Olivia de Havilland, star of “Gone With the Wind,” dies at 104

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PARIS (AP) — Olivia de Havilland, the doe-eyed actress beloved to tens of millions because the sainted Melanie Wilkes of “Gone With the Wind,” but in addition a two-time Oscar winner and an off-screen fighter who challenged and unchained Hollywood’s contract system, died Sunday at her dwelling in Paris. She was 104.
Havilland, the sister of fellow Oscar winner Joan Fontaine, died peacefully of pure causes, mentioned New York-based publicist Lisa Goldberg.
De Havilland was among the many final of the highest display performers from the studio period, and the final surviving lead from “Gone With the Wind,” an irony, she as soon as famous, for the reason that fragile, self-sacrificing Wilkes was the one main character to die within the movie. The 1939 epic, based mostly on Margaret Mitchell’s best-selling Civil Battle novel and winner of 10 Academy Awards, is commonly ranked as Hollywood’s field workplace champion (adjusting for inflation), though it’s now extensively condemned for its glorified portrait of slavery and antebellum life.
The head of producer David O. Selznick’s profession, the film had a troubled off-screen story.
Nick Ut, FILE, The Related PressFILE – On this file picture dated Dec. 28, 1979, actress Olivia De Havilland at Hollywood ceremonial dinner. Olivia de Havilland, Oscar-winning actress has died, aged 104 in Paris, publicist says Sunday July 26, 2020. (AP Picture/ Nick Ut, FILE)
Three administrators labored on the movie, stars Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable have been way more related on display than off and the fourth featured performer, Leslie Howard, was overtly detached to the position of Ashley Wilkes, Melanie’s husband. However de Havilland remembered the film as “one of many happiest experiences I’ve ever had in my life. It was doing one thing I needed to do, taking part in a personality I cherished and preferred.”
Throughout a profession that spanned six many years, de Havilland additionally took on roles starting from an unwed mom to a psychiatric inmate in “The Snake Pit,” a private favourite. The dark-haired De Havilland projected each a delicate, glowing heat and a way of resilience and mischief that made her uncommonly interesting, main critic James Agee to admit he was “susceptible to Olivia de Havilland in each a part of my being besides the ulnar nerve.”
She was Errol Flynn’s co-star in a collection of dramas, Westerns and interval items, most memorably as Maid Marian in “The Adventures of Robin Hood.” However De Havilland additionally was a prototype for an actress too stunning for her personal good, typecast in candy and romantic roles whereas wanting higher challenges.
Her frustration lastly led her to sue Warner Bros. in 1943 when the studio tried to maintain her below contract after it had expired, claiming she owed six extra months as a result of she had been suspended for refusing roles. Her pal Bette Davis was amongst those that had did not get out of her contract below comparable circumstances within the 1930s, however de Havilland prevailed, with the California Courtroom of Appeals ruling that no studio might prolong an settlement with out the performer’s consent.
The choice continues to be unofficially known as the “De Havilland legislation.”
De Havilland went on to earn her personal Academy Award in 1946 for her efficiency in “To Every His Personal,” a melodrama about out-of-wedlock delivery. A second Oscar got here three years later for “The Heiress,” during which she portrayed a plain younger homebody (as plain because it was potential to make de Havilland) reverse Montgomery Clift and Sir Ralph Richardson in an adaptation of Henry James’ “Washington Sq..”
In 2008, de Havilland obtained a Nationwide Medal of Arts and was awarded France’s Legion of Honor two years later.
She was additionally well-known because the sister of Fontaine, with whom she had a troubled relationship. In a 2016 interview, de Havilland referred to her late sister as a “dragon woman” and mentioned her recollections of Fontaine, who died in 2013, have been “multi-faceted, various from endearing to alienating.”
“On my half, it was at all times loving, however generally estranged and, within the later years, severed,” she mentioned. “Dragon Girl, as I ultimately determined to name her, was an excellent, multi-talented individual, however with an astigmatism in her notion of individuals and occasions, which regularly precipitated her to react in an unfair and even injurious approach.”
De Havilland as soon as noticed that Melanie Wilkes’ happiness was sustained by a loving, safe household, a blessing that eluded the actress even in childhood.
