Mickey Kuhn, the busy child actor of the 1930s and ’40s who played Beau Wilkes, the son of Olivia de Havilland and Leslie Howard’s characters, in Gone With the Wind, has died. He was 90.
Kuhn died Sunday in a hospice facility in Naples, Florida, his wife, Barbara, told . He was in excellent health until recently, she said.
Kuhn also portrayed the ward of a famous movie cop in Dick Tracy (1945) and younger versions of Kirk Douglas and Montgomery Clift in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) and John Wayne’s Red River (1948), respectively.
And in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Kuhn reunited with GWTW actress Vivien Leigh to appear as a sailor who gives Blanche DuBois directions. (Was he Leigh’s good luck charm? She won her two best actress Oscars with him in the cast.)
Kuhn was 6 when he made Gone With the Wind (1939), and in a 2014 interview with The Washington Post, he recalled how he kept flubbing a scene with Clark Gable. “My line was, ‘Hello, Uncle Rhett,’” he said. “I kept saying, ‘Hello, Uncle Clark.’” It took him a few takes to get it right.
In another scene, Kuhn appears in the arms of his father, Ashley (Howard), outside the bedroom where his mom, Melanie (de Havilland), is deathly ill. “Where is my mother going away to? And why can’t I go along, please?” he asks.
He never appeared onscreen with de Havilland and said he did not meet her until she celebrated her 90th birthday in California in 2006. After that, he called her every year on her birthday, he told the Naples Daily News in 2017.
In all, Kuhn worked in six films released in 1939, including King of the Underworld, starring Humphrey Bogart; Juarez, featuring Bette Davis and Paul Muni (he made $100 a week for playing a Mexican crown prince, he said); and When Tomorrow Comes, starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer.
His big-screen résumé also included two James Stewart films, Magic Town (1947) and Broken Arrow (1950), as well as I Want a Divorce (1940), One Foot in Heaven (1941), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), The Searching Wind (1946), High Conquest (1947) and Scene of the Crime (1949).
Theodore Matthew Michael Kuhn Jr. was born on Sept. 21, 1932, in Waukegan, Illinois. He and his family moved to Los Angeles, where his father would work as a meat cutter for Safeway. At age 2, he appeared as an adopted baby in Change of Heart (1934), starring Janet Gaynor.
“My mother and I were in Sears Roebuck on Santa Monica and Western when a lady stopped my mother and said that Fox Studio was looking for twin babies for a movie they were shooting,” he said in a 2008 interview for the website Films of the Golden Age. “She had a baby girl that looked a lot like me and thought we could be cast. Well, we went over there, and I, but not the lady’s baby, was cast.”
His parents enrolled him in the Mar-Ken School for show-business kids, and he was friends with brothers Darryl and Dwayne Hickman.
After a day at work at Republic Pictures on S.O.S. Tidal Wave (1939), he and his mom went to Culver City to interview for Gone With the Wind. There were “sixty to eighty kids and adults at the casting office,” he remembered.
“I started crying and wanted to leave, but Mom said to go up and give my name to the lady at the desk. If in 10 minutes I hadn’t been called, then we would leave. I went to the lady and said, ‘I’m Mickey Kuhn.’ She said, ‘Mickey, we’ve been waiting for you.’ And then to the others waiting, ‘Thank you, we’ve cast the part. You may all leave.’”
The Red River script called for Wayne to smack him. “He actually hit me backhanded,” Kuhn said. “He told me he was [going to do it]. He said it would look better that way. We did it in one take.”
In 1951, Kuhn began a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy and worked as an aircraft electrician. After the service, he appeared in The Last Frontier (1955) and Away All Boats (1956) and on three 1957 episodes of CBS’ Alfred Hitchcock Presents before calling it quits as an actor.
He worked in airport management for American Airlines and at terminals in Washington and Boston before retiring in 1995.
In addition to his wife, whom he married in 1985, survivors include his son, Mick (and his wife, Jolene), daughter Patricia and granddaughter Samantha.