Today is a great day. You know why? Because Olivia de Havilland, one of my favourite actresses, is celebrating her 99th birthday! How wonderful is that! 😀 Olivia de Havilland is one of the last legends of classic Hollywood to still be alive and it’s an honour for us to celebrate her. I frankly don’t really care about Canada Day (being much more Quebecers than Canadian). To me, the big celebration today is Olivia de Havilland’s birthday!
Olivia de Havilland was not only known as the late Joan Fontaine’s sister (another favourite of mine) and Errol Flynn’s partner in eight films but also as a fantastic and unforgettable actress. Winner of two academy awards (The Heiress and To Each His Own), she never stopped to impress the audience, including me. I was amazed by all her performances, well those I have seen so far, and, today, I’m asking to myself “is it possible not to love Olivia de Havilland?” Not knowing her, yes, but dislike her? Please, no! Or, if you do, I hope this tribute will make you change your mind. In this text, I won’t talk to you about each one of her performances, because I’ve already done that in my Olivia de Havilland’s Film Marathon (that I invite you to read, of course). Well, since I’ve done this marathon (in January), I’ve seen two more of her films: The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex and Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte. Those two were great, but Gone With the Wind remains my favourite film of hers and The Heiress, my favourite performance.
What amazed me the most, when I watch those films, is Olivia de Havilland versatility. As a matter of fact, just like her sister Joan Fontaine, she was more known to play the sweet and innocent girls, but that’s not so true. Look at The Heiress for example. Yes, she plays the innocent girl, but her transformation in a more mature and serious woman toward the end of the film is breathtaking and that’s one of the reasons why she deserved this Best Actress Oscar. Or then, compare Gone With the Wind, where she plays the kindest woman on Earth with Hush… Hush Sweet Charlotte where she plays a real bitch. The most important things to notice is that, in both cases, her performance is excellent.
However, I must admit that “sweet and innocent girl” is one of my favourite type of character and Olivia de Havilland was perfect for this kind of role. That’s when she becomes so touching, that’s how she is our real heroine, an on-screen model. One of the best examples for that would not only be Melanie Hamilton in Gone With the Wind, but also Linnette More in The Proud Rebel (her last film under the direction of Michael Curtiz). In this film, she doesn’t really play the innocent girl, but a strong woman and her performance is very touching. It’s not one of her most well-known films, but it is, in my opinion, one of her best performances.
Olivia de Havilland was not only a great actress, she was also one of the most beautiful women to ever grace the screen. With her large brown eyes, her perfectly defined lips and her sweet round face, she certainly can make some people jealous! And at the noble age of 99, she still is a great beauty! Just like her sister Joan, she aged very well.
I think my next step concerning Olivia de Havilland would be to read a biography of her. She is a delight to watch on screen, but I would like to know a little more about her. Olivia de Havilland was born in Japan, had an acting career in Hollywood and she now lives in Paris since the 60’s. She is apparently quite fluent in French. That’s something I’ve always liked: when an English speaking actor can speak my native language. I feel even closer to them. Last March, I wrote a letter to her (in French, thought it would be original!). I haven’t received an answer yet. I can understand that Mrs. De Havilland doesn’t really answer her fanmail anymore, but I’m still hoping. Well, that would be a great pleasure. Even if she doesn’t answer me, I really hope she’ll read my letter and enjoy it.
Even if she had retired from the acting life in the 80’s, Olivia de Havilland never was forgotten by her fans and continues to be discovered by young cinephiles like me. In 2008, she received the National Medal of Arts and The Légion d’honneur in 2010. Olivia de Havilland appeared at the Cesar Ceremony in 2011 and received a standing ovation. So, as you can see, we still all love Livie. ❤ I’ve also read that, in 2015 (well, the actual year), Olivia de Havilland said that she was working on an autobiography. Well, she must have many interesting things to tell after 99 years of living!
It’s now time to present to you my top 5 Olivia de Havilland’s films. So here it goes: 1- Gone with the Wind 2- The Heiress 3- The Dark Mirror 4- The Adventures of Robin Hood 5- My Cousin Rachel (Reading Daphné Du Maurier’s novel will be the next step) My friend Lara Gabrielle Fowler from Backlots once write a text about the final scene of The Heiress. She, of course, talks about Olivia de Havilland’s performance in this scene. I’ve read it, and it’s really is one of the best blog articles I ever read. It also won a CiMBA Award for Best Classic Movie Discussion. Of course, I invite you to click on the link and read it:
In June 2006, Olivia de Havilland said “I’ll be 90 on July 1. I can’t wait to be 90! Another victory!” (IMDB) Well, 99 is certainly another great victory and, I can assure you, celebrations will be BIG on her 100th birthday next year!