Jump to content

olivia de havilland


Recommended Posts

Olivia Mary de Havilland (born July 1, 1916) is an American film and stage actress. She is the elder sister of actress Joan Fontaine. Along with her sister, de Havilland is one of the last surviving female stars from 1930s Hollywood. She is also the last living lead cast member from Gone with the Wind.

Early lifeOlivia de Havilland was born in Tokyo, Japan to English parents. Her mother, Lilian Augusta Ruse (1886–1975), was an actress known professionally as Lillian Fontaine, and her father, Walter Augustus de Havilland (1872–1968), was a patent attorney with a practice in Japan.[1][2] Her parents married in 1914 and divorced in 1919. Her younger sister is actress Joan Fontaine (born 1917), from whom she has been estranged for many decades, not speaking at all since 1975.[3]

The de Havilland family moved from Tokyo when she was two years old, settling in Saratoga, California, due to her sister's poor health, which improved after the family emigrated. Both sisters attended Los Gatos High School and Olivia also attended the Notre Dame High School, Belmont.[4] An acting award at Los Gatos is named after her. Her paternal cousin is Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, designer of the de Havilland Mosquito aeroplane.


220px-Olivia_de_Havilland_in_The_Adventures_of_Robin_Hood_trailer.JPG magnify-clip.pngin The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)De Havilland appeared as Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream, her first stage production, at the Hollywood Bowl. The stage production was later turned into a 1935 movie, her film debut.[5] Although the stage cast was largely replaced with Warner Bros.. contract players, she was hired to reprise her role as Hermia. After appearing with Joe E. Brown in Alibi Ike and James Cagney in The Irish in Us, she played opposite Errol Flynn in such highly popular films as Captain Blood, The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), and as Maid Marian to Flynn's Robin Hood in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). Overall, she starred opposite Flynn in eight films.

She played Melanie Hamilton Wilkes in Gone with the Wind (1939) and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance. In 1941, de Havilland became a naturalized citizen of the United States. She was becoming increasingly frustrated by the roles assigned to her. She felt she had proven herself capable of playing more than the demure ingénues and damsels in distress that were quickly typecasting her, and began to reject scripts that offered her this type of role. When her Warner Bros. contract expired, the studio informed her that six months had been added to it for times she had been on suspension; the law then allowed for studios to suspend contract players for rejecting a role and the period of suspension to be added to the contract period. In theory, this allowed a studio to maintain indefinite control over an uncooperative contractee. [citation needed]

Most accepted this situation, while a few tried to change the system. Bette Davis had mounted an unsuccessful lawsuit against Warner Bros.. in the 1930s. De Havilland mounted a lawsuit in the 1940s, supported by the Screen Actors Guild and was successful, thereby reducing the power of the studios and extending greater creative freedom to the performers. The decision was one of the most significant and far-reaching legal rulings in Hollywood. [citation needed] Her victory won her the respect and admiration of her peers, among them her own sister Joan Fontaine who later commented, "Hollywood owes Olivia a great deal".[6] The studio, however, vowed never to hire her again. The California Court of Appeal's ruling came to be informally known, and is still known to this day, as the De Havilland Law (California Labor Code Section 2855).[7] It imposes a 7 year limit on contracts for service unless the employee agrees to an extension beyond that term.

220px-Olivia_De_Havilland_in_In_This_Our_Life_trailer.jpg magnify-clip.pngfrom the trailer for In This Our Life (1942)Following the release of Devotion, a Hollywood biography of the Brontë sisters filmed in 1943 but withheld from release during the suspension and litigation, de Havilland signed a three picture deal with Paramount Pictures. The quality and variety of her roles began to improve. James Agee, in his review for The Dark Mirror (1946), noted the change, and stated that although she had always been "one of the prettiest women in movies", her recent performances had proven her acting ability. He commented that she did not possess "any remarkable talent, but her playing is thoughtful, quiet, detailed and well-sustained ... [a]nd an undivided pleasure to see."[8] She won Best Actress Academy Awards for To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949), and was also widely praised for her Academy Award–nominated performance in The Snake Pit (1948). This was one of the earliest films to attempt a realistic portrayal of mental illness, and de Havilland was lauded for her willingness to play a role that was completely devoid of glamor and that confronted such controversial subject matter. She won the New York Film Critics Award for both The Snake Pit and The Heiress.

De Havilland appeared sporadically in films after the 1950s and attributed this partly to the growing permissiveness of Hollywood films of the period. She declined the role of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, allegedly citing the unsavory nature of some elements of the script and saying there were certain lines she could not allow herself to speak. De Havilland denied this in a 2006 interview, saying she had recently given birth to her son when offered the role, which had been a life altering experience, and was unable to relate to the material.[9] The role went to her Gone with the Wind co-star, Vivien Leigh, who won her second Academy Award for her role. De Havilland continued acting on film until the late 1970s, afterward continuing her career on television until the late 1980s, highlighted by her winning a Golden Globe and earning a Emmy Award nomination for her performance as the Dowager Empress Maria in the 1986 miniseries Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna.

In 2008, de Havilland was awarded the United States National Medal of Arts.

Personal life


De Havilland and Errol Flynn were known as one of Hollywood's most exciting on-screen couples, appearing in eight films together, but contrary to salacious rumours, were never linked romantically. The films in which they co-starred included Captain Blood (1935), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood and Four's a Crowd (1938), Dodge City and The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), Santa Fe Trail (1940) and They Died with Their Boots On (1941).

De Havilland stated, "He never guessed I had a crush on him. And it didn't get better either. In fact, I read in something that he wrote that he was in love with me when we made The Charge of the Light Brigade the next year, in 1936. I was amazed to read that, for it never occurred to me that he was smitten with me, too, even though we did all those pictures together." [citation needed] However, in an interview cited on Turner Classic Movies[10] de Havilland claims she knew the crush was reciprocal and further states that Flynn proposed, though de Havilland turned down the proposal as Flynn was at the time still married to actress Lili Damita.


De Havilland married novelist Marcus Goodrich in 1946 and they divorced in 1953. Their son, Benjamin (born in 1949) became a mathematician and died in 1991 after a long battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma. She was married to French journalist and Paris Match editor Pierre Galante between 1955 until 1979. Their daughter, Giselle (who later became a journalist) was born in July 1956 when de Havilland was 40.[11] After the divorce, de Havilland and Galante remained on good terms, and she nursed him through his final illness (lung cancer) in Paris, which was the stated reason for her absence from the 70th anniversary of the Oscars in 1998.

Later years

De Havilland was good friends with Bette Davis with whom she starred in Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte in 1964 and she has remained a close friend of Gloria Stuart. In April 2008, she attended the Los Angeles funeral of Charlton Heston. In 2008, she was a surprise guest at the Centennial Tribute to Bette Davis.

Sibling rivalry

Of the two sisters, Olivia was the first to become an actress; when Joan tried to follow her lead, their mother, who allegedly favored Olivia, refused to let her use the family name, so Joan was forced to invent a name, taking first Joan Burfield, and later Joan Fontaine. Biographer Charles Higham records that the sisters have always had an uneasy relationship, starting in early childhood when Olivia would rip up the clothes Joan had to wear as hand-me-downs, forcing Joan to sew them back together. A lot of the feud and resentment between the sisters allegedly stems from Joan's perception of Olivia being their mother's favorite child.[12]

Both Olivia and Joan were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1942. Joan won first for her role in Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion (1941) over Olivia's performance in Hold Back the Dawn. Charles Higham states that Joan "felt guilty about winning given her lack of obsessive career drive...". Higham has described the events of the awards ceremony, stating that as Joan stepped forward to collect her award, she pointedly rejected Olivia's attempts at congratulating her and that Olivia was both offended and embarrassed by her behavior. Several years later, Olivia would remember the slight and exact her own revenge by brushing past Joan, who was waiting with her hand extended, because Olivia had allegedly taken offense at a comment Joan had made about Olivia's then-husband. Olivia's relationship with Joan continued to deteriorate after the two incidents. Charles Higham has stated that this was the near final straw for what would become a lifelong feud, but the sisters did not completely stop speaking to each other until 1975. According to Joan, Olivia did not invite her to a memorial service for their mother, who had recently died. Olivia claims she told Joan, but that Joan had brushed her off, claiming that she was too busy to attend.

Charles Higham records that Joan has an estranged relationship with her own daughters as well, possibly because she discovered that they were secretly maintaining a relationship with their aunt Olivia.[12] Both sisters have refused to comment publicly about their feud and dysfunctional family relationships.

