Fred Crane, 90; Played Love-Struck Tarleton Twin in 'Gone With the Wind'

Fred Crane, just over Vivien Leigh's left shoulder in the flowered vest, and others from the cast of the classic 1939 film "Gone With the Wind."
Fred Crane, just over Vivien Leigh's left shoulder in the flowered vest, and others from the cast of the classic 1939 film "Gone With the Wind." (New Line Cinema via Associated Press)
By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 25, 2008

Fred Crane, who died Aug. 21 at age 90 in a hospital near Atlanta, was a Hollywood radio and TV announcer for four decades, but it was a bit part in "Gone With the Wind," and one line in particular, that ensured his celluloid immortality.

As Brent Tarleton, one of the handsome Tarleton twins smitten by the vivacious Scarlett O'Hara, Crane spoke the film's opening lines as he lounged on the front porch of Tara, the grand O'Hara plantation.

"What do we care if we were expelled from college, Scarlett?" he drawls. "The war is gonna start any day now, so we would have left college anyhow."

As Brent and his twin, Stuart -- played by George Reeves, the future TV "Superman" -- wax enthusiastic about the coming conflict, Scarlett, played by Vivien Leigh, expresses her impatience: "Fiddle-dee-dee. War, war, war. This war talk's spoiling all the fun at every party this spring. I get so bored I could scream."

Scarlett, of course, survived her wartime tribulations, while the pair of love-struck callow Confederates met their demise at Gettysburg.

Mr. Crane, who had been hospitalized for a few weeks with complications related to diabetes, died of a blood clot in his lung, his wife, Terry Lynn Crane, told the Los Angeles Times. He was the last surviving adult male character in the cast.

Herman Frederick Crane was born in New Orleans and attended Tulane and Loyola universities. He acted in local theater productions and spent a fair amount of time "riding the rails" looking for work.

"It was kind of a Depression thing," he told the Memphis Commercial Appeal in 1999. "Every now and then you'd wind up in a 'bo jungle eating that Mulligan stew and drinking that coffee that was almost like bubble gum, you could chew it."

In 1938, his mother heard about the daughter of a neighbor who had signed a movie contract, so she gave her 20-year-old son $50 and a one-way train ticket to Los Angeles. In Hollywood, his Southern accent won him a meeting with "Gone With the Wind" producer David O. Selznick and a screen test with Leigh. He signed a 13-week contract for $50 a week.

Mr. Crane, who made personal appearances over the years to reminisce with fans about "Gone With the Wind," recalled that the film's famous opening scene required three takes. In the first take, the twins' dyed red hair was deemed too curly.

Another remake was at the behest of the film's Southern etiquette expert who, as Mr. Crane explained to the Commercial Appeal, "assured us that no young girl of Scarlett's age would be showing that much bosom that early in the afternoon."

Mr. Crane appeared in four other scenes in the movie, including the smoking-room scene in which Rhett Butler, played by Clark Gable, offers a coldblooded assessment of the South's negligible chances in a war against the North. Young Brent Tarleton responds: "What difference does that make, sir, to a gentleman?"

More than a decade after his film debut in "Gone With the Wind," Mr. Crane appeared in "The Gay Amigo" (1949), a Cisco Kid western starring Duncan Reynaldo and Leo Carrillo. He also appeared in a number of TV series, including "77 Sunset Strip," "The Twilight Zone," "Peyton Place" and "Hawaiian Eye."

In 1946, he became a part-time announcer with a classical radio station in Los Angeles and began working full time for the station in the mid-1960s. He retired in 1987.

In 2000, he and his fifth wife, Terry Lynn Crane, bought an antebellum mansion in the small town of Barnesville, Ga., and turned it into Tarleton Oaks, a bed-and-breakfast that featured a "Gone With the Wind" museum, artifacts from the film and nightly reminiscences by Mr. Crane that lasted two to three hours. The couple auctioned off the home last year, in part because of Mr. Crane's declining health.

Mr. Crane's marriages to Marcel Crane, Ruthe Crane and Jeanne Crane ended in divorce. His fourth wife, Anita Crane, died in 1998.

In addition to his wife of nine years, who lives near Atlanta, survivors include a daughter from his first marriage, Haydee Crane of Murrieta, Calif., a daughter from his second marriage, Shelley Bruehl of Burbank, Calif., and a stepdaughter from his second marriage, Terry Lynn Smith of Lake View Terrace, Calif.; two sons from his third marriage, David Crane of Monrovia, Calif., and Jason Crane of Glendora, Calif.; eight grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.

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