OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND – Unforgettable Melanie in Gone with the Wind, Olivia de Havilland died on July 26 at the age of 104. Her career, her husbands, her life in Paris, we tell you all about the Oscar-winning actress.
[Mis à jour le 27 juillet 2020 à 16h08] The last legend of Hollwyood has passed away. Olivia de Havilland, known for having played in Gone with the Wind, died on July 26, 2020 in Paris, where she had lived for several years. She passed away “peacefully, of natural causes,” her agent told the media. The interpreter of Melanie Hamilton-Wilkes in the great classic of the seventh art was 104 years old, until then considered the doyenne of American cinema. Doubly Oscar winner during her career, she was the last representative of what is called “the golden age of Hollywood”, an era marked by the transition from black and white to color and the hegemony of the studios.
Olivia de Havilland leaves behind a great career, whether in the seventh art, but also on television and the theater. She made her debut in 1935 in the film Alibi Like, before making notable appearances in Captain Blood, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and The Adventures of Robin Hood. But it was in 1939 that her talent was recognized, when she joined the cast of Gone with the Wind: Olivia de Havilland played Melanie Hamilton-Wilkes, the love rival and sister-in-law of Scarlett O’Hara. This role earned her her first Oscar nomination, coveting the statuette for best actress in a supporting role. It will be his on-screen partner, Hattie McDaniel, who will take home the award. However, Olivia de Havilland did not stop her race for awards there since she won the Oscar for best actress twice: in 1946 for To each his own destiny where she played a mother who was desperately looking for her son during the Second World War. global; and in 1950 for The Heiress, where she plays a wealthy young girl whose only money interests her suitors. From the 1950s onwards, her appearances in the cinema became rarer: we find her in My cousin Rachel (1952), The Princess of Eboli (1955) or even For men to live (1955). However, she distinguished herself in 1965 as the first woman to become president of the jury of the Cannes Film Festival.
Olivia De Havilland is a British actress, then naturalized American and French, born July 1, 1916 in Tokyo and died July 26, 2020 in Paris. 104 years old at the time of her death, she was considered since the death of Kirk Douglas as the “last living legend” of the golden age of Hollywood. She was also until her death considered the oldest actress in the world. But Olivia de Havilland was especially famous for the legacy she left to the seventh art: she is known for having played Melanie Wilkes in Gone with the Wind in 1939.
A landmark career in Hollywood
Olivia de Havilland made her debut on the boards. In 1935, she starred in the play and the film adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. She goes on filming and shares the poster with big names in the profession including Errol Flynn. In 1939, she played the role of Melanie Hamilton and won a nomination for the famous “Gone with the Wind”. This role earned her in particular to be nominated for the Oscar for best actress in a supporting role. She has won this award twice: she received the Oscar for best actress in 1947 for To each his own destiny, then in 1950 for her role in The Heiress. From the 1950s, it turned to the small screen and became increasingly rare.
Olivia de Havilland was also noticed behind the scenes as an actress who refused to bow to the dictates of Hollywood. In the 1940s, the actress never hid her desire to change registers, wishing for other roles than that of the ingenuous damsel in distress. She then began to refuse scripts and even sued Warner Bros. so that the studios could not maintain an actor’s contract indefinitely. She wins this lawsuit, which has reduced the power of the studios over the actors, who gained freedom of action. Thanks to this rebellion, Olivia de Havilland won the respect of her peers.
Olivia de Havilland joined the distribution of Gone with the Wind in 1939. In this film, one of Hollywood’s greatest critical and popular successes, the actress plays Melanie Wilkes, sister-in-law and rival in love with Scarlet O’hara, who will marry Ashley Wilkes in the film. This role allows him to be noticed by the studios. She was then nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, a prize that went to her on-screen partner Hattie McDaniel (who plays Mama in Gone with the Wind).
Before becoming the unforgettable and virtuous Melanie in Gone with the Wind, Olivia de Havilland began to be talked about in The Adventures of Robin Hood. Released in 1938, this film revisits the story of the thief with a big heart, with Errol Flynn in the lead role. For her part, Olivia de Havilland lands the role of Belle Marianne. This film sees the return to the screen of one of the actor couples who will become legendary, since Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland then crossed paths in several films: Captain Blood before Robin Hood, but also The Conquerors. The British actress has always said she is very proud of this film, which however did not receive the prestige of the studios.
Olivia de Havilland has been married twice in her lifetime. The first time in 1946, where she said yes to novelist Marcus Goodrich. From this union, will be born a son, Benjamin, who will be known for his work of mathematics before dying in 1991. After eight years of marriage, the couple divorces. In 1955, Olivia de Havilland married the French journalist, director of Paris-Match Pierre Galante in France, in Yvoy-le-Marron. After 24 years of marriage, they divorced in 1979. However, they will have a daughter together, Gisèle, who works in the field of journalism.
Olivia de Havilland had two children: a daughter, Gisèle, born in 1956, and an eldest son, Benjamin Goodrich. Born in 1949 from his union with the writer Marcus Goodrich, the latter has become a renowned mathematician. To be able to raise it, the actress moved away from Hollywood sets, even refusing the role of Blanche Dubois in A tram named Desire. However, her oldest son was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease when he was 17. He died of heart disease from treatment for his illness several years later, in 1991, when he was 42 years old.
Olivia de Havilland was close to her daughter Gisèle Galante, born in 1956. The latter had a career in journalism. But for the tabloid press, she was best known for having, for a time, been the fiancée of Johnny Hallyday, whom she had met on a television set in 1987. However, a year later, the couple separated while Johnny Hallyday is seen close to a Canadian model. Gisèle Galante then married a businessman working in real estate, then chief editor Andrew Chulack.
Olivia de Havilland is the daughter of lawyer Walter de Havilland and actress Lillian Fontaine. She has a younger sister, Joan Fontaine, who has also become an actress. However, relations were complicated between the two actresses since childhood, but the reasons for this quarrel are not really known. One of the hypotheses remains that Joan Fontaine would have been jealous that their mother seemed to prefer her elder. One of the examples of known tension dates back to 1942: the two sisters were nominated for the Oscar for best actress: Olivia de Havilland for Par la porte d’or, and Joan Fontaine for Suspicions. It is the latter who wins the prize: according to biographer Charles Higham, she would have refused the congratulations of her elder brother, which would have deeply hurt Olivia de Havilland.
Why did Olivia de Havilland live in Paris until her death?
Olivia de Havilland is a British actress born in Tokyo in 1916. However, since 1953, the two-Oscar winner has fallen in love with Paris and France. She even declares: “France is the only country where I really feel at home”. Since then, the actress has lived in the City of Light, in the 16th arrondissement of Paris. It is also in France that she will meet her husband Pierre Galante, then director of Paris Match, from whom she will however divorce after 24 years of marriage. In 2010, Olivia de Havilland received the Legion of Honor from President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Olivia de Havilland died on July 26, 2020, in Paris where she had lived for many years. The actress was 104 years old, which made her until that date the oldest American actress. It was his agent, Lisa Goldberg, who broke the sad news of his death to the media. It also specifies the causes of the death of the double Oscar winner: the latter passed away “peacefully, of natural cause”.