Olivia de Havilland
American actress
Olivia de Havilland
Olivia Mary de Havilland is a Japanese-born British American film and stage actress. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1946 and 1949. She is the elder sister of actress Joan Fontaine. The sisters are among the last surviving leading ladies from Hollywood of the 1930s.
Olivia de Havilland's personal information overview.
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  • 2016
    Age 99
    DeHavilland celebrated her 100th birthday on July 1, 2016.
    More Details Hide Details Although known as one of Hollywood's most exciting on-screen couples, deHavilland and Errol Flynn were never involved in a romantic relationship. Upon first meeting her at Warner Bros. in August 1935, Flynn was drawn to the 19-year-old actress with "warm brown eyes" and "extraordinary charm". In turn, deHavilland fell in love with him, but kept her feelings inside, later recalling, "He never guessed I had a crush on him... it never occurred to me that he was smitten with me, too." Flynn later wrote, "By the time we made The Charge of the Light Brigade, I was sure that I was in love with her." Flynn finally professed his love on March12, 1937, at the Coronation Ball for King George VI at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, where they slow danced together to "Sweet Leilani" at the hotel's Cocoanut Grove nightclub. "I was deeply affected by him," she later remembered, "It was impossible for me not to be." The evening ended on a sobering note, however, with deHavilland insisting that despite his separation from his wife Lili Damita, he needed to divorce her before their relationship could proceed. Flynn reunited with his wife later that year, and deHavilland never acted on her feelings for Flynn.
  • 2012
    Age 95
    As recently as 2012, she was still doing readings on major feast days, including Christmas and Easter. "It's a task I love," she once said.
    More Details Hide Details In describing her preparation for her readings, deHavilland once observed, "You have to convey the deep meaning, you see, and it has to start with your own faith. But first I always pray. I pray before I start to prepare, as well. In fact, I would always say a prayer before shooting a scene, so this is not so different, in a way." DeHavilland prefers to use the Revised English Bible for its poetic style. She raised her son Benjamin in the Episcopal Church and her daughter Gisèle in the Roman Catholic Church, the faith of the child's father. As a United States citizen, deHavilland became involved in politics as a way of exercising her civic responsibilities. She campaigned for Franklin D. Roosevelt's re-election in 1944. After the war, she joined the Independent Citizens' Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions, a national public policy advocacy group that included Bette Davis, Gregory Peck, and Humphrey Bogart in its Hollywood chapter. In June 1946, she was asked to deliver speeches for the committee that reflected the Communist Party linethe group was later identified as a Communist front organization. Disturbed at seeing a small group of Communist members manipulating the committee, deHavilland removed the pro-Communist material from her speeches and rewrote them to reflect Harry S. Truman's anti-Communist platform. She later recalled, "I realized a nucleus of people was controlling the organization without a majority of the members of the board being aware of it.
  • 2010
    Age 93
    On September 9, 2010, deHavilland was appointed a Chevalier (knight) of the Légion d'honneur, the highest decoration in France, awarded by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who told the actress, "You honor France for having chosen us."
    More Details Hide Details In February the following year, she appeared at the César Awards in France, where she was greeted with a standing ovation.
  • 2006
    Age 89
    In 2006, she was inducted into the Online Film & Television Association Award Film Hall of Fame. On November17, 2008, President George W. Bush presented deHavilland the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor given for achievement in the arts conferred to an individual artist on behalf of the American people. On September9, 2010, deHavilland was appointed a Chevalier (knight) of the Légion d'honneur, the highest decoration in France, awarded by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
    More Details Hide Details The moving image collection of Olivia de Havilland is held at the Academy Film Archive, which preserved a nitrate reel of a screen test for Danton, Max Reinhardt’s never-produced follow-up to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935).
    In June 2006, she made appearances at tributes commemorating her 90th birthday at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
    More Details Hide Details On November 17, 2008, at the age of 92, deHavilland received the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor conferred to an individual artist on behalf of the people of the United States. The medal was presented to her by President George W. Bush, who commended her "for her persuasive and compelling skill as an actress in roles from Shakespeare's Hermia to Margaret Mitchell's Melanie. Her independence, integrity, and grace won creative freedom for herself and her fellow film actors." The following year, deHavilland narrated the documentary I Remember Better When I Paint (2009), a film about the importance of art in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.
  • 2004
    Age 87
    In 2004, Turner Classic Movies produced a retrospective piece called Melanie Remembers in which she was interviewed for the 65th anniversary of the original release of Gone with the Wind.
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  • 2003
    Age 86
    In 2003, she appeared as a presenter at the 75th Academy Awards.
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  • 1998
    Age 81
    In retirement, deHavilland remained active in the film community. In 1998, she traveled to New York to help promote a special showing of Gone with the Wind.
