As a result of Olivia de Havilland’s almost century-long career in the entertainment industry, her name is now inextricably linked to the idea that she was an important person and an industry pioneer in old Hollywood. Olivia is renowned for several accomplishments that she accomplished during the Golden Age of Hollywood, including the fact that she was one of the few stars from that period who survived into the modern day. In addition to this, she and her younger sister Joan Fontaine were famous for their historical competition against one another.
In addition to the incontestable celebrity Olivia experienced, going back to her British-American upbringing, she came from a household in which she spent her youth in an environment that was fraught with conflict. The late actress’s mother was the kind of person who never quite got around to publicly expressing her pride in her children, and her stepfather was the type of person who was really strict. Olivia was born on July 1, 1916, in Tokyo to British parents Lilian and Walter de Havilland. Her parents were of British descent. The year after that, her younger sister came into the world.
Her mother had a career as both an actor and a choral instructor, whilst her father had a career as a patent lawyer and professor. Olivia and Joan had bronchial problems as youngsters, so their mother decided that moving the family would be in their best interest. While the rest of the family relocated to California, Walter stayed behind in Tokyo. After having a difficult time maintaining a happy marriage to Lilian for a period of time, he eventually ended up divorcing her and marrying their cleaner in Tokyo.
In addition to this, Lilian remarried, this time to George Fontaine, a retail merchant who was known for being a strict parent. In a 1978 interview with People, Joan said that her father ensured that she and her siblings experienced a “military childhood.” Olivia’s interest in performing arts dates back to when she was probably about 5 years old. She remembered the incident in an interview with Vanity Fair, in which she discussed how she had discovered her mother’s box of costumes and how she had experimented with some of the cosmetics.
Olivia’s enthusiasm for acting got deeper despite the fact that her mother caught her in the act and admonished her never to talk about it again. Because he was such a stickler for the rules, Olivia’s stepfather banned her from pursuing a career in acting while she was living in his home.
Olivia first became interested in acting while she was a student at Los Gatos High School when she was a child. In 1933, she made her first appearance on stage as Alice in the Wonderland in the school production of “Alice in Wonderland.” She drew the attention of the play’s director, Max Reinhardt, and as a result, she was cast as Hermia in the production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Olivia made steady headway in her acting career up to the year 1935, when she made her first appearance on cinema. During this time period, Warner Brothers adapted the drama for production on the big screen.
Her stepfather did not support her choice of profession and presented her with the choice to either leave the entertainment industry or find another place to live. Olivia made the decision to pursue the latter option, and her big break came when she was cast with Errol Flynn in the film “Captain Blood.” This was the beginning of Flynn and Olivia’s exploration of their relationship on screen, which would continue in seven further films. At a period when studios had a monopoly on their in-house stars, she signed a deal with Warner Brothers that would keep her there for seven years.
Olivia began to have issues with the legal agreement near the end of the 1930s, when she was considered for the role of Melanie in the film “Gone With the Wind,” which was released in 1939. David O. Selznick used Margaret Mitchell’s novel of the same name as the basis for his screenplay for the film. In the end, Olivia’s casting as the lead role in the movie was made possible thanks to the assistance of Jack L. Warner’s wife.
In hindsight, “Gone With the Wind” was the film that had the most influence on her career, and it was also the film for which she was best recognized. The actress received her first nomination for an Academy Award for her work in the supporting role, but ultimately lost out to her co-star Hattie McDaniel, who became the first African American actor to win an Academy Award.
During the time when Olivia’s career was beginning to take off, her sister Joan was also steadily establishing herself as a notable figure in the film business. Both of them were well-known for their abilities as actors, and they had an infamous sibling rivalry that often became heated. Although Olivia did not participate in many of the tales, Joan was eager to speak up about their problems when they were younger. The sisters’ problems extended as far back as when they were children.
She revealed to People in 1978 that she and Olivia had a fight when they were adolescents, which resulted in her dislocating her collar bone. Joan also said that her elder sister did not approve of the fact that she was successful first in everything. She revealed that
“I got married first, won an Academy Award first, and had a child first. All of these things happened in that order.” If I were to pass away, she would be quite angry since once again I would have been there first!
1975 was the year that marked the climax of their dispute. Olivia, who was in charge with the executor of the estate, made preparations to bury their mother without letting her sister know about it.
Joan said that at the time she was performing in several cities around the country in the play “Cactus Flower.” She learned about what had occurred, and while her sister had not extended an invitation to her, she went to the burial anyhow. There was no communication between the two sisters. Joan died away in the year 2013, at the age of 96, seven years before to Olivia’s passing in the year 2020, at the age of 104.
During the course of their careers, Joan received the Oscar for Best Actress in 1942, which would turn out to be her sole nomination for the award. After another four years, Olivia eventually won hers in the same category. She would go on to win it again the following year for her performance in “The Heiress.” Olivia de Havilland relocated to Paris in 1955 with her second husband, Pierre Galante, and spent the rest of her life in the city.
In addition to the numerous honors and accolades she received, Olivia de Havilland was famous for the de Havilland statute, which she established following a court battle with Warner Brothers. She prevailed in the lawsuit, which was a significant step toward limiting the studios’ power over the acting careers of its performers.