Herman Frederick Crane was a radio announcer, TV and movie star of America. He was born in General Pershing St. in New Orleans city of Louisiana State. He had two siblings, John, and Harry. He did his schooling from McDonogh 35 School (previously known as McDonogh 13), and Alcee Fortier School. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all dentists. However, Fred did not follow this trend. At the Tulane and Loyola Universities, he took up acting and football. Fred’s first job was of an ice- delivery boy.
He was in his teens and worked during his spare time. At those times, the electric refrigerators were not that popular. When he was twenty, his mother handed him a suitcase and $50 to try his luck in Hollywood. She took this step after their neighbor’s daughter signed a contract for the movie. She knew Fred had the courage to perform as he had done stage shows in his college. Upon reaching there, he stayed with his relatives. During the day, he would work in the local zoo, and at night, he would recite the stories/ books to his family member who had a vision problem. He soon went on a visit with Fred Crane’s cousin Leatrice Joy Gilbert to Selznick International Pictures.
Gilbert was there to audition for the movie,“Gone With the Wind” for the role of Suellen. Over there, Fred was looking around the studio when his good looks and authentic Southern accent caught the eye of George Cukor, the director of the film, and David O. Selznick, the producer of the movie. Selection was followed by Fred reading the script with Vivien Leigh, the actress who was chosen to play Scarlett O’ Hara in the picture. Though he did not intend to try for a job that day, his talent, and many years of study, and practice in arts landed him a role. His quick wit, good storytelling, impromptu recitation of verses, and his voice helped him face the challenges and grab the opportunity.
The producer was highly impressed with his act and signed a thirteen-week contract with him for $50 per week. Fred played the role of Brent Tarleton, one of the Tarleton twins in Gone With the Wind. He portrayed the character of one of the suitors of Scarlett, the main lead of the movie. Brent is seen speaking the opening dialogue of the film, “What do we care if we were expelled from college, Miss Scarlett? The war's going to start soon, so we would have left college anyhow.” His name in the cast was mistakenly written as Stuart instead of Brent. Stuart was being played by
George Reeves. He was not present at the premiere of the movie at Atlanta but made an appearance at the premiere in Los Angeles at Carthay Circle Theater in 1939. In 1940, he got married for the first time to Rose Marcelle Dudley Heaslip. At the same time, his acting career was affected immensely by the World War II. He did not get any films during this phase. So, he joined Crossroads of the World as a talent instructor and taught there for some time.
In the meantime, he was working in munitions factory till the war discontinued. Soon in 1946, he was interviewed by Errett Lobban Cord and was hired to work in the radio station. Errett is the owner of KFAC classical music radio in LA (Los Angeles), and Cord Automobile Company. Over there, he worked for over forty years and also served as the Program Director with Carl Princi. Fred was also the host of the morning show. He was also a staff voice artist on NBC Radio for The Jack Benny Programme. He also worked in KKGO. Later, he worked in one episode of Cisco Kid Television show titled, The Gay Amigo. He was also seen in small roles in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, Peyton Place, 77 Sunset Strip, Lawman, Twilight Zone, Hawaiian Eye, and in General Hospital. Fred in order to survive, he took up many odd jobs such as working as a fine tools machinist and inspector, working at a pharmacy, and later was in housing construction partnership.
In the year 1998, he arrived in Atlanta as a special guest for the premiere screening of Gone With the Wind’s restored version. He got married four more times. His second wife was Ruth Ceder, followed by Barbara Jeanne Garoutte, Anita Joan Cohen and Terry Lynn Halfacre as his third, fourth and fifth wife respectively. During the later years of his career, he made several appearances at special events, cruise ship lectures, and fan gatherings. Fred also continued on charity fundraisers. He along with his fifth wife Terry, opened up a bed- and- breakfast, with a Gone With the Wind museum in their newly bought mansion in Barnesville of Georgia. It was sold in 2007 at an auction because of Fred’s deteriorating health. After his second heart surgery, Fred developed problems with diabetes. He died on 21st August 2008 succumbing to a blood clot in his lung. He is survived by his five children- David, Shelley, Haydee, Jason, and Terri Lynn Smith.