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  • 1988
    Age 71
    In 1988, deHavilland appeared in the HTV romantic television drama The Woman He Loved; it was her final screen performance.
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  • 1986
    Age 69
    In the 1980s, her television work included an Agatha Christie television film Murder Is Easy (1982), the television drama The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana (1982) in which she played the Queen Mother, and the 1986 ABC miniseries North and South, Book II.
    More Details Hide Details Her most notable performance of the decade was in the television film Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna (1986) as Dowager Empress Maria, which earned her a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film.
  • 1979
    Age 62
    In 1979, she appeared in the ABC miniseries Roots: The Next Generations in the role of Mrs. Warner, the wife of a former Confederate officer played by Henry Fonda.
    More Details Hide Details The miniseries was seen by an estimated 110 million peoplenearly one-third of American homes with television sets. Throughout the 1970s, deHavilland's film work was limited to smaller supporting roles and cameo appearances. Her last feature film was The Fifth Musketeer (1979). During this period, deHavilland began doing speaking engagements in cities across the United States with a talk entitled "From the City of the Stars to the City of Light", a program of personal reminiscences about her life and career. She also attended tributes to Gone with the Wind.
  • 1972
    Age 55
    In 1972, she starred in her first television feature film, The Screaming Woman, about a wealthy woman recovering from a nervous breakdown.
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  • 1964
    Age 47
    In 1964, de Havilland appeared in her last two leading roles in feature filmsboth psychological thrillers.
    More Details Hide Details In Walter Grauman's Lady in a Cage, she played a wealthy poet who gets trapped in her mansion's elevator and faces the threat of three terrorizing hooligans in her own home. This was the only controversial film in her careerit was banned in Englandand critics responded negatively to the graphic violence and cruelty shown on screen. A.H. Weiler of The New York Times called it a "sordid, if suspenseful, exercise in aimless brutality". That same year, deHavilland appeared in Robert Aldrich's Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte with her close friend Bette Davis. After Joan Crawford left the picture due to illness, Davis had Aldrich fly to Switzerland to persuade a reluctant deHavilland to accept the role of Miriam Deering, a cruel, conniving character hidden behind the charming façade of a polite and cultured lady. DeHavilland's quiet, restrained performance provided a counterbalance to Davis's ranting characterization. Film historian Tony Thomas described her performance as "a subtle piece of acting" that was "a vital contribution to the effectiveness of the film". The film was well received and earned seven Academy Award nominations.
  • 1962
    Age 45
    The year 1962 also had the publication of deHavilland's first book, Every Frenchman Has One, a lighthearted account of her often amusing attempts to understand and adapt to French life, manners, and customs.
    More Details Hide Details The book sold out its first printing prior to the publication date and went on to become a bestseller.
  • 1961
    Age 44
    Following her divorce from Goodrich, deHavilland resumed contact with her sister, coming to her apartment in New York and spending Christmas together there in 1961.
    More Details Hide Details The final break between the sisters occurred in 1975 from a disagreement over their mother's cancer treatmentdeHavilland wanted to consult other doctors and supported exploratory surgery; Fontaine disagreed. Fontaine also claimed that deHavilland did not notify her of their mother's death while she was touring with a playdeHavilland in fact had sent a telegram, which took two weeks to reach her sister. The sibling feud ended with Fontaine's death on December15, 2013. The following day, deHavilland released a statement saying she was "shocked and saddened" by the news. DeHavilland's career spanned 53 years, from 1935 to 1988. During that time, she appeared in 49 feature films, and was one of the leading movie stars during the golden age of Classical Hollywood. She began her career playing demure ingénues opposite popular male stars, including Errol Flynn, with whom she made her breakout film Captain Blood in 1935. They would go on to make Eight more feature films together, and became one of Hollywood's most popular romantic on-screen pairings. Her range of performances included roles in most major movie genres. Following her film debut in the Shakespeare adaptation A Midsummer Night's Dream, deHavilland achieved her initial popularity in romantic comedies, such as The Great Garrick and Hard to Get, and Western adventure films, such as Dodge City and Santa Fe Trail. In her later career, she was most successful in drama films, such as In This Our Life and Light in the Piazza, and psychological dramas playing unglamorous characters in films such as The Dark Mirror, The Snake Pit, and Hush...
  • 1956
    Age 39
    Following her appearances in the romantic melodrama Not as a Stranger (1955) and The Ambassador's Daughter (1956)neither of which were successful at the box officedeHavilland gave birth to her second child, Gisèle Galante, on July18, 1956. De Havilland returned to the screen in 1958 in Michael Curtiz's Western drama The Proud Rebel, a film about a former Confederate soldier whose wife was killed in the war and whose son lost the ability to speak after witnessing the tragedy.
