Classic Film Legend, and trailblazer Olivia de Havilland, passes away. Here are 5 things you may not know about her!

Written by: Tami Goveia – July 30th, 2020 5:35 pm  pst

Credit: IMDB

Upon the passing of legendary film star Olivia de Havilland we lose not only the last surviving cast and crew member of Gone With The Wind, but a member of the classic film era whose list, sadly, continues to diminish. With each loss we lose a direct connection to an era of Hollywood and entertainment that means so much to so many people. 

Beautiful tributes show the enduring power of memories and nostalgia; Ties that bond generations and inspire new ones. Particularly endearing are tributes from the estates of other legendary Hollywood Classic titans:

The Bette Davis Estate:

The Bogart Estate:

Naturally, The Academy sent their thoughts on her passing.  De Havilland won two Oscars for her work in To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949)

The Academy:

Below is a reissue of the article I wrote celebrating her birthday. It’s heartbreaking that these two articles should go nearly back to back. 

On Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, “I want to follow her example and live many years longer. I consider every birthday a victory.”

~ Olivia de Havilland

Happy birthday to Olivia de Haviliand who is celebrating her 104th birthday!! With this we also celebrate some of her iconic classic film gems: The Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn, The Snake Pit, The Heiress, and To Each Their Own which garnered Olivia her first academy award. We all know her as Melanie from Gone With The Wind, but here are some tidbits you may not know about this classic film legend –

18-year-old Olivia de Havilland signed with Warner Brothers’ studios in 1934, and in 1935 the studio took a gamble by pairing a little known bit player, Errol Flynn (25) with a still unknown Olivia de Havilland in Captain Blood. This swashbuckling duo was box office gold, and would mark the first of eight movies they would star in together including: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), Dodge City (1939), Four’s a Crowd (1938), The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), Santa Fe Trail (1940), and They Died with Their Boots On (1941). Both are also featured in a ninth film, Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943), although they never appeared in scenes together. Olivia was quoted as saying:  

“There certainly is such a thing as screen chemistry, although I don’t believe you find it frequently. There was a definite on-screen chemistry between Errol and me… I had a very big crush on Errol Flynn during Captain Blood. I thought he was absolutely smashing for three solid years, but he never guessed. Then he had one on me, but nothing came of it. I’m not going to regret that; it could have ruined my life.……”

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Remembering the one and only, swashbuckling icon #ErrolFlynn on his birthday (20 June, 1909 – 14 October, 1959) These are just a few of the publicity photos taken of Errol Flynn and #OliviadeHavilland during the making of their first film together, #CaptainBlood (1935). . . . "So one day, we were called together, and we started to rehearse, and then we had a lunch break. We went off to the commissary, and he walked with me to the commissary. I had never been in it before. I got a tray, and he went ahead, and he took his tray to a table, and I filled my tray and I wanted to go and sit over there next to him, and I thought, “No, he will think I am bold, and I can’t do that.” So I found another place and sat there and ate my lunch in a solitary fashion. When I turned in my tray, he turned his in at the same time. So we walked back to the stage together, and when we got there, no one was there.  We were the first, and we sat down on the ramp, which leads from the great open door of the stage to the street, and he asked me — he was 25 years of age when this happened, and I was still 18 — he said to me, “What do you want out of life?” and I thought, “What an extraordinary question to be asked! Nobody has asked me that ever.” And in fact, nobody ever did in the years that followed, and I said, “I would like respect for difficult work well done.” And then I said, “Well, what do you want out of life?” and he said, “I want success.” And what he meant by that was fame and riches, both of which he certainly did achieve, but when he said it, I thought, “But that’s not enough,” and indeed, it proved in Errol’s life not to be enough." – Olivia de Havilland . . . . #cinema #vintage #retro #hollywood #robinhood #otd #inlikeflynn #iconic #1930s #30s #fencing #pirates #warnerbros

A post shared by Dame Olivia de Havilland Fans (@oliviadehavilland_centenarian) on

~

By 1946 Olivia had created a solid reputation for herself and accepted a role in the film, To Each Their Own, which had been turned down by Ginger Rogers. Then in 1948 she accepted the lead in The Snake Pit, also turned down by Rogers. She won an Oscar for To Each His Own and was also nominated for The Snake Pit. Ginger Rogers was said to have regretted turning down the roles and wrote: “It seemed Olivia knew a good thing when she saw it. Perhaps Olivia should thank me for such poor judgment.”

~

In June 2017, de Havilland sued the creators and producers, companies FX and Ryan Murphy Productions, of the series Feud: Bette and Joan (Catherine Zeta-Jones portrayed her)

“The creators of ‘Feud’ used my identity without my consent and put false words in my mouth, including having me publicly calling my sister, Joan Fontaine, a “bitch.” The show was designed to make it look as if I said these things and acted this way. I feel strongly about it because when one person’s rights can be trampled on this way, the rights of others who are more vulnerable can be abused as well. I have spent a good portion of my life defending the film industry. However, studios, which choose to chronicle the lives of real people, have a legal and moral responsibility to do so with integrity. They have a duty not to steal the value of an actor’s identity for profit. I am fortunate to be able to be the standard bearer for other celebrities, who may not be in a position to speak out for themselves under similar circumstances.”

~

Standing up for herself as an artist started much earlier in her career. Coming off the heels of her wild success in 1939’s Gone With The Wind, she had hoped Jack Warner would finally begin offering her more dramatic roles. 

“I wanted to do complex roles, like Melanie for example, and Jack Warner saw me as an ingénue. I was really restless to portray more developed human beings. Jack never understood this, and … he would give me roles that really had no character or quality in them. I knew I wouldn’t even be effective.”

~Olivia de Havilland

She began to turn down roles, which resulted in suspensions, and after fulfilling her 7 year contract with Warner Brothers, was told that her contract had been extended for the time loss due to her suspensions. Most actors accepted this clause in their contract, while others attempted to sue Warner Brothers (namely Bette Davis in 1930 who lost). However, this time around she won in court against Warner Brothers, which stopped Jack Warner from adding suspension periods to actor’s contracts, thereby giving more freedom for actors in Hollywood. It became known as the “de Havilland decision,” and would effectively end the tight reign that film studios had had over the actors from the inception of the studios.

~

Actresses and academy award winners, Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine are members of a very exclusive Hollywood club – they were sisters! Olivia started her acting career first and was signed with Warner Brothers when Joan expressed interest in acting to her mother. Her mother declared, “there will only be one de Havilland at Warner Brothers!” Joan decided to take her stepfather’s last name, Fontaine, and was eventually signed with new studio RKO, and then MGM. The sister’s turbulent relationship is filled with ‘she said/she said’ that fed the tabloids for decades. Were they ever close? Did career and personal jealousies tarnish their relationship? Despite biographies and autobiographies, there are too many conflicting stories to arrive at anything definitive. What we DO know is their undeniable talent that is immortalized in their extraordinary body of work. 

About The Author:

Tami Goveia is a producer, writer and entertainment host for AfterbuzzTV. Classic film and television are her passion, napping is her indulgence and saving all rescues is her mission.

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