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Olivia de Havilland Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (4)  | Trade Mark (2)  | Trivia (82)  | Personal Quotes (53)  | Salary (4)

Overview (5)

Born in Tokyo, Japan
Died in Paris, France  (natural causes)
Birth NameOlivia Mary de Havilland
Nickname Livvie
Height 5' 3½" (1.61 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Olivia Mary de Havilland was born July 1, 1916, in Tokyo, Japan, to British parents, Lilian Augusta (Ruse), a former actress, and Walter Augustus de Havilland, an English professor and patent attorney. Her sister, Joan, later to become famous as Joan Fontaine, was born the following year. Her surname comes from her paternal grandfather, whose family was from Guernsey in the Channel Islands. Her parents divorced when Olivia was just three years old, and she moved with her mother and sister to Saratoga, California. After graduating from high school, where she fell prey to the acting bug, Olivia enrolled in Mills College in Oakland. It was while she was at Mills that she participated in the school play "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and was spotted by Max Reinhardt. She so impressed Reinhardt that he picked her up for both his stage version and, later, the Warner Bros. film version in 1935.

She again was so impressive that Warner executives signed her to a seven-year contract. No sooner had the ink dried on the contract than Olivia appeared in three more films: The Irish in Us (1935), Alibi Ike (1935) and Captain Blood (1935), the latter with the man with whom her career would be most closely identified, heartthrob Errol Flynn. He and Olivia starred together in eight films during their careers. In 1939 Warner Bros. loaned her to David O. Selznick for the classic Gone with the Wind (1939). Playing sweet Melanie Hamilton, Olivia received her first nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, only to lose out to one of her co-stars in the film, Hattie McDaniel.

After GWTW, Olivia returned to Warner Bros. and continued to churn out films. In 1941 she played Emmy Brown in Hold Back the Dawn (1941), which resulted in her second Oscar nomination, this time for Best Actress. Again she lost, this time to her sister Joan for her role in Suspicion (1941). After that strong showing, Olivia now demanded better, more substantial roles than the "sweet young thing" slot into which Warners had been fitting her. The studio responded by placing her on a six-month suspension, all of the studios at the time operating under the policy that players were nothing more than property to do with as they saw fit. As if that weren't bad enough, when her contract with Warners was up, she was told that she would have to make up the time lost because of the suspension.

Irate, she sued the studio, and for the length of the court battle she didn't appear in a single film. The result, however, was worth it. In a landmark decision, the court said not only that Olivia did not have to make up the time, but that all performers were to be limited to a seven-year contract that would include any suspensions handed down. This became known as the "de Havilland decision"; no longer could studios treat their performers as chattel. Returning to screen in 1946, Olivia made up for lost time by appearing in four films, one of which finally won her the Oscar that had so long eluded her. It was To Each His Own (1946), in which she played Josephine Norris to the delight of critics and audiences alike. Olivia was the strongest performer in Hollywood for the balance of the 1940s.

In 1948 she turned in another strong showing in The Snake Pit (1948) as Virginia Cunningham, a woman suffering a mental breakdown. The end result was another Oscar nomination for Best Actress, but she lost to Jane Wyman in Johnny Belinda (1948). As in the two previous years, she made only one film in 1949, but she again won a nomination and the Academy Award for Best Actress for The Heiress (1949). After a three-year hiatus, Olivia returned to star in My Cousin Rachel (1952). From that point on, she made few appearances on the screen but was seen on Broadway and in some television shows. Her last screen appearance was in The Fifth Musketeer (1979), and her last career appearance was in the TV movie The Woman He Loved (1988).

Her turbulent relationship with her only sibling, Joan Fontaine, was press fodder for many decades, with the two reported as not speaking and permanently estranged since the death of their mother in 1975, when Joan claimed she had not been invited to the memorial service; which event she claimed she only managed to hold off until she could arrive by threatening to go public. Joan also wrote in her memoir that her elder sister had been physically, psychologically and emotionally abusive when they were young. And the iconic photo of Joan with her hand outstretched to congratulate Olivia backstage after the latter's first Oscar win and Olivia ignoring it because she was peeved by a comment Joan had made about Olivia's new husband, Marcus Goodrich, remained part of Hollywood lore for many years.

