Alicia Rhett, GWTW star, dies in Charleston

by W. Winston Skinner

Alicia Rhett, who played India Wilkes in 'Gone with the Wind,' died Friday.

Rhett was 98 and died of natural causes at the Bishop Gadsden Episcopal Retirement Community in Charleston.

Rhett was the oldest surviving credited cast member of the 1939 film, Gone With the Wind.

Still-surviving cast members include Olivia de Havilland, 97, who played Ashley Wilkes' cousin and wife, Melanie Hamilton; Mary Anderson, 93, who played Maybelle Merriweather; and Mickey Kuhn, 81, who played Beau Wilkes.

Rhett was born Feb. 1, 1915, in Savannah. She was the only credited cast member born in Georgia.

Rhett's father, Edmund Moore Rhett, was an army officer and engineer who died during World War I. Alicia and her mother, Isabelle Murdoch Rhett, who was originally from Liverpool, England, moved to Edmund Rhett's hometown after he died.

As a young woman, Alicia Rhett was active in Charleston local theater. During a performance of 'Lady Windermere's Fan' at the Dock Street Theater in 1936, she was discovered by George Cukor.

Alicia Rhett later worked as an accent coach for aspiring actors and an announcer at Charleston radio station WTMA.

Aside from her role in the classic film, Alicia Rhett was probably best known as a portrait artist and illustrator. She sketched her fellow 'Gone with the Wind' actors between takes of the film. Rhett also created oil and pastel portraits into her eighties, and at least three Coweta families have pastel portraits of their children painted by Rhett.

Rhett also drew illustrations for several books including 'The Carolina Wren and other South Carolina Birds' and 'South Carolina Indians' both by Beth G. and Leila O. Darby. A photograph by Rhett is included in the 1963 volume, 'Charleston South Carolina: A Collection of Photographs by Carolina Art Association.'

Rhett had been living at the retirement community in Charleston, since August 2002.

Rhett's funeral will be held in Bishop Gadsden Chapel in Charleston. Interment will be in the churchyard of St. Philip's Episcopal Church, where Rhett was a member, in Charleston.

Memorials may be made to the Alicia Rhett Art Fund at the Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina, Inc., 635 Rutledge Avenue, Charleston, SC 29403 or to the Bishop Gadsden Residence Assistance Fund, One Bishop Gadsden Way, Charleston, SC 29412.

Edmund Rhett was the son of Alfred Moore Rhett, a Harvard graduate who was a colonel in the Confederate Army and - after the Civil War - chief of police in Charleston, a South Carolina State Constable and a trial justice.

Alfred Rhett's brother, R. Barnwell Rhett Jr., served as editor of the Charleston Mercury and the New Orleans Picayune. Their sister, Alice Middleton Rhett Mayberry, gained fame among gourmets for her Lady Baltimore cakes and was reported to be the inspiration for a character in Owen Wister's 1906 novel 'Lady Baltimore.'

Robert Barnwell Rhett, Alicia Rhett's great-grandfather, was South Carolina attorney general and represented South Carolina in the U.S. House and Senate prior to the Civil War. He also served in the Confederate Provisional Congress.



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