    More Details Hide Details DeHavilland played Linnett Moore, a tough yet feminine frontier woman who cares for the boy and comes to love his father. The movie was filmed on location in Utah, where deHavilland learned to hitch and drive a team of horses and handle a gun for her role. The Proud Rebel was released May28, 1958, and was well received by audiences and critics. In his review for The New York Times, A.H. Weiler called the film a "truly sensitive effort" and "heartwarming drama", and praised deHavilland's ability to convey the "warmth, affection and sturdiness needed in the role". One of deHavilland's most noted performances during this period was in Guy Green's romantic drama Light in the Piazza (1962) with Rossano Brazzi. Filmed in Florence and Rome, and based on Elizabeth Spencer's novel of the same name, the film is about a middle-class American tourist on extended vacation in Italy with her beautiful 26-year-old daughter, who is mentally disabled as a result of a childhood accident. Faced with the prospect of her daughter falling in love with a young Italian, the mother struggles with conflicting emotions about her daughter's future. DeHavilland projects a calm maternal serenity throughout most of the film, only showing glimpses of the worried mother anxious for her child's happiness. The film was released on February9, 1962, and was well received, with a Hollywood Reporter reviewer calling it "an uncommon love story... told with rare delicacy and force", and Variety noting that the film "achieves the rare and delicate balance of artistic beauty, romantic substance, dramatic novelty and commercial appeal".
  • 1955
    Age 38
    On April 2, 1955, deHavilland married Pierre Galante, an executive editor for the French journal Paris Match. Her marriage to Galante prompted deHavilland to move to Paris. The couple separated in 1962, but continued to live in the same house for another six years to raise their children together. Galante moved across the street and the two remained close, even after the finalization of the divorce in 1979.
    More Details Hide Details She looked after him during his final bout with lung cancer prior to his death in 1998. They had one child, Gisèle Galante, who was born on July18, 1956. After studying law at the Université de Droit de Nanterre School of Law, she worked as a journalist in France and the United States. Since 1956, deHavilland has lived in the same three-story house near Bois de Boulogne park in the Rive Droite section of Paris. DeHavilland was raised in the Episcopal Church and has remained an Episcopalian throughout her life. After moving to France, she became one of the first women lectors at the American Cathedral in Paris, where she was on the regular rota for Scripture readings.
  • 1953
    Age 36
    After romantic relationships with Howard Hughes, James Stewart, and John Huston, deHavilland married author Marcus Goodrich, with whom she had a son, Benjamin. Following her divorce from Goodrich in 1953, she moved to Paris and married Pierre Galante, an executive editor for the French journal Paris Match, with whom she had a daughter, Gisèle.
    More Details Hide Details In 1962, she published Every Frenchman Has One, an account of her life in France. DeHavilland and Joan Fontaine are the only siblings to have won Academy Awards in a lead acting category. A lifelong rivalry between the two resulted in an estrangement that lasted over three decades. She has lived in Paris since 1956, and celebrated her 100th birthday on July 1, 2016.
  • 1952
    Age 35
    In August 1952, deHavilland filed for divorce, which became final the following year. Following a long-distance courtship and the requisite nine-month residency requirement, deHavilland and Galante married on April2, 1955, in the village of Yvoy-le-Marron, and settled together in a three-story house near Bois de Boulogne park in the Rive Droite section of Paris.
    More Details Hide Details That same year, deHavilland returned to the screen in Terence Young's period drama That Lady (1955), about a Spanish princess and her unrequited love for King Philip II of Spain, whose respect she earned in her youth after losing an eye in a sword fight defending his honor. According to Tony Thomas, the film uses authentic Spanish locations effectively, but suffers from a convoluted plot and excessive dialogue, and while deHavilland delivered a warm and elegant performance as Ana de Mendoza, the film was disappointing.
  • 1950
    Age 33
    In 1950, her family moved to New York City, where she began rehearsals for a major new stage production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet; it was her lifelong ambition to play Juliet on the stage.
    More Details Hide Details The play opened at the Broadhurst Theatre on March11, 1951, to mixed reviews, with some critics believing the 35-year-old actress was too old for the role. The play closed after 45 performances. Undaunted, deHavilland accepted the title role in the stage production of George Bernard Shaw's comedy Candida, which opened at the National Theatre on Broadway in April 1952. While reviews of the play were mixed, deHavilland's performance was well received, and following the scheduled 32 performances, she went on tour with the company and delivered 323 additional performances, many to sold-out audiences. While deHavilland achieved major accomplishments during this period of her career, her marriage to Goodrich, 18 years her senior, had grown strained due to his unstable temperament.
  • 1949
    Age 32
    After giving birth to her first child, Benjamin, on September27, 1949, deHavilland took time off from making films to be with her infant.