Nonetheless, late in life, Fontaine gave an interview in which she serenely denied any and all claims of an estrangement from her sister. When a reporter asked Joan if she and Olivia were friends, she replied, "Of course!" The reporter responded that rumors to the contrary must have been sensationalism and she replied, "Oh, right - they have to. Two nice girls liking each other isn't copy." Asked if she and Olivia were in communication and spoke to each other, Joan replied "Absolutely." When asked if there ever had been a time when the two did not get along to the point where they wouldn't speak with one another, Joan replied, again, "Never. Never. There is not a word of truth about that." When asked why people believe it, she replied "Oh, I have no idea. It's just something to say ... Oh, it's terrible." When asked if she had seen Olivia over the years, she replied, "I've seen her in Paris. And she came to my apartment in New York often." The reporter stated that all this was a nice thing to hear. Joan then stated, "Let me just say, Olivia and I have never had a quarrel. We have never had any dissatisfaction. We have never had hard words. And all this is press." Joan died in 2013.

During the hoopla surrounding the 50th anniversary of GWTW in 1989, Olivia graciously declined requests for all interviews as the last of the four main stars. She enjoyed a quiet retirement in Paris, France, where she resided for many decades, and where she died on 26 July, 2020, at the age of 104.

De Havilland was not only the last surviving major cast member of Gone with the Wind (1939) and one of the longest-lived major stars in Hollywood history, but she was unquestionably the last surviving iconic figure from the peak of Hollywood's golden era during the late 1930s, and her passing truly marked the end of an era.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson/Robert Sieger

Family (4)

Spouse Pierre Galante (2 April 1955 - 30 April 1979)  (divorced)  (1 child)
Marcus Goodrich (26 August 1946 - 28 August 1953)  (divorced)  (1 child)
Children Goodrich, Benjamin
Giselle Galante
Parents Lilian Fontaine
de Havilland, Walter Augustus
Relatives Joan Fontaine (sibling)
Debbie Dozier (niece or nephew)

Trade Mark (2)

Emotionally (and sometimes physically) vulnerable characters
Despite her great beauty, was often cast as plain, everyday women

Trivia (82)

