The magnificent Olivia de Havilland turns 94 years young today.
Born in 1916 in Tokyo, Japan, where father held a legal practice, the de Havillands immigrated to California two years later for health reasons. The two year old Olivia and her one year old sister, Joan, would both grow up in the golden warmth of northern California’s San Mateo county before eventually heading south … to Hollywood. To stardom. To film immortality.
Olivia is one of the last few surviving stars of Hollywood’s golden age, having made her screen debut 75 years ago in Max Reinhardt’s shimmery 1935 film adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She achieved true film immortality in 1939 when she won the role of Melanie Hamilton in the biggest film ever made, Gone With the Wind, which would also give her the first of five Oscar nominations. Twice she would take home gold. She would fight the iron-fisted Studio system for creative freedom—and win. She successfully broke the mold of the Warner Bros’ crafted ‘goody-two-shoes’ image (starting, with scintillating stealth, in The Strawberry Blonde) and would go on to play a challenging range of roles—from the insanely paranoid Virginia of The Snake Pit, the deliciously evil Miriam of Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte to … well … a Lady in a Cage.
Olivia would never quite bury the hatchet with her rival and sister Joan Fontaine in what was (and still is) perhaps the movie biz’s most famous case of sibling rivalry, and the true nature of her off screen relationship with her most famous leading man, the dashing Errol Flynn, is still somewhat… shall we say … ambiguous.
Although Olivia retired to Paris some twenty years ago, remains active—most recently having provided the narration for the 2009 documentary on Alzheimer’s disease, I Remember Better When I Paint.
A truly great actress, lady and humanitarian, The Pictorial wishes to salute the divine Miss de Havilland with a resounding thanks… for all the memories.