Facts about Olivia De Havilland
Olivia De Havilland Biography
Olivia de Havilland began acting in films when she was a teenager, and by her early twenties she was appearing as the romantic leading lady in such costumers as 1935’s Captain Blood and 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood (both with her frequent co-star, Errol Flynn).
She also took one of her most memorable roles, as Melanie Hamilton (Scarlett O’Hara’s sister-in-law), in the 1939 film Gone With The Wind (with Clark Gable).
Spirited and darkly handsome, she won an Oscar in 1946 for To Each His Own, and another in 1949 for The Heiress (opposite Montgomery Clift). She was also known in the industry for successfully suing Warner Brothers in 1943 to be released after her seven-year contract had expired; the studio insisted that the clock on the contract wasn’t running whenever de Havilland wasn’t working. The result became known as “the de Havilland decision” and made a major impact on the contract rights of actors.
Olivia de Havilland married Pierre Galante, the editor of Paris Match, and moved to Europe in 1955, continuing to act in films and on TV. She lived there until her death 65 years later, at age 104. Her last screen appearance was the TV movie The Woman He Loved in 1988 (in the role of Aunt Bessie Merryman).
In later years, her longevity won her many fond tributes from fans of old-time Hollywood. (A photo of her riding a three-wheeled bike at age 103 was widely shared on social media.) She was given the National Medal of Arts by President George W. Bush in 2008, and France made her a Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur in 2010.
Olivia de Havilland was married twice: first to novelist Marcus Aurelius Goodrich, from 1946 until their divorce in 1952; and then to French author Pierre Galante, from 1955 until their divorce in 1979. With Goodrich she had a son, Benjamin, and with Galante she had a daughter, Giselle… The actress Joan Fontaine was Olivia de Havilland’s younger sister. The two had a famously rocky relationship, which wasn’t helped when Fontaine won the best actress Oscar for 1941 (for the drama Suspicion), the same year that de Havilland was nominated for Hold Back the Dawn. Fontaine died in 2013. They are the only sisters to both win the Oscar as best actress… Joan Fontaine was 5’3″ tall, according to her 2020 obituary in The New York Times.