Olivia de Havilland died

Gone With the Wind was made in 1939, and Olivia de Havilland, who played the stolid Melanie in that film, was 23.  de Havilland, who did far in her life than play Melanie, died yesterday at 104 at her home in France, where she’d lived for seventy years. I had no idea she was still alive. She’s surely the last of the great movie stars of that era (her younger sister was another: Joan Fontaine.)

de Havilland was nominated for a supporting actress Oscar for her role, but didn’t win (Hattie McDaniel, who played Mammy, nabbed that award, the first to go to an African-American). But I’m sure most of you have seen that movie (it now comes with caveats about slavery). Here are a few scenes with Melanie:

de Havilland eventually won two Oscars for Best Actress: one in To Each His Own (1946), and the other in The Heiress (1946). I’ve seen neither of those films, but will now.

She received two other nominations beyond GWTW, and one was in a mesmerizing movie I have sees: The Snake Pit (1948), in which she plays a character thrown into a mental institution. I’ve seen it twice, but both times as a youngster, so I can’t pronounce on the quality of her performance. But the fact that it sticks with me after decades does say something. And I well remember this scene, when she’s thrown among the inmates although she’s not as bad off as they are:

Here’s a scene from the movie; many of the other actors were (paid) inmates of an asylum, and, like the nonfiction movie Titicut Follies, this one inspired reform of state mental institutions.

As for her other achievements, I’ll let Wikipedia recount them:

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 male stars such as 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 successful on-screen romantic 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 non-glamorous characters in films such as The Dark MirrorThe Snake Pit, and Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

During her career, deHavilland won two Academy Awards (To Each His Own and The Heiress), two Golden Globe Awards (The Heiress and Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna), two New York Film Critics Circle Awards (The Snake Pit and The Heiress), the National Board of Review Award, and the Venice Film Festival Volpi Cup (The Snake Pit), and a Primetime Emmy Award nomination (Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna).

For her contributions to the motion picture industry, deHavilland received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6762 Hollywood Boulevard on February 8, 1960. Since her retirement in 1988, her lifetime contribution to the arts has been honored on two continents. In 1998, she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Hertfordshire in England.

18 Comments

  1. Posted July 26, 2020 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Hail and farewell, Olivia de Havilland!
    I saw “The Heiress” at a retrospective movie house. It’s based on the novel “Washington Square” by Henry James. Both are great works that deal with the effects of emotional abuse.

  2. merilee
    Posted July 26, 2020 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    My mother’s first cousin, who just turned 103, was good friends with Olivia. Schoolmates, I believe.

    • kma
      Posted July 26, 2020 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      That’s right, Merilee, my Mom was in the same class as Joan (nee de Havilland) Fontaine and was friends with Olivia, too. Last saw each other when Olivia visited her in 2006. If I recall correctly, Olivia thought The Snake Pit was her best role.

      • merilee
        Posted July 26, 2020 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

        Rhoda still looks great at 103 and didn’t she play pool with you guys right before covid?

    • Posted July 26, 2020 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      Will someone please send me 1000 gallons of whatever water they drank.

      • jezgrove
        Posted July 26, 2020 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

        Probably just sticking to water will do it. (I don’t practise what I preach, btw!)

        • Posted July 26, 2020 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

          I drink lots of water. The water of life, distilled and imported from Scotland.

      • kma
        Posted July 26, 2020 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

        Not water — champagne for Olivia and red wine for my mom.

  3. rickflick
    Posted July 26, 2020 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    I knew little about her other than the name.
    This short documentary outlines her interesting life.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_HvsWoxwCU&feature=emb_rel_end

  4. DrBrydon
    Posted July 26, 2020 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    There were giants in those days.

  5. Posted July 26, 2020 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    She was a very classy, beautiful lady her whole, long life.

  6. Posted July 26, 2020 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    I am going to say it. I loved Olivia de Havilland opposite Errol Flynn in Robin Hood. Many people think the movie kitschy, but I like it. Well acted, beautifully staged and filmed in Technicolor! All of those scenes of ancient England are shot around LA.

    • jezgrove
      Posted July 26, 2020 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

      My best memory of her, too. And Errol was great as well.

  7. rjdownard
    Posted July 26, 2020 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    De Havilland could exude decency and gravity all at once, but in a different way than the intensely sensual Ingrid Bergman. Catch her in any of the flicks she did with Errol Flynn, such as “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (with its spectacular Erich Wolfgang Korngold score, and super-glorious Technicolor).

    Don’t forget she could also swear like a longshoreman, which can be caught in assorted blooper reels that have surfaced over the years.

    • Posted July 26, 2020 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

      Yes, Korngold’s score is magnificent. Korngold was a fugitive from Austria, and claimed this gig saved his life. He said “We thought of ourselves as Viennese. Hitler made us Jewish.”

      Another interesting fact. James Cagney was originally slotted to be Robin Hood, but he walked on his contract with Warner. Good job. I cannot imagine Robin Hood snarling at King John, “Youse dirty rat.”

  8. ubernez
    Posted July 26, 2020 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    Every time I try and comment, the website cannot be found. Happened after you changed the site. Any ideas? (I wonder if others cannot comment also). Thanks, deni This site can’t be reached

    *whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com *’s server IP address could not be found.

    – Try running Windows Network Diagnostics.

    DNS_PROBE_FINISHED_NXDOMAIN

    On Mon, Jul 27, 2020 at 3:30 AM Why Evolution Is True wrote:

    > whyevolutionistrue posted: “Gone With the Wind was made in 1939, and > Olivia de Havilland, who played the stolid Melanie in that film, was 23. > de Havilland, who did far in her life than play Melanie, died yesterday at > 104 at her home in France, where she’d lived for seventy years. I” >


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