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Olivia de Havilland: Hollywood’s queen of radiant calm | Peter Bradshaw | Film

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Olivia de Havilland established herself for ever in the film world’s collective memory at the age of 22, as the wise, gentle and beautiful Melanie Hamilton in the colossal epic Gone With the Wind. The film appeared in 1939 as war was breaking out in Europe: the mighty theme of old orders being swept away was especially potent. De Havilland was an exemplar of radiant womanly calmness, a polar opposite to the capricious sexiness of Vivien Leigh’s bewitching belle Scarlett O’Hara. The role probably encumbered her with something stately and reserved, which she never entirely lost – though with a hint of mystery and suppressed emotional tumult, on screen and off. Because, however sedate her image, De Havilland was the subject of two of the juiciest scandals of Hollywood’s golden age: her relationship with longtime co-star Errol Flynn, and her lifelong feud with her sister and rival Joan Fontaine.

Olivia de Havilland with Leslie Howard in Gone With the Wind.



Memory moment … de Havilland with Leslie Howard in Gone With the Wind. Photograph: Allstar/MGM

When De Havilland walked on the stage for the 2003 Oscars to present an award – to the crashing accompaniment of the Gone With the Wind score – this snowy-haired grandmotherly figure was greeted with a standing ovation that went on for about four minutes, a tribute to the real old school. But this is complicated. It is not just that De Havilland was one of the very few survivors of the studio system, she personally took action that effectively put an end to it. In 1943, she sued her employer Warner Brothers for adding a suspension period to her contract term for turning down a role, and won the case. Contract servitude for Hollywood stars was over and the new rule of managers, agents and high-rolling independent producers was on the rise. De Havilland had changed the way celebrity was manufactured.

She had herself won best actress Oscars for To Each His Own (1946), a smalltown romance culminating in wartime London, and The Heiress (1949), the Jamesian story of a wealthy, shy young woman who is dazzled by a charmer played by Montgomery Clift. But my favourite De Havilland movie is Robert Siodmak’s cult thriller The Dark Mirror (1946) in which she plays identical twins – with some surprisingly good and rather disturbing visual effects. One twin is a killer and the other is covering up for her, and instead of showing clearly from the outset who is the “good” and who the “bad” twin, De Havilland’s performances are coolly equivalent and it often isn’t clear which of the two we are watching. Siodmak and De Havilland contrive an eerie pair of Dr Jekylls. Audiences, I suspect, would have thrilled to the idea of De Havilland’s split personality, given how her feuding rivalry with Fontaine was starting to receive traction.

Double play ... de Havilland in The Dark Mirror.



Double play … de Havilland in The Dark Mirror. Photograph: Allstar/International Pictures

It was as if Olivia and Joan were two sides of a single Hollywood diva. Where De Havilland brought something rational and controlled to her performances, Fontaine was the fragile, emotional star of movies such as Rebecca and Letter from an Unknown Woman. Fontaine was more quiveringly vulnerable, a real Hitchcockian leading lady; she was more mercurial, more haunted, sexier.

Olivia was the sister whose acting career was favoured by her mother; their parents were grand British expatriates in Japan, whose family was connected to the aircraft manufacturer. But Joan was not allowed to take the family name, and Fontaine was the name of her stepfather.

Neither sister could quite forgive the other for being in the movies. When De Havilland stepped up to receive her Oscar for The Heiress, she appeared to ignore Fontaine’s handshake (itself a cold gesture) in retaliation for being ignored when she had tried to congratulate Joan at the ceremony after Joan won for Suspicion. Even in late middle age, the sisters quarrelled over what kind of hospital care their mother should receive. To the very last, the women were protective and proprietorial about their elderly mother – whose influence was at the heart of their two careers and stormy relationship – and Joan (who died aged 96 in 2013) was irritated beyond endurance by her older sister’s goody-two-shoes image.

Fontaine with her sister, Olivia de Havilland, in 1967.

The sisters pictured together in 1967. Photograph: Ron Galella/WireImage

Flynn was the other key figure. He and Olivia had great chemistry and were paired in eight movies, including The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) (she was a slightly upmarket Maid Marian to his Robin), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936) and Captain Blood (1935). He was perennially the roguish seducer and she was the reserved beauty who despite herself finds this outrageous man attractive. In interviews, Flynn and De Havilland would deny a romance, but confessed to having “crushes” on each other. De Havilland later claimed that Flynn proposed marriage but that she turned him down because he was married to someone else. When De Havilland was interviewed about Errol Flynn on The Dinah Shore Show in the 1970s, this bland, middle-aged lady turned into a blushing schoolgirl, awkwardly twisting her pearls.

Olivia de Havilland discusses Errol Flynn on The Dinah Shore Show

It all fuels the speculation that De Havilland and Flynn were having a passionate affair and deeply in love, but Olivia was held back by qualms about Errol’s drinking and womanising. There has always been something mysterious about the public image of Olivia de Havilland. She is the last queen of the postwar Hollywood era.

