Olivia de Havilland, Star of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Dies at 104

Television

Olivia de Havilland, a double Oscar winner and one of Tinseltown’s last remaining Classical Hollywood cinema stars, died Sunday at her home in Paris of natural causes, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She was 104.

A celebrated actress and formidable leading lady who loomed larger than life in nearly 50 films, de Havilland got her onscreen start as one half of the Errol Flynn/de Havilland dynamic duo in hits such as 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood. A year later, she co-starred in Gone with the Wind, playing the role of Melanie Hamilton Wilkes, Scarlett O’Hara’s sister-in-law, and earned her first Oscar nod. Over the span of her career, de Havilland would win two Academy Awards and garner a total of five nominations. Her two Oscar victories came from leading roles in 1946’s To Each His Own and the 1949 period drama, The Heiress.

De Havilland also worked in theater, appeared on Broadway and enjoyed a handful of television roles including one on the celebrated 1977 miniseries Roots. Later in life, de Havilland would be honored with a National Medal of Arts in 2008 by then President George W. Bush and a Damehood at the tender age of 100 in 2017 from Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen’s promotion made de Havilland the oldest person to ever be bestowed with a Dame Commander distinction.

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Born in Japan to a British father and mother, the latter of whom was also an actress, de Havilland attended high school in Santa Clara County, California, and graduated with honors in 1934. She studied drama at Mills College and attended school on a scholarship. Her younger sister, who later adopted the stage name Joan Fontaine, also became an Oscar-winning actress.

A year into college, Warner Bros. signed de Havilland for a co-starring role in Max Reinhardt’s movie adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the mid-1940s, de Havilland fought a legal battle against Warner Bros., and won, after studio heads sidelined her career over a contract dispute. Her legal triumph, which eradicated studio contracts that exceeded seven years, marked a significant turning point for film actors’ rights.

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