One of the true icons of Hollywood, Olivia de Havilland passed away in 2020.
The famous actress, who received two Oscar nominations for her performances in classic films such as Gone with the Wind or The Adventures of Robin Hood, has died at the age of 104.
Olivia was the definition of a woman with incomparable elegance, poise, beauty, toughness, intelligence, and humor.
As one of Hollywood’s best ingenues of the 1930s, De Havilland made a name for herself with outstanding performances in Errol Flynn’s action films such as Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood.
She landed her best-known role as Melanie Wilkes in the timeless masterpiece Gone with the Wind at the end of the decade. Often cited as one of the best in Hollywood history, the film continues to hold the record for the highest-grossing film ever made after inflation.
De Havilland gave a brilliant performance as Scarlett O’Hara’s kind confidante and best friend, earning her the first Oscar nomination of her career. Her performance was the heart of the film.
De Havilland’s greatest contribution to Hollywood, however, took place off the screen, when in 1943 she sued Warner Bros. due to the onerous terms of its exclusivity contract and requested the freedom to explore parts with other companies.
Her triumph in a lawsuit that is still known as “The de Havilland Law” dealt a severe blow to the studio system’s control over performers.
De Havilland was able to escape her inventive typecasting at Warner Bros. and, as a result, pursue more difficult dramatic work, earning her praise from critics. She won several prestigious awards, including two Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her roles in The Heir (1949) and To Her Own (1946).
Numerous awards, such as the National Medal of Arts in 2008 and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960, have been awarded in recognition of De Havilland’s outstanding achievements. Although she was one of the few remaining members of mainstream Hollywood, she continued to represent it after her last film appearance in 1988.
De Havilland must have been quite proud of her achievements given her harsh upbringing. Her early years were characterized by tragedy and instability. She was born in Tokyo in 1916 to British parents Lillian (née Ruse), an actor, and Walter de Havilland, a patent attorney.
Joan Fontaine, Olivia’s younger sister, was also an actress and was born in 1917. According to the BBC, rumors of their friendship and alleged rivalry often appeared in gossip.
Due to bronchial problems that both of their sisters had, their mother decided to move the family to California in 1919 in an attempt to find a more hospitable environment. The Saratoga area, located in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, was recommended by a doctor as good for the girls’ health.
Tragically, Lillian and Walter de Havilland had a rough marriage. Walter was notorious for his adultery and eventually left the family. He left for Tokyo just 11 days after they moved to California, where he later married their Japanese maid.
Battle with stepfather
Olivia de Havilland, her sister Joan and their mother were raised by their stepfather after their father abandoned them. Lillian has a reputation for being quite strict and demanding of her daughters. Before leaving the house, Joan and Olivia had to get permission.
When Olivia de Havilland was a teenager, she became very interested in amateur theater and began acting in school plays, although this caused friction in her family.
Her father, George Milan Fontaine, constantly resisted her desire to pursue entertainment, despite her enthusiasm for performing. He even threatened to evict her if she agreed to play the lead role in the high school production of “Pride and Prejudice.”
This ultimatum did not change Olivia’s preference for drama. Her stepfather, who was notorious for his harsh discipline, warned her that leaving home meant leaving forever. But the tenacious 17-year-old decided to follow her heart and left home to pursue a career in acting.
Olivia de Havilland left her parents and lived with friends until she was awarded a scholarship to Mills College, where she later achieved fame.
As part of her departure
Olivia’s absence has left a large hole in the atmosphere comparable to an environment losing oxygen. She died of natural causes on July 26, 2020, at the age of 104 at her Paris residence, according to her spokesperson.
Soon after her death, Hollywood began to honor the legendary figure and her outstanding achievements in business.
Jane Seymour, recalling their time working on the film together, called her “larger than life” and “a brilliant actor”.
Actor Jared Leto, who enjoyed personal contact with de Havilland in Paris as they discussed how her court victory inspired his and his brother’s careers, paid an unexpected tribute. In a tweet, Leto expressed appreciation for her bravery and the impact her decisions had on their lives.
In addition, de Havilland fans showed their appreciation by honoring her with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Olivia de Havilland’s legacy will forever be linked to the golden age of Hollywood. Her contributions to the art of acting and her pioneering efforts to challenge the status quo continue to inspire future generations of actors. As the curtain falls on her extraordinary life, her name will remain etched in the hearts of film buffs, a symbol of grace, talent, and the enduring magic of the silver screen.
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