She was born in Tokyo on July 1, 1916, the daughter of a British patent legal professional. Her dad and mom separated when she was 3, and her mom introduced her and her youthful sister Joan to Saratoga, California. De Havilland’s personal two marriages, to Marcus Goodrich and Pierre Galante, led to divorce.
She had lived in Paris since 1953. In a uncommon interview with The Related Press in her luxurious Paris residence in 2016, as she celebrated her 100th birthday, she mentioned she moved to the Metropolis of Gentle “on the insistence” of Galante, her late French former husband, and located no purpose to return to the U.S.
She attributed her longevity to a few L’s: “love, laughter, and studying,” and displayed a eager humorousness — even calling her interviewer a “rascal” for a probing query.
De Havilland’s performing ambitions dated again to stage acting at Mills Faculty in Oakland, California. Whereas getting ready for a faculty manufacturing of “A Midsummer Night time’s Dream,” she went to Hollywood to see Max Reinhardt’s rehearsals of the identical comedy. She was requested to learn for Hermia’s understudy, stayed with the manufacturing by her summer season trip and was given the position within the fall.
Warner Bros. needed stage actors for his or her lavish 1935 manufacturing and selected de Havilland to co-star with Mickey Rooney, who performed Puck.
“I needed to be a stage actress,” she recalled. “Life type of made the choice for me.”
She signed a five-year contract with the studio and went on to make “Captain Blood,” “Dodge Metropolis” and different movies with Flynn, a hopeless womanizer even by Hollywood requirements.
“Oh, Errol had such magnetism! There was no person who did what he did higher than he did,” mentioned de Havilland, whose bond with the dashing actor remained, she would insist, improbably platonic. As she as soon as defined, “We have been lovers collectively so typically on the display that folks couldn’t settle for that nothing had occurred between us.”
She did date Howard Hughes and James Stewart and had an intense affair within the early ’40s with director John Huston. Their relationship led to battle with Davis, her co-star for the Huston-directed “In This Our Life”; Davis would complain that de Havilland, a supporting actress within the movie, was getting extra flattering time on digicam.
De Havilland allegedly by no means received together with Fontaine, a feud magnified by the 1941 Oscar race that positioned her towards her sister for greatest actress honors. Fontaine was nominated for the Hitchcock thriller “Suspicion” whereas de Havilland was cited for “Maintain Again the Daybreak,” a drama co-written by Billy Wilder and starring de Havilland as a faculty trainer wooed by the unscrupulous Charles Boyer.
Requested by a gossip columnist in the event that they ever fought, de Havilland responded, “After all, we struggle. What two sisters don’t battle?”
Like Warner Bros. cleaning soap opera, their relationship was a juicy narrative of supposed slights and snubs, from de Havilland reportedly refusing to congratulate Fontaine for successful the Oscar to Fontaine making a chopping crack about de Havilland’s poor alternative of brokers and husbands.
Though she as soon as filmed as many as three photos a 12 months, her profession slowed in center age. She made a number of motion pictures for tv, together with “Roots” and “Charles and Diana,” during which she portrayed the Queen Mom. She additionally co-starred with Davis within the macabre camp traditional “Hush … Hush, Candy Charlotte” and was menaced by a younger James Caan within the 1964 chiller “Girl in a Cage,” condemning her tormentor as “one of many many bits of offal produced by the welfare state.”
In 2009, she narrated a documentary about Alzheimer’s, “I Keep in mind Higher Once I Paint.”
Catherine Zeta-Jones performed de Havilland within the 2017 FX miniseries about Davis and Joan Crawford, however de Havilland objected to being portrayed as a gossip and sued FX. The case was dismissed.
Regardless of her continual stage fright, she did summer season inventory in Westport, Connecticut, and Easthampton, New York. Moviemaking, she mentioned, produced a special form of nervousness: “The primary day of creating a movie I really feel, `Why did I ever get combined up on this occupation? I’ve no expertise; this time they’ll discover out.’”
She is survived by her daughter, Gisele Galante Chulack, her son-in-law Andrew Chulack and her niece Deborah Dozier Potter.
Goldberg, the publicist, mentioned funeral preparations are personal and that memorial contributions ought to go to Paris’ American Cathedral.

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