Elder daughter of Walter Augustus de Havilland (1872-1968), a patent attorney in Japan and also the author of the 1910 book "The ABC of Go", which provides a detailed and comprehensive description of the Japanese board game, and his wife, actress Lilian Fontaine. Elder sister of actress Joan Fontaine. Ex-sister-in-law of Collier Young, Brian Aherne and William Dozier. Aunt of Debbie Dozier.
Relations between Olivia and younger sister Joan Fontaine were never strong and worsened in 1941, when both were nominated for Best Actress Oscars. Their mutual dislike and jealousy escalated into an all-out feud after Fontaine won for Suspicion (1941). Despite the fact that de Havilland went on to win two Academy Awards of her own, they remained permanently estranged.
After her divorce in 1979 from second husband Pierre Galante, they remained close friends; after he became ill with cancer, she nursed him until his death in 1998.
As of December 15 2014, the 75th anniversary of the premiere of Gone with the Wind (1939), she is the only surviving major cast member. She has been the only survivor of the four principal leads since 1967. The only other surviving cast member who received screen credit is Mickey Kuhn.
Justly famous for her court victory against Warner Brothers in the mid-1940s (many others had sued Warners but failed), which stopped Jack L. Warner from adding suspension periods to actors' contracts and therefore meant more freedom for actors in Hollywood. It became known as the "de Havilland decision".
Showed flair as a writer when "Every Frenchman Has One," a lighthearted autobiographical account of her attempts at adapting to French life, was published in 1962.
At the age of 82, was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Hertfordshire, England.
De Havilland's son, Benjamin Briggs Goodrich, a statistical analyst, died at his mother's Paris home in 1991, aged 42, after a long battle with Hodgkin's disease. He had first been diagnosed with the disease when he was 19 years old.
In 1965 she became the first female president of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival.
Turned down the role of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), reportedly saying that "a lady just doesn't say or do those things on the screen". De Havilland set the record straight in a 2006 interview, saying that she had recently given birth to her son when offered the part and was simply unable to relate to the character.
Is descended from the Haverlands of Normandy, one of whom (the Lord of Haverland) accompanied William the Conquerer in his invasion of England in 1066.
It was reported in October 2001 that she was among 40 prominent French residents who were victims of hoax anthrax attacks (the attacks were proven to be hoaxes after a woman was arrested in Paris for sending out envelopes containing a powdery substance).
A full-time resident of Paris, France, since the mid-1950s, Olivia resided at her home on Rue Benouville. She used to read the Scriptures at the American Cathedral, Paris, at Christmas and Easter until around 2012.
Fifteen years after her previous appearance as a presenter at an Academy Awards ceremony, she made a special appearance onstage at the The 75th Annual Academy Awards (2003) and received a standing ovation. It was to be her final ever appearance at the Oscars.
She holds the record for the most people thanked in an Oscar acceptance speech (27), which she set when she accepted the award for Best Actress for To Each His Own (1946).
Is a 15th cousin twice removed of Errol Flynn, her co-star in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938).
She and Joan Fontaine are the first sisters to win Oscars and the first ones to be Oscar-nominated in the same year.
She and Errol Flynn acted together in eight movies: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Captain Blood (1935), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), Dodge City (1939), Four's a Crowd (1938), The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), Santa Fe Trail (1940), and They Died with Their Boots On (1941) Both are also featured in a ninth film, Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943), although in separate scenes.
Confessed in later years that she had an intense crush on Errol Flynn during the years of their filming, saying that it was hard to resist his charms.
