Olivia de Havilland was a British-American actress who became one of the most celebrated and respected performers in the Golden Age of Hollywood. She was born on July 1, 1916, in Tokyo, Japan, to British parents. Her father worked as a patent attorney and professor, while her mother was an actress. Olivia and her younger sister, Joan Fontaine, both pursued acting careers and became successful in their own right.
De Havilland’s family moved to California when she was a child, and she attended drama school in Los Angeles. She made her film debut in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (1935), which garnered her positive attention and laid the foundation for her acting career.
Olivia de Havilland’s breakthrough came when she was cast as Melanie Hamilton in the epic film “Gone with the Wind” (1939), which became one of the most iconic movies in cinema history. Her performance as the kind and compassionate Melanie earned her critical acclaim and an Academy Award nomination.
Throughout the 1940s, Olivia de Havilland starred in a series of successful films, often opposite leading actors of the time. She worked with Errol Flynn in several swashbuckling adventures, including “Captain Blood” (1935), “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938), and “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (1936).
One of her most significant roles came in “The Snake Pit” (1948), where she portrayed a woman struggling with mental illness. Her performance in this drama earned her a second Academy Award nomination.
In 1946, de Havilland took on the Hollywood studio system in a landmark legal case known as the “De Havilland Law,” resulting in the abolition of the “Seven-Year Rule” that tied actors to restrictive long-term contracts with studios.
Over her career, Olivia de Havilland won two Academy Awards for Best Actress, the first for her role in “To Each His Own” (1946) and the second for “The Heiress” (1949).
In addition to her film career, de Havilland had a successful stage career, appearing in various plays on Broadway and the West End.
Olivia de Havilland passed away on July 26, 2020, in Paris, France, at the age of 104. She left behind an enduring legacy as one of Hollywood’s greatest actresses and a trailblazer in the fight for actors’ rights and creative freedom.
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Trivia of Olivia de Havilland
Certainly! Here are some trivia facts about Olivia de Havilland:
- Sibling Rivalry: Olivia de Havilland had a complicated relationship with her younger sister, Joan Fontaine, who was also a successful actress. The two sisters had a well-known and publicized rivalry throughout their careers.
- First Contract Dispute: Olivia de Havilland’s contract with Warner Bros. caused tension between her and the studio. She was unhappy with the roles she was assigned and sued the studio, which eventually led to the landmark “De Havilland Law” that changed the contract system in Hollywood.
- “Gone with the Wind” Casting: Although she is now known for her iconic role as Melanie Hamilton in “Gone with the Wind” (1939), Olivia de Havilland initially wanted to play the character Scarlett O’Hara, but the role went to Vivien Leigh.
- Academy Award Wins: Olivia de Havilland won the Academy Award for Best Actress twice in her career, for her roles in “To Each His Own” (1946) and “The Heiress” (1949).
- Longevity: Olivia de Havilland had one of the longest careers in Hollywood, with her film career spanning over five decades.
- Living Legend: De Havilland was often referred to as the “Last Surviving Star” from “Gone with the Wind,” as she outlived most of her co-stars from the iconic film.
- Paris Residency: In the latter part of her life, Olivia de Havilland resided in Paris, France, where she lived for more than 60 years.
- Honorary César Award: In 2010, Olivia de Havilland received an Honorary César Award from the French Academy for her contributions to cinema.
- Great Age: Olivia de Havilland lived to be 104 years old, making her one of the oldest living Oscar-winning actors in history at the time of her passing.
- Philanthropy: Throughout her life, de Havilland supported various charitable causes, including serving as a board member of the March of Dimes and being actively involved in supporting the arts.
Olivia de Havilland’s remarkable talent, groundbreaking legal victory, and legendary status in Hollywood have cemented her as one of the most influential and respected actresses in the history of cinema.
Movies and webseries Olivia de Havilland
As of my last update in September 2021, Olivia de Havilland was primarily known for her work in movies and television, as web series were not prevalent during her active years in the entertainment industry. Here are some of her notable movies and TV appearances:
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935) – Olivia de Havilland made her film debut as Hermia in this adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play.
- Captain Blood (1935) – She starred alongside Errol Flynn in this swashbuckling adventure film.
- The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) – De Havilland played Maid Marian opposite Errol Flynn as Robin Hood.
- Gone with the Wind (1939) – She portrayed Melanie Hamilton, for which she earned critical acclaim and an Academy Award nomination.
- To Each His Own (1946) – This drama earned Olivia de Havilland her first Academy Award for Best Actress.
- The Snake Pit (1948) – She received her second Academy Award nomination for her powerful performance in this psychological drama.
- The Heiress (1949) – Olivia won her second Academy Award for her role as Catherine Sloper in this adaptation of Henry James’s novel.
- Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) – De Havilland co-starred with Bette Davis and Joseph Cotten in this psychological thriller.
- Roots: The Next Generations (1979) – Olivia de Havilland portrayed Mrs. Warner in this miniseries that was a sequel to the original “Roots.”
- Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna (1986) – She played the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna in this TV movie about the possible survival of Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia.
- North and South, Book II (1986) – Olivia de Havilland had a role as Mrs. Neal in this television miniseries.
- The Woman He Loved (1988) – She portrayed Queen Mary in this TV movie based on the life of Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII.
These are some of Olivia de Havilland’s notable film and television appearances. She had a prolific and highly esteemed career that spanned many decades, earning her a lasting legacy as one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood history. Please note that her filmography might include other projects beyond my knowledge cutoff date in September 2021.