Updated: July 27, 2020 1:43:01 pm
Olivia de Havilland, the doe-eyed actress beloved to hundreds of thousands because the sainted Melanie Wilkes of Gone With the Wind, but additionally a two-time Oscar winner and an off-screen fighter who challenged and unchained Hollywood’s contract system, died Sunday at her dwelling in Paris. She was 104.
Havilland, the sister of fellow Oscar winner Joan Fontaine, died peacefully of pure causes, stated New York-based publicist Lisa Goldberg.
Olivia de Havilland was among the many final of the highest display performers from the studio period, and the final surviving lead from Gone With the Wind, an irony, she as soon as famous, because the fragile, self-sacrificing Wilkes was the one main character to die within the movie. The 1939 epic, primarily based on Margaret Mitchell’s best-selling Civil War novel and winner of 10 Academy Awards, is usually ranked as Hollywood’s field workplace champion (adjusting for inflation), though it’s now extensively condemned for its glorified portrait of slavery and antebellum life.
The pinnacle of producer David O. Selznick’s profession, the film had a troubled off-screen story.
Three administrators labored on the movie, stars Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable had been way more linked on display than off and the fourth featured performer, Leslie Howard, was overtly detached to the function of Ashley Wilkes, Melanie’s husband. But Olivia de Havilland remembered the film as “one of the happiest experiences I’ve ever had in my life. It was doing something I wanted to do, playing a character I loved and liked.”
During a profession that spanned six many years, de Havilland additionally took on roles starting from an unwed mom to a psychiatric inmate in The Snake Pit, a private favourite. The dark-haired De Havilland projected each a delicate, glowing heat and a way of resilience and mischief that made her uncommonly interesting, main critic James Agee to admit he was “vulnerable to Olivia de Havilland in every part of my being except the ulnar nerve.”
She was Errol Flynn’s co-star in a collection of dramas, Westerns and interval items, most memorably as Maid Marian in The Adventures of Robin Hood. But De Havilland additionally was a prototype for an actress too stunning for her personal good, typecast in candy and romantic roles whereas wanting larger challenges.
Her frustration lastly led her to sue Warner Bros. in 1943 when the studio tried to maintain her below contract after it had expired, claiming she owed six extra months as a result of she had been suspended for refusing roles. Her good friend Bette Davis was amongst those that had did not get out of her contract below related circumstances within the 1930s, however de Havilland prevailed, with the California Court of Appeals ruling that no studio might lengthen an settlement with out the performer’s consent.
The resolution remains to be unofficially known as the “De Havilland law.”
Olivia de Havilland went on to earn her personal Academy Award in 1946 for her efficiency in To Each His Own, a melodrama about out-of-wedlock beginning. A second Oscar got here three years later for The Heiress, through which she portrayed a plain younger homebody (as plain because it was doable to make de Havilland) reverse Montgomery Clift and Sir Ralph Richardson in an adaptation of Henry James’ Washington Square. In 2008, de Havilland acquired a National Medal of Arts and was awarded France’s Legion of Honor two years later.
She was additionally well-known, not all the time for the higher, because the sister of Fontaine, with whom she had a troubled relationship. In a 2016 interview, de Havilland referred to her late sister as “Dragon Lady” and stated her recollections of Fontaine, who died in 2013, had been “multi-faceted, varying from endearing to alienating.”
“On my part, it was always loving, but sometimes estranged and, in the later years, severed,” she stated. “Dragon Lady, as I eventually decided to call her, was a brilliant, multi-talented person, but with an astigmatism in her perception of people and events which often caused her to react in an unfair and even injurious way.”
Olivia de Havilland as soon as noticed that Melanie Wilkes’ happiness was sustained by a loving, safe household, a blessing that eluded the actress even in childhood.
She was born in Tokyo on July 1, 1916, the daughter of a British patent legal professional. Her mother and father separated when she was 3, and her mom introduced her and her youthful sister Joan to Saratoga, California. De Havilland’s personal two marriages, to Marcus Goodrich and Pierre Galante, led to divorce.
Her performing ambitions dated again to stage acting at Mills College in Oakland, California. While making ready for a college manufacturing of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, she went to Hollywood to see Max Reinhardt’s rehearsals of the identical comedy. She was requested to learn for Hermia’s understudy, stayed with the manufacturing by way of her summer time trip and was given the function within the fall.
Warner Bros. needed stage actors for his or her lavish 1935 manufacturing and selected de Havilland to co-star with Mickey Rooney, who performed Puck.
“II wanted to be a stage actress,” she recalled. “Life sort of made the decision for me.”
She signed a five-year contract with the studio and went on to make Captain Blood, Dodge City and different movies with Flynn, a hopeless womanizer even by Hollywood requirements.
“Oh, Errol had such magnetism! There was nobody who did what he did better than he did,” stated Olivia de Havilland, whose bond with the dashing actor remained, she would insist, improbably platonic. As she as soon as defined, “We were lovers together so often on the screen that people could not accept that nothing had happened between us.”
She did date Howard Hughes and James Stewart and had an intense affair within the early ’40s with John Huston. Their relationship led to battle with Davis, her co-star for the Huston-directed In This Our Life; Davis would complain that de Havilland, a supporting actress within the movie, was getting larger and extra flattering time on digicam.
Olivia de Havilland allegedly by no means bought together with Fontaine, a feud magnified by the 1941 Oscar race that positioned her towards her sister for finest actress honors. Fontaine was nominated for the Hitchcock thriller Suspicion, whereas de Havilland was cited for Hold Back the Dawn, a drama co-written by Billy Wilder and starring de Havilland as a college instructor wooed by the unscrupulous Charles Boyer.
Asked by a gossip columnist in the event that they ever fought, de Havilland responded, “Of course, we fight. What two sisters don’t battle?” Like a superb Warner Bros cleaning soap opera, their relationship was a juicy narrative of supposed slights and snubs, from de Havilland reportedly refusing to congratulate Fontaine for profitable the Oscar to Fontaine making a slicing crack about de Havilland’s poor alternative of brokers and husbands.
Though she as soon as filmed as many as three footage a 12 months, her profession slowed in center age. She made a number of films for tv, together with Roots and Charles and Diana, through which she portrayed the Queen Mother. She additionally co-starred with Davis within the macabre camp traditional Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte and was menaced by a younger James Caan within the 1964 chiller Lady in a Cage, condemning her tormentor as “one of the many bits of offal produced by the welfare state.”
In 2009, she narrated a documentary about Alzheimer’s, “I Remember Better When I Paint.” Catherine Zeta-Jones performed de Havilland within the 2017 FX miniseries about Davis and Joan Crawford, however de Havilland objected to being portrayed as a ‘vulgar gossipmonger’ and sued FX. The case was dismissed.
Despite her power stage fright, Olivia de Havilland did summer time inventory in Westport, Connecticut, and Easthampton, New York. Moviemaking, she stated, produced a special form of anxiousness: “The first day of making a film I feel, `Why did I ever get mixed up in this profession? I have no talent; this time they’ll find out.’”
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