Her mother named her Olivia after William Shakespeare's romantic heroine in "Twelfth Night".
The role of Lisolette Mueller in The Towering Inferno (1974) was originally offered to her. It was eventually played by Jennifer Jones.
Was somewhat overweight when she first came to Paramount; Edith Head designed costumes for her with a slimming effect.
She has a street named after her in Mexico City. Renowned Mexican actor and director Emilio Fernández lived in Coyoacan Town on a street with no name at all, so he asked the authorities to name this street "Dulce Olivia," Spanish for "Sweet Olivia," after her.
When she was nine years old she made a will in which she stated, "I bequeath all my beauty to my younger sister Joan [Joan Fontaine], since she has none".
Was romantically involved with James Stewart, Howard Hughes, John Huston in the late 1930s.
In the 1950s the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum near Tucson, AZ, named one of their female javelinas "Olivia de Javelina" in her honor; Their male was named "Gregory Peckory" to honor actor Gregory Peck.
Is mentioned in Helge Schneider's book "Die Memoiren des Rodriguez Faszanatas".
In April 1946 she set off a power struggle within the Hollywood Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions (HICCASP) by refusing to deliver two speeches in Seattle as written by her fellow executive council member Dalton Trumbo, later one of the blacklisted Hollywood Ten. She felt Trumbo's text was too left-wing and worried that the organization was becoming "automatically pro-Russian".
In Italy almost all of her films were dubbed by either Dhia Cristiani or Lydia Simoneschi. For the Italian releases of two of her most celebrated and fondly remembered roles, Melanie Hamilton in Gone with the Wind (1939) and Maid Marian in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), she was dubbed, respectively, by Renata Marini and Dina Perbellini. This was the only time that either Italian actresses lent her voice to Olivia.
Attended the funeral of Charlton Heston in April, 2008.
Was the surprise guest honoring the late Bette Davis, her long-time friend and fellow actress, at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Los Angeles on May 1, 2008. The event, "A Centennial Tribute to Bette Davis", was hosted by film historian Robert Osborne. Its reception included Davis' son (Michael Merrill), Davis's long-time personal assistant, Kathryn Sermak, and friends including Gena Rowlands and Joan Leslie.
Olivia accepted two film roles turned down by Ginger Rogers: To Each His Own (1946) and The Snake Pit (1948). She won an Oscar for To Each His Own (1946) and was nominated for The Snake Pit (1948). Rogers later regretted turning down the roles and wrote: "It seemed Olivia knew a good thing when she saw it. Perhaps Olivia should thank me for such poor judgment".
Her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is at 6764 Hollywood Blvd.
Received the Medal of Arts honor from President George W. Bush at a White House ceremony in the East Room on November 17, 2008, "for her persuasive and compelling skill as an actress in roles from Shakespeare's Hermia to Margaret Mitchell's Melanie. Her independence, integrity, and grace won creative freedom for herself and her fellow film actors.".
One of her cousins, Capt. Sir Geoffrey de Havilland (1882-1965), was a British aviation pioneer, aircraft designer and owner of the de Havilland Aircraft Co. Its wooden bomber Mosquito has been considered the most versatile warplane ever built. The ill-fated de Havilland Comet was the first commercial jet airliner in 1952.
Was offered the role of Mary Hatch Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life (1946) after Jean Arthur turned it down, but she also turned it down, as did such other actresses as Ann Dvorak and Ginger Rogers. Donna Reed was finally cast in the role.
Despite a reportedly turbulent relationship, Olivia and her sister Joan Fontaine celebrated Christmas 1962 together along with their then-husbands and children.
Gave birth to her first child at age 33, son Benjamin Goodrich, on September 27, 1949. The child's father was her first husband, Marcus Goodrich; they divorced in 1953, and he died in 1991.
Gave birth to her second child at age 40, daughter Giselle Galante, on July 18, 1956. The child's father was her second husband, Pierre Galante; they divorced in 1979, and he died in 1998.