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Rewrite "Harry Potter" To Find About Which Combination Of Two Houses You Are

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Are you a Slytherpuff or a Gryffinclaw?


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Pride And Prejudice Cast Then Vs Now

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I love this cast most ardently.

Today is a very important day, y’all. It’s the 15th anniversary of the Pride & Prejudice movie! That’s right, we’ve all been simping over that hand flex scene for a decade and a half now. Isn’t that wild??

Are you curious what the original cast is doing all these years later? Well, I did some good ole ~social media stalking~ so you don’t have to. Here’s what they’re up to:

1.

Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet


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Now: Keira is still, of course, the queen of period pieces and pirate movies. She went on to star in The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Anna Karenina, and Colette.

2.

Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy


Focus Features / Getty Images / Jamie McCarthy / Staff

Now: Matthew went on to star in Anna Karenina with his Pride and Prejudice co-star Keira as well as the TV mini-series Quiz. He currently plays Tom Wambsgans on Succession.

3.

Rosamund Pike as Jane Bennet


Focus Features / Getty Images / Kevork Djansezian / NBC / Contributor

Now: Rosamund went on to play Amy Dunne in Gone Girl and has done a lot of voice acting in children’s shows like Moominvalley and Archibald’s Next Big Thing. She’s currently set to executive produce the Three-Body Problem TV series for Netflix alongside Rian Johnson.

4.

Simon Woods as Mr. Bingley


Focus Features / Getty Images / Dimitrios Kambouris / Staff

Now: Simon did not continue acting for long after Pride and Prejudice. He played Octavian in Rome from 2005 to 2007, but stopped acting a year later. He went on to marry Burberry president and chief creative officer Christopher Bailey in 2012.

5.

Jena Malone as Lydia Bennet


Focus Features / Getty Images / Amanda Edwards / Contributor

Now: You might recognize Jena from her recent roles of Johanna Mason from the Hunger Games movies, Hope Harlingen in Inherent Vice, or Sage Ross in Nocturnal Animals. She was also the singer/songwriter for the band The Shoe, though they haven’t released new music since 2015.

6.

Carey Mulligan as Kitty Bennet


Focus Features / Getty Images / David M. Benett / Contributor

Now: Carey is all grown up now, and still acting. You might recognize her as Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby movie, Jeanette Brinson from Wildlife, and Sunny on the TV show The Walker.

7.

Talulah Riley as Mary Bennet


Focus Features / Getty Images / Mike Marsland / Contributor

Now: Talulah is still acting, and is best known for her ow-four-year run as Angela on Westworld. She also married Tesla CEO Elon Musk in 2010, got divorced, and remarried him again in 2013. The couple got divorced a second and final time in 2016.

8.

Brenda Blethyn as Mrs. Bennet


Focus Features / Getty Images / Kirsty O’Connor – PA Images / Contributor

Now: Brenda is still acting, most notably for her now nine-year run as DCI Vera Stanhope on the TV show Vera. She is currently playing Kate in Kate & Koji.

9.

Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet


Focus Features / Getty Images / NurPhoto / Contributor

Now: Donald has kept very busy since 2005, appering in tons of shows and movies such as in The Hunger Games series as President Snow and Ad Astra as Thomas Pruitt. Most recently, he played Franklin Reinhardt in the TV mini-series The Undoing.

10.

Rupert Friend as Mr. Wickham


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Now: Rupert is an actor, producer, screenwriter, and director, most known for his role of Peter Quinn in Homeland. He also went on to appear in A Simple Favor, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and Strange Angel.

11.

Kelly Reilly as Caroline Bingley


Focus Features / Getty Images / Tommaso Boddi / Stringer

Now: Kelly is still acting, most recently in TV series like True Detective, Black Box, and Britannia. She currently stars in Yellowstone as Beth Dutton.

12.

Tom Hollander as Mr. Collins


Focus Features / Getty Images / SOPA Images / Contributor

Now: Tom went on to appear in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End alongside Keira, as well as independently in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Bird Box. He’s also done quite a bit of voice acting for shows like Family Guy, American Dad!, and Harley Quinn.

13.

Claudie Blakley as Charlotte Lucas


Focus Features / Getty Images / Eamonn M. McCormack / Stringer

Now: Claudie is still acting, having appeared in many TV series over the years such as Grantchester, Manhunt, and, currently, Flesh and Blood. She’s best known for her run as Emma Timmins in BBC’s TV show Lark Rise to Candleford, which she appeared on for four years.

14.

Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh


Focus Features / Getty Images / Jeff Spicer / Stringer

Now: Dame Judi Dench’s filmography since the movie’s release in 2005 is extensive, including everything from action movies like Skyfall, period pieces like Jane Eyre, and musicals like the Cats movie. Most recently, she starred in Six Minutes to Midnight as Miss Rocholl, which is set to come out next year.

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How Well Do You Know Disney Castles?

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Castle me outside, how bow dah’?


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