes, in "Gone With the Wind."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Alicia Rhett played India Wilkes in the 1939 classic "Gone With the Wind"
  • After the film, she headed back to Charleston and worked as an artist
  • She died of natural causes at a retirement community, a spokesman says

(CNN) -- Alicia Rhett, who had been one of the oldest surviving cast member of the classic film "Gone With the Wind," died Friday in her longtime hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, a retirement community spokeswoman said.

Rhett passed away of natural causes around 5 p.m. surrounded by friends at Bishop Gadsden Episcopal Retirement Community, said Kimberly Farfone Borts, a spokeswoman for the community.

She was 98.

Born in Savannah, Georgia, Rhett moved with her mother to Charleston after her father died during World War I, according to Borts. Her roots to the South trace back even deeper: According to her biography on the Turner Classic Movies website -- which, like CNN, is a unit of Time Warner -- she was the great-granddaughter of U.S. Sen. Robert Rhett, known as the "Father of Secession" for his staunch and vocal anti-Union positions.

Rhett was doing local theater productions when she was spotted for a role in the 1939 classic "Gone With the Wind," a film based on Margaret Mitchell's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

She was cast as India Wilkes, sister of plantation owner Ashley Wilkes who was at odds with Scarlet O'Hara, played by Vivien Leigh.

While the runaway success and continued notoriety of "Gone With the Wind" made Rhett recognizable nationwide, she did not pursue the limelight. Instead of heading to Hollywood, Rhett went back to Charleston.

In the coastal South Carolina city, she developed a reputation as a talented artist, producing works seen in the state library and in many plantations in the area, as well as sketches of her fellow "Gone With the Wind" cast members, according to Borts.

Rhett never married and had a relatively quiet life, though she was involved in local arts programs.

People we lost in 2013

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 7:08 PM EDT, Sun August 24, 2014
Click through our gallery to remember those we lost this year.
updated 3:54 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Acclaimed actor-director Richard Attenborough has died at 90, the actor's agent said.
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Sun August 24, 2014
The founder of the University of Phoenix, Dr. John G. Sperling, has died. He was 93.
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Don Pardo, the announcer whose velvety baritone voice introduced "Saturday Night Live" hosts on NBC for decades, has died at age 96.
updated 3:34 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Jim Jeffords, who shifted the balance of power in the Senate when he bolted from the Republican Party in 2001, died at age 80.
updated 5:32 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Former Z-Boys skater Jay Adams died after a heart attack while vacationing in Mexico with his wife. He was 53.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Actress Arlene Martel, who "Star Trek" fans know as Spock's bride-to-be, died of complications from a heart attack. Martel was 78.
updated 4:48 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Ed Nelson, best known for playing a doctor in the 1960s nighttime soap opera "Peyton Place," has died at 85.
updated 11:08 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Actress Lauren Bacall, known for her distinctive, husky voice and sultry sensuality, has died at age 89.
updated 10:19 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Robin Williams, who first made America laugh and eventually touched "every element of the human spirit" in a remarkable range of performances, died at age 63.
updated 4:15 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Charles Keating, best known for his role as villain Carl Hutchins on the NBC soap opera "Another World," has died at 72.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
JJ Murphy, an actor who was set to join the "Game of Thrones" cast, died at age 86.
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Wed August 6, 2014
Actress Marilyn Burn, a "scream queen" in the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," has died at age 64.
updated 7:50 AM EDT, Tue August 5, 2014
James Brady, former press secretary to Ronald Reagan who was severely wounded in a 1981 assassination attempt on the President, has died at age 73.
updated 9:25 AM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Nearly 69 years ago, Theodore "Dutch" Van Kirk navigated a U.S. B-29 Superfortress called the Enola Gay over Hiroshima, Japan, on a sunny August day.
updated 5:39 PM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
James Shigeta, a prolific and pioneering Asian-American actor whose 50-year career includes the movies "Die Hard" and "Flower Drum Song," has died at age 81.
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Actress Skye McCole Bartusiak, who played Mel Gibson's youngest daughter in "The Patriot," has died at age 21.
updated 9:34 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
James Garner, the understated, wisecracking everyman actor who enjoyed multi-generational success on both the small and big screen, has died. He was 86.
updated 7:27 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Actress Elaine Stritch, known for her brash persona, gravelly voice and versatility over seven decades on Broadway, has died at age 89.
updated 12:28 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
American blues guitarist and singer Johnny Winter died in a hotel room in Switzerland at age 70.
updated 5:59 PM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
Nadine Gordimer, the Nobel Prize-winning South African author and anti-apartheid activist, has died at age 90.
ADVERTISEMENT