Was both a staunch liberal Democrat and, during the Cold War, an anti-Communist.
Visited New York in the spring of 2004 to film a special commentary programme for the upcoming DVD of Gone with the Wind (1939), to be released in November that year.
[July 2006] Celebrated her 90th birthday at her daughter's home in Malibu.
Was considered for the title role in Mildred Pierce (1945).
Was the 28th actress to receive an Academy Award; she won the Best Actress Oscar for To Each His Own (1946) at The 19th Academy Awards on March 13, 1947.
As of de Havilland's 103 birthday (July 1, 2019), she is the earliest surviving recipient of a Best Actress Oscar nomination. She was nominated in 1942 for Hold Back the Dawn (1941).
In celebration of her 100th birthday, she was honored as Turner Classic Movies Star of the Month for July 2016.
She is only the third Oscar-winning actor to celebrate a 100th birthday. The others are George Burns, who died less than two months after passing the 100-year mark in 1996, and Luise Rainer, who lived to be 104.
Has put her longevity down to the three L's: "Love, laughter and learning".
[May 1999] Revealed in a UK press interview that she was a great admirer of the then 98-year-old Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (whom she had earlier portrayed in the TV film The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana (1982)), stating that she hoped "to follow her example and live many years longer".
Is one of 12 actresses to have won a Best Actress Oscar for playing a character who is pregnant at some point during the film, hers being for To Each His Own (1946). The others are Helen Hayes for The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931), Luise Rainer for The Good Earth (1937), Vivien Leigh for Gone with the Wind (1939), Ginger Rogers for Kitty Foyle (1940), Jane Wyman for Johnny Belinda (1948), Anna Magnani for The Rose Tattoo (1955), Julie Christie for Darling (1965), Liza Minnelli for Cabaret (1972), Sissy Spacek for Coal Miner's Daughter (1980), and Frances McDormand for Fargo (1996).
Holds two world records for the actor/actress surviving the longest after the production of one film and the release of another, both of which she had a starring role. She survived over 85 years, after her starring role in the film, A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), wrapped production. Her next movie, Alibi Ike (1935), was released before her first, giving her another world record for the longest length of time any actor has survived after the initial release of a film they starred in.
In June 2017, not long before her 101st birthday, de Havilland sued the creators and producers, companies FX and Ryan Murphy Productions, of the series Feud (2017) due to what she felt was an unauthorized and inaccurate portrayal of her in the show's first season (in which she was portrayed by Catherine Zeta-Jones). A statement from her lawyers read: "Miss de Havilland was not asked by FX for permission to use her name and identity and was not compensated for such use." "Further, the FX series puts words in the mouth of Miss de Havilland which are inaccurate and contrary to the reputation she has built over an 80-year professional life, specifically refusing to engage in gossip mongering about other actors in order to generate media attention for herself".
Two weeks before her 101st birthday, she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2017 Birthday Honours by Queen Elizabeth II for services to Drama. She is the oldest woman ever to receive the honor. In a statement, she called it "the most gratifying of birthday presents.".
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were cast in Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) by Robert Aldrich in the hopes of repeating the success of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Davis got a producer's credit and conspired to make things difficult for Crawford, who eventually pretended to be too ill to work, causing production to be delayed resulting in her being dropped and replaced by de Havilland. Crawford reportedly only learned the news on the radio after it had been leaked to the press.
Starred in eight Oscar Best Picture nominees: A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), Captain Blood (1935), Anthony Adverse (1936), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Gone with the Wind (1939), Hold Back the Dawn (1941), The Snake Pit (1948) and The Heiress (1949). Gone with the Wind is the only winner.
