Fred Crane: Actor in 'Gone with the Wind'

Fred Crane has a part in cinema history for playing Brent Tarleton, one of the red-headed twins who woo Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939). Crane utters the first words of the classic movie, still considered by many to be Hollywood's finest drama.

As the camera zooms in on Scarlett, sitting on the front porch of Twelve Oaks being waited on by her beaux, Crane is heard to say, "What do we care if we were expelled from college, Scarlett? The war is going to start any day now, so we'd have left college anyhow." As his brother agrees with him, Scarlett interrupts with her memorable response, "Fiddle-dee-dee, war, war, war. This war talk's spoiling all the fun at every party this spring."

Though the New Orleans-born Crane was in Hollywood to seek work as an actor, he won the role by chance. His aunt, Leatrice Joy, had been one of the most elegant of silent screen stars. Credited with popularising bobbed hair, she had once been married to the matinée idol John Gilbert, who became Greta Garbo's lover. When her daughter, Leatrice Gilbert, auditioned at the Selznick studios for the role of Scarlett's sister Suellen, Crane accompanied his cousin.

The casting director, hearing Crane's honeyed Southern accent, introduced him to the producer, David O. Selznick and to the director, George Cukor, the latter declaring his voice "just perfect". Crane was signed to play Brent Tarleton but the role of Suellen went to Evelyn Keyes.

"Selznick handed me a free ticket to a sort of immortality," Crane said in 2007, though he admitted, "I'm just a small shard in a grand mosaic." Oddly, the film's credit titles have the brothers' names reversed, with George Reeves listed as Brent, and when the mistake was discovered it was considered too costly to make a revision.

It has never been determined whether the error cost Crane any offers, but he was to make only one more film, while Reeves went on to find fame in the Fifties as television's Superman. The two men remained friends, with Crane best man at Reeves' wedding, and Crane is among those who was convinced that Reeves' apparent suicide in 1959 was actually murder.

The son of a dentist, Herman Frederick Crane was born in New Orleans in 1918 and attended the universities of Tulane and Loyola, excelling at football and drama. Though his mother hoped that he would be a banker, he wanted to be an actor and performed with local drama groups. In 1938 his mother allegedly gave him $50 and a one-way ticket to Los Angeles to pursue his ambition.

Crane later stated that when cast in Gone With the Wind, he had never heard of its author, Margaret Mitchell, but he knew that many actresses had been tested to play Scarlett O'Hara, "including Jean Arthur, Joan Bennett, Paulette Goddard and, best of all, Lana Turner. I had crushes on all of them, so when Vivien Leigh was cast I was miffed as, like Mitchell, I'd never heard of her either."

As Brent Tarleton, Crane was featured in three scenes vying for the attention of Scarlett. He has a notable moment when Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) is telling the assembled gentlemen that the South is unprepared for war ("How many cannon factories does the South have?"), which prompts Brent to declare indignantly, "What difference does that make, sir, to a gentleman?"

After marrying in 1940 the first of his five wives, Crane taught acting, then during the Second World War worked in a munitions factory. While working as a pharmacist and tool machinist, he began to establish himself on radio, and in 1949 he made his only other film, The Gay Amigo (1949), one of the popular "Cisco Kid" series in which Crane played Duke, a bandit. He later acted in television shows – he was the town chemist in Peyton Place, and had parts in Bonanza, Lost in Space and 77 Sunset Strip.

His mellifluous voice was ultimately to lead to a full-time career in radio as a classical music disc jockey on the Los Angeles station KFAC. When, after more than 20 years as a top attraction for the network, he was fired in 1987, he successfully sued for age discrimination. In 2000 he and his fifth wife, Terry, bought an 1846 mansion near Atlanta, Georgia, and turned it into the Twelve Oaks Bed and Breakfast, with a Gone With the Wind museum attached. In 2007, because of ailing health, he auctioned off both the mansion and museum.

Crane was the last surviving male actor who played a credited adult role in Gone with the Wind – Mickey Kuhn, who played Beau Wilkes as a child, and Patrick Curtis, who was Melanie's baby, are still alive.

Tom Vallance

Herman Frederick Crane, actor: born New Orleans 22 March 1918; five times married (two sons, two daughters and one step-daughter); died Atlanta, Georgia 21 August 2008.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup