Olivia De Havilland, Oscar-Winning Actress, Dies at 104

Monday, 27 Jul, 2020

Havilland, the sister of fellow Oscar victor Joan Fontaine, died peacefully of natural causes, said New York-based publicist Lisa Goldberg.

Both sisters had experienced bronchial problems and her mother moved the family to California in 1919 for a more salubrious climate. Warner Bros. was impressed and, as was the custom at the time, signed the teenager to a seven-year contract.

The sister of actress Joan Fontaine, de Havilland won Oscars for To Each His Own and The Heiress, and appeared with Errol Flynn in several movies, including The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Olivia de Havilland became well known for starring alongside Errol Flynn.

Still in her teens, de Havilland was discovered by director Max Reinhardt during an amateur theater performance.

De Havilland began to turn down roles for which the studio thought she was flawless, and that meant war. This began her early film career from 1935 to 1937, where she would begin to star in many award-nominated films. "She brings that sort of plain look to all of her viewers, allowing them to sort of see a non-glamorous person, like perhaps themselves, as the heroine in their own stories". "It was doing something I wanted to do, playing a character I loved and liked".

Olivia de Havilland was also known for successfully challenging Hollywood's right to extend an actor's contract without consent. From her larger-than-life personality on the silver screen, to her real-life driven persona, Olivia was a shining Academy Award winning actress with an even brighter smile.

Though Olivia de Havilland's last role was in the TV movie The Women He Loved in 1988, she remained a prominent figure in Hollywood, and she was a key part of a 75th anniversary celebration of the Academy Awards with 58 other past acting winners and current acting winners.

"She got a landmark court decision that released her from her obligations to Warner Bros.", White says. Fontaine said de Havilland had not invited her to the memorial service but de Havilland claimed Fontaine had said she was too busy to attend.

"I can not think of a single instance wherein I initiated hostile behaviour", de Havilland said.

The eight-episode series about Joan Crawford and Bette Davis saw Olivia played by fellow Oscar-winner Catherine Zeta-Jones, however, the lawsuit was later dismissed. The actress reportedly died peacefully in her sleep.

"So she was the hero of her own career at that moment", White says, "and she went on to get roles that did allow her to do important things". She petitioned the Supreme Court for a hearing, but was denied the opportunity to present her case. Her second marriage was to executive editor of the French journal, Paris Match, Pierre Galante.