Olivia De Havilland made a mark as an actress who did offbeat & bold roles, and didn't bend down to the conventional rules of Hollywood.
Some stars are living legends and when they pass away it's like the end of an era. A beautiful and shining star, Olivia de Havilland, who was known for playing the character of Melanie "Mellie" Hamilton in Gone With the Wind has passed away at the age of 104. She was the last living star from the cast of the movie and also the oldest living actor to have received an Academy Award.
Havilland died on July 26 at her home. She passed away "peacefully from natural causes on July 26 at her residence in Paris, France," her publicist, Lisa Goldberg told Good Morning America (GMA). She had celebrated her 104th birthday on July 2.
She was known for playing the role of Mellie, for which she got an Oscar nod, and interestingly her younger sister Joan Fontaine had turned it down. Fontaine wanted her sister, who was in her early 20s then, to play it. She went on to be nominated for the Oscars in the category of Best Actress five times and she won twice.
Her first win was in 1947 for the film To Each His Own and the second one came three years later for The Heiress. During her lifetime, she starred in dozens of movies and TV shows. One of the actors she worked with often was Errol Flynn, with whom she starred in eight films, including, Captain Blood, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and The Adventures of Robin Hood.
Havilland and Fontaine were the only two sisters to have won the Academy Awards in a lead acting category. They were born only 15 months apart and remained competitive during their lifetime.
Havilland had an unusual life right from the start. She was born July 1, 1916, in Tokyo to British parents. Her mother, Lilian Augusta, was a former actress, and her father, Walter Augustus de Havilland was an English professor and patent attorney. The couple parted ways when The Heiress actress was three. Her mother took her two daughters with her and left to Los Angeles, according to GMA.
While she played the character of a damsel in distress on-screen, in her personal life, Havilland was anything but that. She fought Warner Bros. legally when she wanted to end her contract with them but they refused. They wanted to increase her seven-year contract as a penalty as she started refusing to be cast as the damsel in distress any more. She won the landmark case eventually and it is still known today as the "de Havilland law," as per Entertainment Weekly.
After the lawsuit, she was able to play the kind of characters she wanted, as the lead in drama films for which her performances were applauded. She was known for being a rebel and was even called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. That didn't deter her from starring in 1964’s Lady in a Cage.
In the 1970s, she worked in many supporting roles and shifted to television in the 1980s, which earned her a Golden Globe for her role in the TV movie Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna.
Her feud with her sister, Fontaine, is legendary. Their rivalry started in their childhood and went on for decades, according to Vogue. They were reportedly always fighting for their parents' affection and in 1941 this feud reached its tipping point when both siblings were nominated for Best Actress - Havilland for Hold Back the Dawn and Fontaine for Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion.
Back then, the Oscars were like a dinner party and the two sisters were seated on the same table. The younger sibling took home the award that night and when her name was called, she froze.
"I stared across the table, where Olivia was sitting directly opposite me. 'Get up there, get up there,' Olivia whispered commandingly. Now what had I done? All the animus we'd felt toward each other as children, the hair-pullings, the savage wrestling watches, the time Olivia fractured my collarbone, all came rushing back in kaleidoscopic imagery. My paralysis was total," wrote Fontaine in her memoir, No Bed of Roses, published in 1978, as per Vogue. Her older sibling reportedly said it should have been titled, No Shred of Truth, according to Biography.com. Their rivalry lasted for years and they didn't reconcile until the end. Fontaine passed away at the age of 96 in 2013.
Havilland was married twice, to Marcus Goodrich from 1946 to 1953, and Pierre Galante from 1955 to 1979. She has two children, Benjamin Goodrich and Gisèle Galante. Benjamin died at the age of 42 in 1992 from Hodgkin's disease.