De Havilland today

A resident of Paris since the 1950s, de Havilland rarely makes public appearances. According to John Lichfield in a 14 July 2009 interview published in the Independent, she is working on an autobiography and hoped to have a first draft by September 2009.[13]

She appeared as a presenter at the 75th Annual Academy Awards in 2003. In June 2006, she made appearances at tributes for her 90th birthday at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences and the Los Angeles County Art Museum. In 2004, Turner Classic Movies put together a retrospective piece called Melanie Remembers in which de Havilland was interviewed for the 65th anniversary of Gone with the Wind's original release. The film's last surviving principal cast member, de Havilland remembered every detail of her casting as well as filming. The 40-minute documentary can be seen on the Gone with the Wind four-disc special collector's edition.

On November 17, 2008, at the age of 92, she received the National Medal for the Arts.

She narrated the 2009 documentary, I Remember Better When I Paint.[14]

YearFilmRoleNotes1935Alibi IkeDolly StevensThe Irish in UsLucille JacksonA Midsummer Night's DreamHermia, in Love with Lysanderas Olivia de Haviland (film debut)[5]Captain BloodArabella Bishop1936Anthony AdverseAngela GiuseppeThe Charge of the Light BrigadeElsa Campbellas Olivia De Havilland1937Call It a DayCatherine 'Cath' HiltonIt's Love I'm AfterMarcia WestThe Great GarrickGermaine de la Corbe1938Gold Is Where You Find ItSerena 'Sprat' FerrisThe Adventures of Robin HoodLady Marian FitzwalterFour's a CrowdLorri DillingwellHard to GetMargaret Richardsas Olivia De Havilland1939Wings of the NavyIrene DaleDodge CityAbbie IrvingThe Private Lives of Elizabeth and EssexLady Penelope GrayGone with the WindMelanie Hamilton WilkesNominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting ActressRafflesGwen Manders1940My Love Came BackAmelia CornellSanta Fe TrailKit Carson Holliday1941The Strawberry BlondeAmy Lind GrimesHold Back the DawnEmmy BrownNominated — Academy Award for Best ActressThey Died with Their Boots OnElizabeth Bacon Custer1942The Male AnimalEllen TurnerIn This Our LifeRoy Timberlake1943Thank Your Lucky StarsHerselfPrincess O'RourkePrincess Maria - aka Mary Williamsas Olivia DeHavilland1944Government GirlElizabeth 'Smokey' Allard1946To Each His OwnMiss Josephine 'Jody' NorrisAcademy Award for Best ActressDevotionCharlotte BronteThe Well-Groomed BrideMargie DawsonThe Dark MirrorTerry/Ruth Collins1948The Snake PitVirginia Stuart CunninghamItalian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Award for Best Actress in a Foreign Film

National Board of Review Award for Best Actress

New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress

Volpi Cup

Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress1949The HeiressCatherine SloperAcademy Award for Best Actress

Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama

New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress1952My Cousin RachelRachel Sangalletti AshleyNominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama1955That LadyAna de MendozaNot as a StrangerKristina Hedvigson1956The Ambassador's DaughterJoan Fisk1958The Proud RebelLinnett Moore1959LibelLady Margaret Loddon1962Light in the PiazzaMeg Johnson1964Lady in a CageMrs. Cornelia HilyardHush… Hush, Sweet CharlotteMiriam Deeringas Olivia deHavilland1970The AdventurersDeborah Hadleyas Olivia De Havilland1972Pope JoanMother Superior1977Airport '77Emily Livingston1978The SwarmMaureen Schusteras Olivia De Havilland1979The Fifth MusketeerQueen (Mary) Mother2009I Remember Better When I PaintNarrator

YearFilmRoleNotes1935A Dream Comes TrueHerself (uncredited)About the making of A Midsummer Night's Dream1936The Making of a Great Motion PictureHerself (uncredited)About the making of Anthony Adverse1937A Day at Santa AnitaHerself (uncredited)Stars attended a horse race at the famed racetrackScreen Snapshots Series 16, No. 10HerselfStars and their pets attend a swim meet1943Show Business at WarHerselfnewsreel about progress of the Hollywood war effort

YearTitleRoleNotes1966Noon WineEllie ThompsonABC Stage 671972The Screaming WomanLaura Wynant1979Roots: The Next GenerationsMrs. Warnerminiseries1982Murder Is EasyHonoria Waynfleteas Olivia De HavillandThe Royal Romance of Charles and DianaQueen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother1986North and South IIMrs. NealminiseriesAnastasia: The Mystery of AnnaDowager Empress MariaGolden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film

Nominated — Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Miniseries or a Movie1988The Woman He LovedAunt Bessie

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...
  • 7 months later...
  • 7 years later...
  • 1 year later...
  • 10 months later...

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...