Olivia de Havilland, one among the last remaining actresses of Hollywood’s Golden Age, two-time Academy Award winner, and star of “Gone With the Wind,” has died. She was 104. Her former lawyer Suzelle M. Smith confirmed the news to Variety, saying “Last night, the planet lost a world treasure, and that I lost an expensive friend and beloved client. She died peacefully in Paris.” Ms. de Havilland, a classic Hollywood beauty, built an illustrious film career punctuated by a successful fight to loosen studios’ grip on actors.
Olivia de Havilland, an actress who gained movie immortality in “Gone With the Wind,” then built an illustrious film career, punctuated by a successful fight to loosen the studios’ grip on contract actors, died on Sunday at her range in Paris. She was 104 and one among the last surviving stars of Hollywood’s fabled Golden Age.
Her death was confirmed by her publicist Lisa Goldberg.
Ms. de Havilland was both a classic Hollywood beauty and an honored screen actress whose very name and bearing suggested membership during a quite aristocracy of moviedom. Though she was typecast early in her career because of the demure ingénue, she went on to earn meatier roles that led to 5 Academy Award nominations, two of which brought her the Oscar, for “To Each His Own” (1946) and “The Heiress” (1949). Those roles came to her in no small part due to the resolve she showed when she stood up to the studios and won a battle that helped push Hollywood into the fashionable era, surprising the movie moguls, who might not have expected such steel in an actress so softly attractive and, at 5-foot-3, so unintimidating petite.
She had shown similar grit a decade earlier, in her breakthrough role, when she held her own against her formidable co-stars — Gable, Leigh, and Howard — in Gone With the Wind.
The 1939 war epic was briefly pulled from the HBO Max streaming service last month and returned with an introduction saying that the film presents the Georgia plantation at its center as “a world of grace and wonder , without acknowledging the brutalities of the system of chattel slavery upon which this world is predicated .” “Luckily, it doesn’t make me melancholy,” she told Entertainment Weekly upon her 99th birthday. “When I see them vibrantly alive on screen, I experience a sort of reunion with them, a joyful one.”
“Gone With the Wind” produced the primary Black Oscar winner: Hattie McDaniel won the simplest supporting actress for her role as Mammy.
On the night of the 1940 Oscars, de Havilland said she was crushed that she didn’t win and jokingly believed the slight showed “there was no God.” It took her fortnight to understand the historical impact of a Black actress winning Hollywood gold.
“Two weeks later, still thinking about the very fact that there was no God, I awakened one morning and thought, ‘That’s absolutely wonderful that Hattie got the award!’ Hattie deserved it and she or he got it,” de Havilland told the Associated Press in 2004. “I thought I’d much rather sleep in a world where a Black actress who gave a wonderful performance got the award rather than me.”
The nation’s supreme court in January 2019 ruled without comment that it might not take the actress’s case, letting stand a California appeals court’s 2018 decision throwing out her legal action.
De Havilland had objected to her depiction of the eight-part miniseries, claiming her likeness was illegally used. Catherine Zeta-Jones played de Havilland, unfairly casting her as a vulgar gossip-monger, consistent with the tossed lawsuit.
Olivia Mary de Havilland was born on Dominion Day, 1916, in Tokyo to her British parents: Walter de Havilland, an English teacher at Imperial University within the capital, and Lilian Fontaine, an actress.
One of the last remaining actresses of Hollywood’s Golden Age, de Havilland won two Oscars over her career
De Havilland and her sister Joan Fontaine who went on to be an Oscar-winning actress also, grew up in Saratoga, California, about 50 miles south of San Francisco, with their mother. Walter de Havilland left the family and married the family’s Japanese housekeeper.
The sisters never got along as kids, and their rivalry continued through their adult lives and careers. Fontaine wrote in her memoir, “No Bed of Roses,” of her sister that she couldn’t recall “one act of kindness from Olivia during my childhood.”
Fontaine died at age 96 in late 2013.
Who is Olivia de Havilland?
Olivia de Havilland is American-British-French actress, Dame Olivia Mary de Havilland DBE was a French-British-American actress. The major works of her cinematic career spanned from 1935 to 1988. She appeared in 49 feature films and was one of the leading actresses of her time Havilland was married twice, first to screenwriter and novelist Marcus Goodrich then to Galante. Goodrich died in 1991 at age 93. The actress had one child with each husband. Her son, Benjamin Goodrich, a mathematician, was just 42 when he died in 1992 after an extended bout with Hodgkin’s disease.
Her daughter, Gisele Galante Chulack, lives in Southern California and sat in court on proceedings on behalf of her mom within the “Bette and Joan” lawsuit.