    More Details Hide Details She turned down the role of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, later explaining that becoming a mother was a "transforming experience" and that she could not relate to the character.
  • 1946
    Age 29
    Their relationship was further strained in 1946 when Fontaine made negative comments to an interviewer about deHavilland's new husband.
    More Details Hide Details When she read her sister's remarks, deHavilland was deeply hurt and waited for an apology that was never offered. The following year after accepting her first Academy Award for To Each His Own, deHavilland was approached backstage by Fontaine, who wanted to congratulate her; deHavilland turned away from her sister. They did not speak to each other for the next five years, and their silence may have caused the estrangement between Fontaine and her own daughters, who secretly maintained a relationship with deHavilland.
    On August26, 1946, she married Marcus Goodrich, a Navy veteran, journalist, and author of the 1941 novel Delilah. The marriage ended in divorce in 1953.
    More Details Hide Details They had one child, Benjamin Goodrich, who was born on December1, 1949. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma at the age of 19, but was able to graduate from the University of Texas. He worked as a statistical analyst for Lockheed Missiles and Space Company in Sunnyvale, California, and as an international banking representative for the Texas Commerce Bank in Houston. He died on October1, 1991, in Paris at the age of 41 of heart disease brought on by treatments for Hodgkin's disease, three weeks before the death of his father.
    Her performance earned her the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1946her first Oscar.
    More Details Hide Details According to film historian Tony Thomas, the award represented a vindication of her long struggle with Warner Bros. and confirmation of her abilities as an actress.
  • 1945
    Age 28
    After the California Court of Appeals ruling freed her from her Warner Bros. contract, deHavilland signed a two-picture deal with Paramount Pictures. In June 1945, she began filming Mitchell Leisen's drama To Each His Own, about an unwed mother who gives up her child for adoption and then spends the rest of her life trying to undo that decision.
    More Details Hide Details DeHavilland insisted on bringing in Leisen as director, trusting his eye for detail, his empathy for actors, and the way he controlled sentiment in their previous collaboration, Hold Back the Dawn. The role required deHavilland to age nearly 30 years over the course of the filmfrom an innocent, small-town girl to a shrewd, ruthless businesswoman devoted to her cosmetics company. While deHavilland never formally studied acting, she did read Stanislavsky's autobiography My Life in Art and applied one of his "methods" for this role. To help her define her character during the four periods of the story, she used a different perfume for each period. She also lowered the pitch of her voice incrementally in each period until it became a mature woman's voice.
  • 1944
    Age 27
    On December8, 1944, the California Court of Appeals for the Second District ruled in her favor.
    More Details Hide Details The decision was one of the most significant and far-reaching legal rulings in Hollywood, reducing the power of the studios and extending greater creative freedom to performers. California's resulting "seven-year rule", also known as Labor Code Section 2855, is still known today as the De Havilland Law. Her legal victory, which cost her $13,000 in legal fees, won deHavilland the respect and admiration of her peers, among them her own sister Joan Fontaine, who later commented, "Hollywood owes Olivia a great deal." Warner Bros. reacted to deHavilland's lawsuit by circulating a letter to other studios that had the effect of a "virtual blacklisting". As a consequence, deHavilland did not work at a film studio for nearly two years. DeHavilland became a naturalized citizen of the United States on November28, 1941. During the war years, she actively sought out ways to express her patriotism and contribute to the war effort. In May 1942, she joined the Hollywood Victory Caravan, a three-week train tour of the country that raised money through the sale of war bonds. Later that year she began attending events at the Hollywood Canteen, meeting and dancing with the troops. In December 1943 deHavilland joined a USO tour that traveled throughout the United States, Alaska, and the South Pacific, visiting wounded soldiers in military hospitals. She earned the respect and admiration of the troops for visiting the isolated islands and battlefronts in the Pacific.
  • 1943
    Age 26
    In November 1943, the California Superior Court found in deHavilland's favor, and Warner Bros. immediately appealed.
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    On August23, 1943, on the advice of her lawyer, Martin Gang, deHavilland took Warner Bros. to court, citing an existing California labor law that forbade an employer from enforcing a contract against an employee for longer than seven years.
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    After fulfilling her seven-year Warner Bros. contract in 1943, deHavilland was informed that six months had been added to her contract for times she had been on suspension.
    More Details Hide Details The law then allowed studios to suspend contract players for rejecting a role, and the period of suspension could be added to the contract period. Most contract players accepted this, but a few tried to change the system, including Bette Davis, who mounted an unsuccessful lawsuit against Warner Bros. in the 1930s.
