The last major surviving star from the Golden Age of Hollywood has passed. Let’s honor the extremely talented actress Olivia de Havilland, famous for her roles in films like Gone With the Wind and The Adventures of Robin Hood, who has passed away at the age of 104.
The Great Olivia De Havilland
Actress Olivia de Havilland died at the age of 104 on July 26th, 2020, of natural causes in her sleep, her publicist Lisa Goldberg stated. She is survived by her daughter, Gisele Galante Chulack, her son-in-law Andrew Chulack and her niece Deborah Dozier Potter. Havilland passed in her favorite Paris residence, where the actress has remained for more than six decades since departing Hollywood. However, during the height of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Havilland became one of the highest-grossing stars in Tinsletown!
Born to English actress Lilian Fontaine and English professor Walter de Havilland, Havilland seemed destined for stardom from a young age. In the early 30s, she started in film, becoming a minor hit actress thanks to roles alongside Errol Flynn. Most notably, she played Flynn’s love interest in both The Adventures of Robin Hood and Captain Blood. However, Havilland’s biggest hit came in 1939, with the role of Melanie Hamilton Wilkes in Gone With The Wind. The highest-grossing film in American history, Wind remains a classic, even today. These films catapulted Havilland to stardom, making her one of the highest-paid stars of the 1940s. Still, the actress could have no idea that she would face her biggest battle off-screen in the mid-1940s…
Fighting for Freedom
In 1943, Havilland had her biggest achievement, though it had nothing to do with acting. That year, Warner Bros. tried to extend their exclusive contract with the actress. She went against the decision, and the studio actually tried to keep Havilland from doing so! As a result, she sued Warner Bros…and won! “Hollywood actors will be forever in Olivia’s debt,” Bette Davis, her friend, and fellow movie star wrote in her autobiography.
Meanwhile, Havilland always felt quite proud of herself for winning, as she should! “I was very proud of that decision, for it corrected a serious abuse of the contract system – forced extension of a contract beyond its legal term,” she said. “Among those who benefited by the decision were the actors who fought in World War II and who, throughout that conflict, were on suspension.” Thanks to the win, Havilland then starred in a variety of non-Warner Bros. hits in the late 40s, including To Each His Own and The Snake Pit.
If you might think that the lawsuit has little to do with the world today, think again! When Havilland passed, actor and singer Jared Leto took to Twitter to thank the actress for her work for entertainers everywhere. According to Leto, his band, Thirty Seconds to Mars, recently used her court case to establish new rules with their record label! And he was far from the only celebrity to speak up in the wake of Havilland’s passing…
After Havilland’s passing, George Hamilton, the iconic film star, who worked with the actress on the 1962 romance film Light in the Piazza, had nothing but nice things to say. “She was an amazing woman. At the beginning, I worked with her on Light in the Piazza in Italy, which was extraordinary,” he said. “She had done so much, had been such a great star, and I was always joking with her, and she was flirting with me.” At one point, they were getting on so well that Hamilton even dreamed of dating Havilland! “I thought, ‘My God, she’s just the most take-charge person,’ yet at the same time, there’s something very demure about her.”
“That was the thing that was so interesting about her, there was a force field around her and this barrier, and she was the only one who could take it down, and when she did, she let you in, and it was amazing,” Hamilton concluded. It sounds like Olivia de Havilland indeed was one of a kind. Rest in peace.