Olivia de Havilland's Best Actress Oscar nomination and win for To Each His Own (1946) is the only time she was nominated for her performance in a film which was not nominated for Best Picture.
Her home on Nella Vista Ave. in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles is shown in Hollywood Mouth 3 (2018). De Havilland was living here at the time Gone with the Wind (1939) was filmed.
Turned down the role of The Duchess of Richmond in Waterloo (1970) which then went to Virginia Mckenna.
Returned to work fourteen months after giving birth to her daughter Gisele to begin filming The Proud Rebel (1958).
Was two months pregnant with her daughter Gisele when she completed filming The Ambassador's Daughter (1956).
[October 2015] Interviewed on camera by director Mark Cerulli for his documentary short 100 Years of Technicolor (2015), although her footage was not used in the final 6 minute film.
She has appeared in three films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Gone with the Wind (1939) and The Heiress (1949).
Olivia and Joan were brought up strictly by their mother, Lilian, with whom they lived. They had to ask for permission to go out in the evening and report back when they returned. Any young man who wished to date either of the sisters was first invited to tea to be vetted.
She was very eager to play the part of Melanie in Gone with the Wind (1939) but Jack L. Warner, with whom she was under contract, refused to loan her out fearing that she would then become dissatisfied with her lot at Warners. It was only the persuasion of his wife that he let her go but he was right when she found she got much better treatment away from Warners.
December 15, 2019 saw her become the first ever main cast member of a Best Picture Oscar winning film (Gone with the Wind (1939)) to live to see its 80th anniversary.
Has frequently cited Mitchell Leisen as her favorite director to work with.
Following the death of film editor Elmo Williams in November 2015, de Havilland became the oldest living Oscar winner. She held this distinction for four years and 8 months until she passed away 25 days after her 104th birthday. This makes her the second longest lived winner of a competitive Academy Award behind Luise Rainer, who died at the end of 2014, two weeks shy of her 105th birthday.
In 1958, she was secretly called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and recounted her experiences with the Independent Citizens' Committee.
In November 1998 she was made an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Hertfordshire.
Mother-in-law of Andrew Chulack.
Prior to her death, de Havilland was largely considered to be the last surviving major cultural celebrity of the 1930s, and certainly the last who had been an adult at that time (Jane Withers, a popular child star of the mid-late 30s, survived her by just over a year).
James Cagney has said that she was his favorite leading lady. They appeared together in The Irish in Us (1935), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), and made a most memorable romantic pairing in The Strawberry Blonde (1941).
On August 23, 2020, she was honored with a day of her filmography during the Turner Classic Movies Summer Under The Stars.
Upon her death, she was cremated and her ashes scattered; she had requested that her funeral be a private one and open to her family only.
In France, de Havilland's voice was dubbed by Renée Simonot in most of her films.
Owned a pet pug dog named Oscar during the last few years of her life. He was inherited by her daughter Gisèle.
A private photograph of a white-haired de Havilland riding a tricycle was officially published to mark her 103rd birthday in 2019. The photo, which was snapped in California around the time of her 90th birthday in 2006, was later republished by several different sources who mistakenly claimed she was 103 at the time it was taken.
In August of 1939, the young Miss de Havilland was 23 and only then applied for her United States citizenship, even though she had been living in the US since she was 2 years old.
She had confusing beginnings being born in Japan of British parents then settled in California.
Won two Oscars for The Heiress and To Each His Own and was nominated for three including Gone With the Wind.