  • 1942
    Age 25
    Filmed in July and August 1942, the story is about a European princess in Washington, DC, visiting her diplomat uncle, who is trying to find her an American husband. Intent on marrying a man of her own choosing, she boards a plane heading west and ends up falling in love with an American pilot, who is unaware of her true identity. The film was released on October23, 1943, and did well at the box office.
    More Details Hide Details Bosley Crowther called it "a film which is in the best tradition of American screen comedy", and found deHavilland's performance "charming". 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.
    In 1942, deHavilland appeared in Elliott Nugent's romantic comedy The Male Animal with Henry Fonda, about an idealistic professor fighting for academic freedom while trying to hold onto his job and his wife Ellen.
    More Details Hide Details While her role was not particularly challenging, deHavilland's delineation of an intelligent, good-natured woman trying to resolve the unsettling circumstances of her life played a major part in the film's success, according to Tony Thomas. The film was a critical and commercial success, with Bosley Crowther of The Times noting that deHavilland "concocts a delightfully pliant and saucy character as the wife". That year, she also appeared in John Huston's drama In This Our Life with Bette Davis. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Ellen Glasgow, the story is about two sisters whose lives are destroyed by the anger and jealousy of one of the sisters. Crowther gave the film a negative review, but noted deHavilland's "warm and easy performance". During production, deHavilland and Huston began a romantic relationship that lasted three years. According to deHavilland, one of the few truly satisfying roles she played for Warner Bros. was the title character in Norman Krasna's romantic comedy Princess O'Rourke (1943) with Robert Cummings.
  • 1941
    Age 24
    While appearing in a summer stock production of What Every Woman Knows in Westport, Connecticut, her second professional stage appearance, deHavilland began dating Marcus Goodrich, a Navy veteran, journalist, and author of the 1941 novel Delilah. They were married on August26, 1946.
    More Details Hide Details What struck me most of all was the fact that she was rather likable and appealing. De Havilland was also widely praised for her performance as Virginia Cunningham in Anatole Litvak's drama The Snake Pit (1948), one of the first films to attempt a realistic portrayal of mental illness and an important exposé of the harsh conditions in state mental hospitals, according to film critic Philip French. Based on a novel by Mary Jane Ward and produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, the film is about a woman placed in a mental institution by her husband to help her recover from a nervous breakdown. Virginia Cunningham was one of the most difficult of all her film roles, requiring significant preparation both mentally and physicallyshe deliberately lost weight to help create her gaunt appearance on screen. She consulted regularly with psychiatrists hired as consultants for the film, and visited Camarillo State Mental Hospital to research her role and observe the patients. The extreme physical discomfort of the hydrotherapy and simulated electric shock therapy scenes were especially challenging for the slight actress. In her performance, she conveyed her mental anguish by physically transforming her face with furrowed brow, wild staring eyes, and grimacing mouth. According to author Judith Kass, deHavilland delivered a performance both "restrained and electric", portraying varied and extreme aspects of her characterfrom a shy young woman to a tormented and disoriented woman. For her performance in The Snake Pit, deHavilland received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress, and the Venice Film Festival Volpi Cup.
    In 1941, she appeared in three commercially successful films, beginning with Raoul Walsh's romantic comedy The Strawberry Blonde with James Cagney.
    More Details Hide Details Set during the Gay Nineties, the story involves a man who marries an outspoken advocate for women's rights after a rival steals his glamorous "strawberry blonde" girlfriend, and later discovers he ended up with a loving and understanding wife. Her performance revealed a growing confidence playing comedic roles, and a real talent for combining the qualities of kindness and love with a refined sense of naughtiness, according to film historian Tony Thomas. The film was a critical and commercial success. In Mitchell Leisen's romantic drama Hold Back the Dawn with Charles Boyer for Paramount Pictures, deHavilland transitioned to a different type of role for heran ordinary, decent small-town teacher whose life and sexuality are awakened by a sophisticated European gigolo, whose own life is positively affected by her love. Leisen's careful direction and guidance appealed to deHavillandmuch more than the workman-like approach of her Warner Bros. directors. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote, "Olivia deHavilland plays the school teacher as a woman with romantic fancies whose honesty and pride are her ownand the film'schief support. Incidentally, she is excellent." Her performance earned deHavilland her second Academy Award nominationthis time for Best Actress.
  • 1940
    Age 23
    According to deHavilland, Stewart proposed marriage to her in 1940, but she felt that he was not ready to settle down. Their relationship ended in late 1941 when deHavilland began a romantic relationship with film director John Huston while making In This Our Life. "John was a very great love of mine", she would later admit, "He was a man I wanted to marry."
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    In early 1940, deHavilland refused to appear in several films assigned to her, initiating the first of her suspensions at the studio.
