Years ago we wrote about Joan Fontaine and Olivia deHavilland. We said: Olivia is one of the last great stars of Hollywood’s golden age. A two time Oscar winner for Best Actress and the last surviving cast member of the classic ‘Gone With The Wind.’
There’s no denying that the Oscar for Hollywood’s longest lasting (and perhaps most intense) sibling rivalry goes to de Havilland and sister Joan Fontaine, who died in December of 2013. (The daughters of a British patent attorney, Olivia retained the family surname while Joan, for obvious reasons, was compelled to change hers, and borrowed her stern stepfather’s monicker.)
The French have great memories for the accomplishments of Hollywood’s classic stars, and deHavilland has been officially feted not only for her chosen place of residence but for her popular identification as Melanie Hamilton Wilkes in ‘Gone With The Wind’ and for her two best-actress Oscar roles, respectively, as an unwed mother forced to give up her son in 1946’s ‘To Each His Own’ and as the homely heroine pursued by a dazzling but devious Montgomery Clift in 1949’s ‘The Heiress.’
Having lived in Paris for the last six decades, Olivia added in 2010 the Legion d’Honneur, the French government’s highly prestigious citation, to her many awards honorary or otherwise. The European press covered the event, and noted that Fontaine was NOT present for the ceremonies conducted at Elysee Palace in Paris by then President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Our musings about the sisters and their rivalry elicited a comment from faithful reader Jeff Woodman.
Nice post, gentlemen.
Friends of mine who visit Paris regularly attend services at the same church as Ms. de Havilland, and report that she gets up and reads scripture there regularly, and as recently as 6 months ago! She is truly amazing.
And while I’m at it, here’s a shout out for my favorite, if little remembered, de Haviland performance/film, ‘The Dark Mirror.’ A nifty little thriller with de Haviland playing twins, suported by Thomas Mitchell, Lew Ayres, and Richard Long. No idea why it’s not better remembered and regarded.
BTW, while I’ve never been able to stand Fontaine in anything, I find her at her most most awful in ‘Casanova’s Big Night’ with Bob Hope, where her “comic” line readings all consist of speaking too loudly while rolling her eyes. I’ll admit I’m in the minority here, but Fontaine’s appeal has always eluded me.
And now, years later, another reader found that blog and felt he had to express his disagreement.
Bill Holmes writes: I know this post is pretty old, but I feel the exact opposite… I love Fontaine, and I don’t see the appeal for De Havilland and her works… it’s something in Fontaine’s smile and I see beauty in her plainness…
Thanks guys. That’s what we love about the internet. Never to late to express an opinion.