Olivia de Havilland turns 104 today: the last remaining star of old Hollywood (video)

Born July 1, 1916, she’s one of the last remaining stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age – and still making headlines. Olivia de Havilland turns 104 today.

According to a report by Variety, the actress is best known for her roles in “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” “Gone With the Wind,” and two Oscar-winning performances: “To Each His Own” and “The Heiress.”

Variety reported that de Havilland’s “first claim to fame,” was her decades-long feud with sister, Joan Fontaine, for which gossip magazines offered endless coverage.

Her second (and more important) claim to fame, the report said, was that “she helped end the old studio system.”

At 19, de Havilland made her film debut in the 1935 “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”; WB signed her to a seven-year contract, which, the report said, was standard for actors.

De Havilland refused several roles and was suspended multiple times, while under the 7-year contract with Warner Bros. The report said that “when her contract ended, WB said she still owed them six months, for the time off during suspension.” She sued the studio, in an unprecedented move, and the report said the judge sided with her, saying the system was one of “peonage.” On March 15, 1944, Variety ran the headline “De Havilland Free Agent.” After that, the report said, her career flourished, and “actors were no longer beholden to studios, which empowered them and their agents in all future negotiations.”

According to the report, de Havilland went to court again, four months later, “seeking assurance that she could work elsewhere without interference from Warners,” and again was successful.

Although her suits seemed risky, the report said de Havilland’s career thrived.

The report noted that shortly after her legal victory, she won Oscars for “To Each His Own” (1946) and “The Heiress” (1949); with a total of five Oscar nominations. She continued to work in films like “The Snake Pit,” “My Cousin Rachel,” “Light in the Piazza” and “Hush … Hush Sweet Charlotte,” among many others, the report said. She segued into TV work, with her final onscreen appearance in the TV movie “The Woman He Loved” (1988).

In 1965, de Havilland became the first woman to serve as president of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival, the report said.

Other honors bestowed on de Havilland include: the National Medal of Arts, presented in November 2008 – de Havilland was then 92 – by President George W. Bush, who said “Her independence, integrity and grace won creative freedom for herself and her fellow film actors”; she was appointed a Chevalier (knight) of the Legion d’Honneur, two years later; and in June 2017, she became the oldest woman ever to receive the British title of dame, an honor bestowed on her by Queen Elizabeth II, the report said.

Currently, the report notes that she’s part of the ongoing furor over the 1939 epic, “Gone With the Wind,” since she’s the only surviving star.

De Havilland’s “third claim to fame”: She’s 104! The actress has lived in Paris for 50 years. The report said she still makes rare public appearances when she chooses, and last year, for her 103rd, a photo of her riding a bicycle was posted to Facebook. The report noted that once again, “Olivia de Havilland was defying expectations and challenging preconceptions.”

Canadian News

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