    More Details Hide Details She agreed to play in Curtis Bernhardt's musical comedy drama My Love Came Back with Jeffrey Lynn and Eddie Albert, who played a classical music student turned swing jazz bandleader. DeHavilland played violinist Amelia Cornell, whose life becomes complicated by the support of a wealthy sponsor. In his review in The New York Times, Bosley Crowther described the film as "a featherlight frolic, a rollicking roundelay of deliciously pointed nonsense", noting that deHavilland "plays the part with pace and wit". That same year, deHavilland was reunited with Flynn in their sixth film together, Michael Curtiz's Western adventure Santa Fe Trail, set against the backdrop of abolitionist John Brown's fanatical antislavery attacks in the days leading up to the American Civil War. The mostly fictional story follows West Point cadets J. E. B. Stuart, played by Flynn, and George Armstrong Custer, played by Ronald Reagan, as they make their way west, both vying for the affection of deHavilland's Kit Carson Halliday. Unlike some of her previous adventure film roles, Kit is a vital, interesting, and confident character who knows her mind and plays a pivotal role in the story. Playing Kit in a provocative, tongue-in-cheek manner, deHavilland creates a character of real substance and dimension, according to Tony Thomas. Following a world premiere on December13, 1940, at the Lensic Theatre in Santa Fe, New Mexicoattended by cast members, reporters, the governor, and over 60,000 fansSanta Fe Trail went on to become one of the top-grossing films of 1940.
  • 1939
    Age 22
    In December 1939, deHavilland began a romantic relationship with actor James Stewart.
    More Details Hide Details At the request of Irene Mayer Selznick, the actor's agent asked Stewart to escort deHavilland to the New York premiere of Gone with the Wind at the Astor Theater on December19, 1939. Over the next few days, Stewart took her to the theater several times and to the 21 Club. They continued to see each other back in Los Angeles, where Stewart provided occasional flying lessons and romance.
    Warner relented, and deHavilland was signed to the project a few weeks before the start of principal photography on January26, 1939.
    More Details Hide Details Set in the American South during the 19th century, the film is about the strong-willed daughter of a Georgia plantation owner in love with the husband of her sister-in-law, Melanie, whose kindness stands in sharp contrast to those around her. According to film historian Tony Thomas, deHavilland's skillful and subtle performance effectively presents this character of selfless love and quiet strength in a way that keeps her vital and interesting throughout the film. Gone with the Wind had its world premiere in Atlanta, Georgia, on December15, 1939, and was well received. Frank S. Nugent of The Times wrote that deHavilland's Melanie "is a gracious, dignified, tender gem of characterization", and John C. Flinn, Sr., in Variety called her "a standout". The film won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and deHavilland received her first nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
  • 1938
    Age 21
    In a letter to a colleague dated November 18, 1938, film producer David O. Selznick wrote, "I would give anything if we had Olivia deHavilland under contract to us so that we could cast her as Melanie."
    More Details Hide Details The film he was preparing to shoot was Gone with the Wind, and Jack L. Warner was unwilling to lend her out for the project. DeHavilland had read the novel, and unlike most other actresses, who wanted the Scarlett O'Hara role, she wanted to play Melanie Hamiltona character whose quiet dignity and inner strength she understood and felt she could bring to life on the screen. DeHavilland turned to Warner's wife Anne for help. Warner later recalled, "Olivia, who had a brain like a computer concealed behind those fawn-like eyes, simply went to my wife and they joined forces to change my mind."
    In July 1938, deHavilland began dating business tycoon, aviator, and filmmaker Howard Hughes, who had just completed his record-setting flight around the world in 91 hours.
    More Details Hide Details In addition to escorting her about town, he gave the actress her first flying lessons. She later said, "He was a rather shy man... and yet, in a whole community where the men every day played heroes on the screen and didn't do anything heroic in life, here was this man who was a real hero."
  • 1937
    Age 20
    In September 1937, deHavilland was selected by Warner Bros. studio head Jack L. Warner to play Maid Marian opposite Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).
    More Details Hide Details The Technicolor production was filmed on location between September26, 1937, and January14, 1938, at Bidwell Park, Busch Gardens, and Lake Sherwood in California. Directed by William Keighley and Michael Curtiz, the film is about the legendary Robin Hood, a Saxon knight who opposes the corrupt and brutal Prince John and his Norman lords while good King Richard is away fighting in the Third Crusade. The king's ward, Maid Marian, initially opposes Robin, but later supports him after learning his true intentions of helping his oppressed people. No mere bystander to events, Marian risks her life to save Robin by providing his men a plan for his escape. As defined by deHavilland, Marian is both a beautiful fairy-tale heroine and a spirited, intelligent woman "whose actions are governed by her mind as well as her heart", according to author Judith Kass. The Adventures of Robin Hood was released on May14, 1938, and was an immediate critical and commercial success, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. It went on to become one of the most popular adventure films of the Classical Hollywood era.
