Olivia Mary de Havilland (born July 1, 1916) is a two-time Academy Award-winning actress. She is the sister of actress Joan Fontaine, also an Academy Award winner. Along with her sister Joan Fontaine and Luise Rainer, de Havilland is one of the last surviving female stars from Hollywood of the 1930s. She is also the last living lead from the Hollywood classic Gone with the Wind.
The de Havilland family moved from Tokyo when she was two years old, settling in Saratoga, California. She attended school at Los Gatos High School and at the Notre Dame Convent Catholic girls' school in Belmont, California. An acting award at Los Gatos is named after her.
De Havilland's career began co-starring with Joe E. Brown in Alibi Ike in 1935. She 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. Although the stage cast was largely replaced with Warner Bros. contract players, she was hired to reprise her role as Hermia. After this, de Havilland 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. De Havilland 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 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.
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. Her courage in mounting such a challenge, and her subsequent victory, won her the respect and admiration of her peers, among them her sister Joan Fontaine who later commented, "Hollywood owes Olivia a great deal". The studio, however, vowed never to hire her again. The court's ruling came to be known, and is still known to this day, as the "de Havilland law".
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... and an undivided pleasure to see. 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 was reported to have declined the role of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, citing the unsavory nature of some elements of the script and saying there were certain lines she could not allow herself to speak. The role eventually went to her former 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.
|1939||Academy Award||Best Supporting Actress||Gone with the Wind|
|1941||Academy Award||Best Actress||Hold Back the Dawn|
|1946||Academy Award||Best Actress||To Each His Own|
|1948||Academy Award||Best Actress||The Snake Pit|
|Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists||Best Actress in a Foreign Film|
|NBR Award||Best Actress|
|NYFCC Award||Best Actress|
|Volpi Cup||Best Actress|
|1949||Academy Award||Best Actress||The Heiress|
|Golden Globe Award||Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama|
|NYFCC Award||Best Actress|
|1950||Golden Apple Award||Least Cooperative Actress|
|1952||Golden Globe Award||Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama||My Cousin Rachel|
|1986||Emmy Award||Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Special||Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna|
|Golden Globe Award||Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV|
De Havilland was romantically involved with John Huston, James Stewart and Howard Hughes in the early 1940s. She 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. 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.
De Havilland was good friends with Bette Davis and has remained a close friend of Gloria Stuart. In April 2008, she attended the Los Angeles funeral of Charlton Heston and was a surprise guest at the Academy Centennial Tribute to Bette Davis.
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 supposedly stems from Joan's perception of Olivia being their mother's favorite child.
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.
Both sisters have refused to comment publicly about their feud and dysfunctional family relationships.
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.
In 2008 she was a surprise guest at a Centennial Tribute to Bette Davis
In 2009 she will be making her return to film in the dramatic thriller I-59 South based on the novel of the same name by author Benjamin S. Johnson. Johnson will be producing the film under his production company Benjytainment along with Erik A. Williams under his production company banner Rock Your Socks Productions
|1935||Alibi Ike||Dolly Stevens|
|The Irish in Us||Lucille Jackson|
|A Midsummer Night's Dream||Hermia, in Love with Lysander||as Olivia de Haviland|
|Captain Blood||Arabella Bishop|
|1936||Anthony Adverse||Angela Giuseppe|
|The Charge of the Light Brigade||Elsa Campbell||as Olivia De Havilland|
|1937||Call It a Day||Catherine 'Cath' Hilton|
|It's Love I'm After||Marcia West|
|The Great Garrick||Germaine de la Corbe|
|1938||Gold Is Where You Find It||Serena 'Sprat' Ferris|
|The Adventures of Robin Hood||Lady Marian Fitzwalter|
|Four's a Crowd||Lorri Dillingwell|
|Hard to Get||Margaret Richards||as Olivia De Havilland|
|1939||Wings of the Navy||Irene Dale|
|Dodge City||Abbie Irving|
|The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex||Lady Penelope Gray|
|Gone with the Wind||Melanie Hamilton Wilkes||Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|1940||My Love Came Back||Amelia Cornell|
|Santa Fe Trail||Kit Carson Holliday|
|1941||The Strawberry Blonde||Amy Lind Grimes|
|Hold Back the Dawn||Emmy Brown||Nominated - Academy Award for Best Actress|
|They Died with Their Boots On||Elizabeth Bacon Custer|
|1942||The Male Animal||Ellen Turner|
|In This Our Life||Roy Timberlake|
|1943||Thank Your Lucky Stars||Herself|
|Princess O'Rourke||Princess Maria - aka Mary Williams||as Olivia DeHavilland|
|1944||Government Girl||Elizabeth 'Smokey' Allard|
|1946||To Each His Own||Miss Josephine 'Jody' Norris||Academy Award for Best Actress|
|The Well-Groomed Bride||Margie Dawson|
|The Dark Mirror||Terry/Ruth Collins|
|1948||The Snake Pit||Virginia Stuart Cunningham||Nominated - Academy Award for Best Actress|
|1949||The Heiress||Catherine Sloper||Academy Award for Best Actress; Golden Globe|
|1952||My Cousin Rachel||Rachel Sangalletti Ashley||Nominated - Golden Globe|
|1955||That Lady||Ana de Mendoza|
|Not as a Stranger||Kristina Hedvigson|
|1956||The Ambassador's Daughter||Joan Fisk|
|1958||The Proud Rebel||Linnett Moore|
|1959||Libel||Lady Margaret Loddon|
|1962||Light in the Piazza||Meg Johnson|
|1964||Lady in a Cage||Mrs. Cornelia Hilyard|
|Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte||Miriam Deering||as Olivia deHavilland|
|1970||The Adventurers||Deborah Hadley||as Olivia De Havilland|
|1972||Pope Joan||Mother Superior|
|1977||Airport '77||Emily Livingston|
|1978||The Swarm||Maureen Schuster||as Olivia De Havilland|
|1979||The Fifth Musketeer||Queen (Mary) Mother|
|2009||I-59 South||Louise Barrington|
|1935||A Dream Comes True||Herself (uncredited)||About the making of A Midsummer Night's Dream|
|1936||The Making of a Great Motion Picture||Herself (uncredited)||About the making of Anthony Adverse|
|1937||A Day at Santa Anita||Herself (uncredited)||Stars attended a horse race at the famed racetrack|
|Screen Snapshots Series 16, No. 10||Herself||Stars and their pets attend a swim meet|
|1943||Show Business at War||Herself||newsreel about progress of the Hollywood war effort|
|1966||Noon Wine||Ellie Thompson||ABC Stage 67|
|1972||The Screaming Woman||Laura Wynant|
|1979||Roots: The Next Generations||Mrs. Warner||miniseries|
|1982||Murder Is Easy||Honoria Waynflete||as Olivia De Havilland|
|The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana||Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother|
|1986||North and South II||Mrs. Neal||miniseries|
|Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna||Dowager Empress Maria||Nominated - Emmy Award|
|1988||The Woman He Loved||Aunt Bessie|
Olivia De Havilland: Memoirs Are Made of This ; Olivia De Havilland Was Once Hollywood's Most Dazzling Star, Equally Famed for Breaking the Studio System and Feuding with Joan Fontaine, Her Sister. Matthew Sweet Had a Rare Audience in Paris
Nov 05, 2000; Her hair is now a stately swoop of Arctic white, but her eyes are as wide, brown and melancholy as ever. We are sitting in her...