by Terri Bey
Dedicated to my dear friend, Louis Antonelli.
On July 26, 2020, the entertainment world lost one of Hollywood’s last living legends of the “Old Hollywood” Era. Dame Olivia de Havilland, known for her roles in such movies as “The Snake Pit,” “The Heiress” and, of course, “Gone With the Wind,” passed away in Paris, France at 104. Olivia de Havilland died of natural causes. Ms. de Havilland was the last of the “Golden Age of Hollywood, and until her death, was the oldest living Oscar winner. She appeared in 49 feature films and the large part of her film career spanned from 1935 to 1988. Olivia won 2 Best Actress Academy Awards, one for “To Each His Own” (1946) and for “The Heiress” (1949). Her younger sister was the late Joan Fontaine, who also won Best Actress for “Suspicion” (1941). Both women are the only siblings to have won Academy Awards and the only sisters to have won major Academy Awards. Olivia de Havilland has also done work on Broadway and on TV. Olivia de Havilland was named a Dame Commander in Queen Elizabeth II‘s Birthday Honors list in 2017, just before her 101st birthday, hence her being Dame Olivia de Havilland.
Olivia de Havilland was one of my all time favorite actresses. I always enjoyed her ability to play different roles. I also loved how she was able to adapt to television and the stage, as well as the silver screen. Olivia de Havilland won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a Television Movie or Series and received an Emmy Nomination in the same category for her role in the 1986 miniseries, “Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna.” Olivia deHavilland also appeared in the 1979 miniseries, “Roots: The Next Generation.” On Broadway, she appeared in “in Romeo and Juliet (1951), Candida (1952), and A Gift of Time (1962).
Olivia de Havilland was an amazing and versatile actress and the last of the “Golden Age” of Hollywood. They certainly do not make them like her, anymore. I certainly will miss her and to honor her, I will list some of my personal favorite films in which she starred or co-starred. I hope you will enjoy this list. Feedback is welcomed and encouraged.
Favorite Films Featuring the Late Olivia de Havilland:
“The Male Animal” (1942)
Directed by: Elliott Nugent
This film features a very funny love triangle and a battle about free speech on campus, starring Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland as Tommy and Ellen Turner, who live in a college town, which is crazy about its college football team. Tommy Turner (Fonda) is a college professor, whose desire to read the sentencing statement by Bartolomeo Vanzetti gets him in hot water with the trustees, led by a one Ed Keller (Eugene Pallette), who wants to fire Turner. At the same time, there is a huge football game, and the former football hero, Joe Furgeson (Jack Carson), comes to visit and he is Ellen Turner’s (de Havilland) former beau. Furgeson and Ellen Turner revisit their old romantic feelings and at the same time, Tommy Turner (Fonda) has to deal with trying to keep his job.
This is a very funny and somewhat lighthearted film. I enjoyed seeing the de Havilland character and the Carson character having some quasi-romance and here is the poor Fonda character trying to keep both his marriage and his job at the same time. It’s not one of de Havilland’s Oscar winning performances, but I like her lightheartedness in this film. I also enjoy the free speech on campus battle as well. Does Tommy Turner get to read Bartolomeo Vanzetti’s speech and keep his job after all? Watch this film and see.
“The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938)
Directed by: Michael Curtiz and William Keiley
This film features Errol Flynn as Robin Hood and Olivia de Havilland as Lady Marian in this swashbuckling tale of Robin Hood. Most of my readers know the plot of this film, but for those who don’t, the film is about how Robin Hood (Flynn), a Saxon Knight, in the absence of King Richard leads a rebellion with a guerrilla band against King John (Claude Reins), who along with the Norman lords, are oppressing the Saxon commoners. The film features a cast of well known actors, such as Basil Rathbone as Sir Guy of Gisbourne, Eugene Pallette as Friar Tuck, an uncredited Sam Jaffe, and Alan Hale, Sr. as John Little, a.k.a. Little John. On a side note, Alan Hale, Sr. is the father of Alan Hale, Jr., who played The Skipper on “Gilligan’s Island.”
This is a fun, action-filled romp. I love Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn in this film. The duo actually made several films together. I think they had great chemistry. I loved how at first, Lady Marian was against Robin Hood and, then she accepts his good intentions, and then he has to rescue her. Of course, as we all know, Robin Hood marries her. I love how de Havilland and Flynn work off each other. Her scenes with Basil Rathbone (Sir Guy of Gisbourne) are awesome, also. I enjoy this film and for those who haven’t seen this, I recommend it.
“Hold Back the Dawn” (1941)
Directed by Mitchell Leisen
I love this film, which stars Olivia de Havilland as Miss Emmy Brown, a naïve school teacher, who was in Mexico with fifteen boys on a class trip and falls in love with a Romanian gigolo named Georges Iscovescu (Charles Boyer), who unbeknownst to her, is only marrying her to get a US Visa, so he can work in New York with his former dancing partner Anita Dixon (Paulette Goddard), who also is in love with Iscovescu and tells him that she married an American to get a US Visa and she quickly divorced him as soon as she got it, hence his idea to use Emmy Brown (de Havilland). A couple of complications come when Iscovescu (Boyer) marries Brown, he actually falls in love with her and an Immigration Inspector Hamel (Walter Abel), who looks for con artists like Iscovescu gets right on his tail as well. The film is told by Iscovescu (Boyer) in flashback to a Hollywood screenwriter. You will have to see this wonderful film to find out the reason.