    In 1937, deHavilland had her first top billing in Archie Mayo's comedy Call It a Day, about a middle-class English family struggling with the romantic effects of spring fever during the course of a single day.
    More Details Hide Details DeHavilland played daughter Catherine Hilton, who falls in love with the handsome artist hired to paint her portrait. The film did not do well at the box office and did little to advance her career. She fared better in Mayo's screwball comedy It's Love I'm After with Leslie Howard and Bette Davis. DeHavilland played Marcia West, a young debutante and theater fan enamored with a Barrymore-like matinee idol who decides to help the girl's fiancé by pretending to be an abominable cad. The film received good reviews, with Variety calling it "fresh, clever, excellently directed and produced, and acted by an ensemble that clicks from start to finish", and praising deHavilland. That same year, deHavilland made two more period films, beginning with The Great Garrick, a fictional romantic comedy about the 18th-century English actor's encounter with jealous players from the Comédie-Française who plot to embarrass him on his way to Paris. Wise to their prank, Garrick plays along with the ruse, determined to get the last laugh, even on a lovely young aristocrat, deHavilland's Germaine Dupont, whom he mistakenly believes to be one of the players. With her refined demeanor and diction, deHavilland delivers a performance that is "lighthearted and thoroughly believable", according to Judith Kass. Variety praised the film, calling it "a production of superlative workmanship".
  • 1936
    Age 19
    During the film's production, deHavilland renegotiated her contract with Warner Bros. and signed a seven-year contract on April14, 1936, with a starting weekly salary of five hundred dollars.
    More Details Hide Details Toward the end of the year, 2o-year-old deHavilland and her mother moved to 2337 Nella Vista Avenue in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles.
  • 1935
    Age 18
    Filmed between August5 and October29, 1935, Captain Blood gave deHavilland the opportunity to appear in her first costumed historical romance and adventure epic, a genre to which she was well suited, given her beauty and elegance.
    More Details Hide Details In the film, she played Arabella Bishop, the niece of a Jamaica plantation owner, who purchases at auction an Irish physician wrongly condemned to servitude. The on-screen chemistry between deHavilland and Flynn was evident from their first scenes together, where clashes between her character's spirited hauteur and his character's playful braggadocio did not mask their mutual attraction to each other. Unlike her two previous roles, Arabella is a feisty young woman who knows what she wants and is willing to fight for it. The bantering tone of their exchanges in the filmthe healthy give-and-take and mutual respectbecame the basis for their on-screen relationship in subsequent films. Captain Blood was released on December28, 1935, and received good reviews and wide public appeal. DeHavilland's performance was singled out in The New York Times and Variety. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The popular success of the film, as well as the critical response to the on-screen couple, led to seven additional collaborations.
    In July 1935, Warner Bros. paired deHavilland with an unknown Australian actor named Errol Flynn in the swashbuckler film Captain Blood (1935).
    More Details Hide Details According to film historian Tony Thomas, both actors had "classic good looks, cultured speaking voices, and a sense of distant aristocracy about them".
    Olivia deHavilland made her screen debut in Reinhardt's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1935.
    More Details Hide Details She began her career playing demure ingénues opposite popular leading men, including Errol Flynn, with whom she made nine films. They became one of Hollywood's most popular romantic on-screen pairings. She achieved her initial popularity in romantic comedy films, such as The Great Garrick (1937), and in Westerns, such as Dodge City (1939). Her natural beauty and refined acting style made her particularly effective in historical period dramas, such as Anthony Adverse (1936), and romantic dramas, such as Hold Back the Dawn (1941). In her later career, she was most successful in drama films, such as Light in the Piazza (1962), and unglamorous roles in psychological dramas including Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964). As well as her film career, deHavilland continued her work in the theatre, appearing three times on Broadway, in Romeo and Juliet (1951), Candida (1952), and A Gift of Time (1962). She also worked in television, appearing in the successful miniseries, Roots: The Next Generations (1979), and television feature films, such as Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna, for which she received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination. During her film career, deHavilland won two Academy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, two New York Film Critics Circle Awards, the National Board of Review Award for Best Actress, and the Venice Film Festival Volpi Cup. For her contributions to the motion picture industry, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
  • 1934
    Age 17
    DeHavilland made her screen debut in Reinhardt's A Midsummer Night's Dream, which was filmed at Warner Bros. studios from December19, 1934, to March9, 1935.
