Around this time of year there are usually articles about what stars from the past we’ve lost in the previous year. (The euphemism for such an article is “necrology.”)
On a happier note, we’ve decided to highlight those stars who are still with us — and over 100 years old.
Olivia DeHavilland turned 100 this past July 1. She’s pictured above in her first Oscar winning performance in To Each His Own. Her co-star John Lund, making his film debut, played both her lover and her son in the film.
If you haven’t seen it, do so!
Lund, who died in 1992, made it to age 81. The son of an immigrant Norwegian glassblower, Lund had a checkered career (only 28 acting credits in all) largely spent as a solid supporting player in roles calling for good looks mixed with a certain stuffiness. He exemplified, for example, exactly that vying for Grace Kelly’s affections with Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby in 1956’s High Society.
Described as the last surviving female superstar of Hollywood’s Golden Age, DeHavilland decamped to Paris in 1955, married and then divorced her second and final husband (the late editor of superglossy Paris Match magazine), cared for her two children, basked in her French Legion d’Honneur awarded some years ago by French president Nicolas Sarkozy — and vowed to live at least another decade.
Over her some 60 years of blissful, self-willed exile far from Hollywood, DeHavilland has enjoyed a network of personal friendships. Her scripture readings on Christmas and Easter at the American Episcopal Cathedral on Ave. George V have become real events. She was also the recipient of an honorary degree in humane letters from the American University in Paris.
The French have great memories for the accomplishments of Hollywood’s classic stars, and de Havilland was feted not only for her chosen place of residency 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.
Hollywood, on the other hand, will always be indebted to her for being one half of the town’s most infamous sibling rivalry. The other half belonged, of course, to de Havilland’s younger sister (by 15 months), Joan Fontaine.
The daughters of a British patent attorney, Olivia retained the family surname while Joan, who died in December of 2013 at age 96, was compelled to change hers, and borrowed her stern stepfather’s moniker.
Despite the publication of Fontaine’s acerbic 1978 memoir (No Bed Of Roses, which we have often cited), DeHavilland refuses to discuss her baby sister although she has referred to her memoir as No Shred of Truth.
Most telling is DeHavilland’s recollection of an encounter with Errol Flynn during a Hollywood revisit in 1957. This, of course, was nearly two decades after the two sparkled in The Adventures of Robin Hood.
As the share-the-wealth bandit of Sherwood forest and his lady, ‘Maid Marian,’ both were in their Twenties when they appeared in the movie, at their physical peaks. She recalled later in her career that Flynn sometimes got erections during their love scenes. Talk about chemistry onscreen!
As recounted in a recent Vanity Fair article, DeHavilland found that Flynn by 1957 had diminished physically. He was gaunt. His clothes didn’t fit. She remembers that she had trouble recognizing him.
Those eyes. They used to be so glinting, so full of life. And now they were dead.
Flynn expired two years later at age 50. Olivia gambols on past the century mark with verve and great style.