I love the chemistry between Olivia de Havilland and Charles Boyer. Even though Boyer was considered what we would call a “sex symbol,” as he was extremely handsome, Boyer was an excellent actor. Boyer definitely held his own against de Havilland. The scene featuring Paullette Goddard, where her character, Anita Dixon tells Emmy Brown, Olivia de Havilland’s character, the truth is a great scene, as well. The film, “Hold Back the Dawn” was nominated for six Academy Awards, including “Best Picture” and “Best Actress” for Olivia de Havilland, one of her five total Academy Award Nominations.
“Gone With the Wind” (1939)
Directed by Victor Fleming
If you have not heard of “Gone With the Wind” (1939) or the Margaret Mitchell 1936 novel, upon which the classic film is based, you must be living under a rock. This nearly four hour epic, set during the Civil War, is a historical-fictional drama about a strong-willed and spoiled Southern belle named Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) who strongarms her way through family relations, etc., and finally finds love and marriage with a Southern gentleman, named Rhett Butler (Clark Gable).
However, before O’Hara (Leigh) marries Butler (Gable), O’Hara is, at least in this author’s opinion, becomes one of the most destructive and mean-spirited characters ever. O’Hara pretty much destroys everything and everyone, in her path, including her marriage to Rhett Butler. Scarlett also goes after and continues to obsess over someone she knows she can’t have. That someone is Ashley Wilkes (a terribly miscast Leslie Howard) who gets married to Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland).
Melanie Hamilton Wilkes is one of the only characters in this film that I genuinely liked, besides Rhett Butler (Gable) and Mammy (Hattie MacDaniel) Olivia portrayed her with such a quiet grace and such strength, when the character needed it. One scene that sticks in my head is where after the news and gossip got out where at Scarlett’s and Ashley’s store, they were in a comprising position, Scarlett was forced to go to the party in that red dress, and Melanie (de Havilland) greeted her as if nothing had happened. I loved how Olivia de Havilland played that scene.
I admit that I am not as big a fan of this film, as others are. However, Olivia de Havilland, Clark Gable and especially Hattie McDaniel make this film watchable. McDaniel gave a brilliant performance, which won her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, becoming the first African American to win an Academy Award, beating out her co-star, Olivia de Havilland, who was also nominated in the same category. Max Steiner’s brilliant score is an amazing highlight as well.
“The Heiress” (1949)
Directed by William Wyler
Olivia de Havilland won her first Academy Award for the 1946 film, “To Each His Own,” where she played an unwed mother who gives up her child for adoption, but she keeps up with events in his life from a distance. I personally think she also should have won for her thrilling performance as a mental patient in “The Snake Pit” (1948). However, that is how the Academy Awards go sometimes.
However, in this 1949 film, “The Heiress,” based on a 1947 play, “The Heiress,” by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, suggested by Henry James novel called “Washington Square” (1880), not only did Olivia de Havilland earn her second Academy Award, but she turns in a tour de force performance as Catherine Sloper, a meek and rather simple daughter of a renowned Dr. Austin Sloper (Ralph Richardson), who is not only mentally cruel, but constantly compares Catherine to her late mother. Aunt Lavinia Penniman (Miriam Hopkins), who has a very lively personality, moves in to try to encourage Catherine (de Havilland) to be more gracious and to be more out-going. Montgomery Clift portrays Morris Townsend, who is a very handsome young man, but has no money and no career prospects, but Catherine Sloper falls in love with him. Her father, Dr. Sloper (Richardson) has a suspicion that Townsend (Clift) is a fortune hunter and should Catherine marry a man that the doctor doesn’t like, she will lose her inheritance and the money will go to the clinic, instead.
This is one of Olivia de Havilland’s best performances. What makes it so awesome is the eventual transition from her character, Catherine Sloper, being this meek little mouse, who is so shy to the point of being awkward to becoming an astute woman, whose heart has been hardened. When she realizes that her father was right about Townsend (Clift) and at the same time developed her father’s cruel nature, it is a delight to watch from a viewer’s standpoint. The rest of the cast is fantastic. Montgomery Clift is amazing as this scoundrel, who just wants Ms. Sloper’s money. Ralph Richardson is awesome as Dr. Sloper. The scene where Dr. Sloper and Morris Townsend have that confrontation and then Catherine Sloper joins in, asking Morris to be respectful. That is a great acting scene, all around. I highly recommend this film.
These are my personal favorite films featuring the late, great Olivia de Havilland. I hope that you all enjoyed reading this blog and watching the videos. I hope that this blog will inspire my readers to get on either Vudu, Amazon Prime, Google, or whatever service you have to see these and other films in which she starred. My contact information is down below. Thank you for reading.
Thank you, Dame Olivia de Havilland for all your contributions to the film industry. May you Rest In Peace.