    More Details Hide Details During the production, deHavilland picked up film acting techniques from the film's co-director William Dieterle, and camera techniques from cinematographer Hal Mohr, who was impressed with her questions about his work. By the end of filming, she had learned the effect of lighting and camera angles on how she appeared on screen and how to find her best lighting. Following premieres in New York and Beverly Hills, the film was released on October30, 1935. Despite the publicity campaign, the film generated little enthusiasm with audiences. While the critical response was mixed, deHavilland's performance was praised by The San Francisco Examiner critic. In his review in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Winston Burdett noted that deHavilland "acts graciously and does greater justice to Shakespeare's language than anyone else in the cast". Two minor comedies followed, Alibi Ike with Joe E. Brown and The Irish in Us with James Cagney. In both films, she played the sweet and charming love interesta role into which she would later become typecast. After the experience of being a Reinhardt player, deHavilland felt disappointed being assigned these routine heroine roles. In March, deHavilland and her mother moved into an apartment at the Chateau des Fleurs at 6626 Franklin Avenue in Hollywood.
    With her mind still set on becoming a teacher, deHavilland initially wavered, but eventually Reinhardt and executive producer Henry Blanke persuaded her to sign a five-year contract with Warner Bros. on November12, 1934, with a starting salary of $200 a week.
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    After graduating from high school in 1934, deHavilland was offered a scholarship to Mills College in Oakland to pursue her chosen career as an English teacher.
    More Details Hide Details She was also offered the role of Puck in the Saratoga Community Theater production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. That summer, Austrian director Max Reinhardt came to California for a major new production of the same play to premiere at the Hollywood Bowl. After one of Reinhardt's assistants saw her perform in Saratoga, he offered her the second understudy position for the role of Hermia. One week before the premiere, the understudy Jean Rouverol and lead actress Gloria Stuart both left the project, leaving 18-year-old deHavilland to play Hermia. Impressed with her performance, Reinhardt offered her the part in the four-week autumn tour that followed. During that tour, Reinhardt received word that he would direct the Warner Bros. film version of his stage production, and he offered her the film role of Hermia.
  • 1933
    Age 16
    In 1933, deHavilland made her debut in amateur theatre in Alice in Wonderland, a production of the Saratoga Community Players based on the novel by Lewis Carroll.
    More Details Hide Details She also appeared in several school plays, including The Merchant of Venice and Hansel and Gretel. Her passion for drama eventually led to a confrontation with her stepfather, who forbade her from participating in further extracurricular activities. When he learned that she had won the lead role of Elizabeth Bennet in a school fund-raising production of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, he gave her an ultimatum to either stay home or not return home. Not wanting to let her school and classmates down, she left home forever, moving in with a family friend.
  • 1925
    Age 8
    In April 1925, after her divorce was finalized, Lilian married George Milan Fontaine, a department store manager for O.A.Hale & Co. in San Jose.
    More Details Hide Details Fontaine was a good provider and respectable businessman, but his strict parenting style generated animosity and later rebellion in both of his new stepdaughters. DeHavilland continued her education at Los Gatos High School, near her home in Saratoga. There, she excelled in oratory and field hockey and participated in school plays and the school drama club, eventually becoming the club's secretary. With plans of becoming a schoolteacher of English and speech, she also attended Notre Dame Convent in Belmont.
  • 1922
    Age 5
    DeHavilland entered Saratoga Grammar School in 1922 and did well in her studies.
    More Details Hide Details She enjoyed reading, writing poetry, and drawing, and once represented her grammar school in a county spelling bee, coming in second place. In 1923, Lilian had a new Tudor-style house built at 231LaPaloma Avenue (now 20250), where the family resided until the early 1930s.
  • 1919
    Age 2
    In February 1919, Lilian persuaded her husband to take the family back to England to a climate better suited for their ailing daughters.
    More Details Hide Details They sailed aboard the SSSiberia Maru to San Francisco, where the family stopped to treat Olivia's tonsillitis. After Joan developed pneumonia, Lilian decided to remain with her daughters in California, where they eventually settled in the village of Saratoga, south of San Francisco. Her father abandoned the family and returned to his Japanese housekeeper, who eventually became his second wife. Olivia was raised to appreciate the arts, beginning with ballet lessons at the age of four, and piano lessons a year later. She learned to read before she was six, and her mother, who occasionally taught dramatic art, music, and elocution, had her reciting passages from Shakespeare to strengthen her diction. During this period, her younger sister Joan first started calling her "Livvie", a nickname that would last throughout her life.
    Born in Tokyo to English parents, deHavilland and her younger sister, actress Joan Fontaine, moved to California in 1919.
    More Details Hide Details They were raised by their mother Lilian, a former stage actress who taught them dramatic art, music, and elocution. De Havilland made her acting debut in amateur theatre in Alice in Wonderland and later appeared in a local production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, which led to her playing Hermia in Max Reinhardt's stage production of the same play and a movie contract with Warner Bros.
  • 1916
    Born on July 1, 1916.
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