Personal Quotes (53)

Famous people feel that they must perpetually be on the crest of the wave, not realizing that it is against all the rules of life. You can't be on top all the time; it isn't natural.
[on Hollywood's reaction to her landmark court victory against Warner Bros.] I was told I would never work again, if I lost or won. When I won, they were impressed and didn't bear a grudge.
The one thing that you simply have to remember all the time that you are there is that Hollywood is an Oriental city. As long as you do that, you might survive. If you try to equate it with anything else, you'll perish.
The TV business is soul-crushing, talent-destroying and human being-destroying. These men in their black towers don't know what they are doing. It's slave labor. There is no elegance left in anybody. They have no taste. Movies are being financed by conglomerates, which take a write-off if they don't work. The only people who fight for what the public deserves are artists.
We were like a stock company at Warners. We didn't know any of the stars from the other studios.
[after winning her second Oscar in 1950] When I won the first award in 1947, I was terribly thrilled. But this time I felt solemn, very serious and . . . shocked. Yes, shocked! It's a great responsibility to win the award twice.
Playing good girls in the '30s was difficult, when the fad was to play bad girls. Actually I think playing bad girls is a bore; I have always had more luck with good girl roles because they require more from an actress.
[speaking in 1997] I have taken a long vacation, but I wouldn't object to a fascinating part in a first-rate project, something I felt I could do well or would understand and interpret in an effective way. Then I would say, "Yes". The offers still come, but not what I'm looking for.
[on the continuing appeal of Gone with the Wind (1939)] It will go on forever, and how thrilling that is. It has this universal life, this continuing life. Every nation has experienced war--and defeat and renaissance. So all people can identify with the characters. Not only that, it's terribly well constructed. Something happens every three minutes, and it keeps you on your toes and the edge of your seat, which is quite a feat, I must say.
[in 2004] There certainly is such a thing as screen chemistry, although I don't believe you find it frequently. There was a definite on-screen chemistry between Errol [Errol Flynn] and me. Before us, the most potent example was Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell in the '20s and '30s. People should not be surprised by screen chemistry because, after all, life is chemistry.
[in 2003] I know this is not a popular thing to say at the moment, but I love living among the French. They are very independent, intelligent, well educated and creative. They are a people full of feeling, which they express. They're a vivacious people. Well, they're Celts, you see.
[on Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)]: It was full of traps; it was a delicate tightrope assignment. I found that very interesting. Robert Aldrich gave it a very special style, a kind of dark, glittering style which fascinated me.
[in 2006, asked if she missed acting] Not at all. Life is too full of events of great importance. That is more absorbing and enriching than a fantasy life. I don't need a fantasy life as once I did. That is the life of the imagination that I had a great need for. Films were the perfect means for satisfying that need.
[in June 2006] I'll be 90 on July 1. I can't wait to be 90! Another victory!
The overwhelming majority of people who make up the liberal and progressive groups of this country believe in democracy, and NOT in communism. We believe that the two cannot be reconciled here in the United States, and we believe that every effort should be exerted to make democracy work, and to extend its benefits to every person in every community throughout the land.
[on Errol Flynn] I had a very big crush on Errol Flynn during [Captain Blood (1935)]. I thought he was absolutely smashing for three solid years, but he never guessed. Then he had one on me but nothing came of it. I'm not going to regret that; it could have ruined my life.
[on Michael Curtiz] He was a tyrant, he was abusive, he was cruel. Oh, he was just a villain but I guess he was pretty good. We didn't believe it then, but he clearly was. He knew what he was doing. He knew how to tell a story very clearly and he knew how to keep things going.
[on Bette Davis] The great lesson I learned from Bette was her absolute dedication to getting everything just right. She used to spend hours studying the character she was going to play, then hours in make-up ensuring that her physical appearance was right for the part. I have always tried to put the same amount of work into everything I've done.
[on Clark Gable] Clark Gable was highly professional. He was a bigger star than we can create today. I was just a mini-star when we did Gone with the Wind (1939). I was afraid to talk to him. People can't understand it now, but we were in awe. Clark Gable didn't open supermarkets.
[Clark Gable] was supposed to cry in the scene after the death of his daughter. It worried him for days before he was to do the scene. He never cried on the screen before, and it became an obsession with him. He didn't think it was masculine for a man to cry. One day he confided in me, "Olivia, I can't do it. I'm just going to have to quit." I talked with him and convinced him that the tears denoted strength of character, not weakness. It turned out to be one of the most memorable scenes in the movie. Clark always underrated himself as an actor. I think his Rhett Butler will live forever as one of the screen's classic performances.
I felt Gone with the Wind (1939) would last five years, and it's lasted over 70, and into a new millennium. There is a special place in my heart for that film and Melanie. She was a remarkable character--a loving person, and because of that she was a happy person. And Scarlett, of course, was not.
[on Bette Davis] I always thought it would be fun if we could work together. Then I was offered the chance to work with her on the film that became Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) when Joan Crawford withdrew. I knew Bette wanted badly to work, and Jane [What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)] had been such a success that Bette was quite anxious. They had to find the replacement, and Bette wanted me.
[on Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)] [Bette Davis] wanted it so much, so I did it. I can't say I regretted it, because working with her was special, but I can't say it was a picture I am proud to put on my resume. Given the choice, I wouldn't have deprived Joan Crawford of the honor!
[on Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)] The problem was I wasn't as anxious to work as she was. I didn't need to. I wasn't thrilled with the script, and I definitely didn't like my part. I was reverse-typecast, being asked to be an unsympathetic villain. It wasn't what people expected of me. It wasn't really what I wanted to do.
[her favorite word] I am attracted by almost any French word--written or spoken. Before I knew its meaning, I thought "saucisson" so exquisite that it seemed the perfect name to give a child--until I learned it meant "sausage"!
[Her dedication to Mickey Rooney upon his death, 2014] Mickey, Mickey, Mickey. They say you have died but I find this so hard to believe, for you are so live in my memory. There you are in the big room of the Chamber of Commerce Building on Sunset Boulevard in the summer of 1934, a little boy passing easily as a nine-year-old, when you are really 13. You hand me your work copy of A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), climb onto the banquette beside me, place your head upon my lap and ask me to awaken you nine lines before your cue . . . What a memory you have left with me to keep.
I loved France, although I initially thought they were stubborn for always speaking French. When I went to Paris, Hollywood was collapsing because of television. A whole civilization was dying, and you cannot imagine how depressed we all were. That was the real Gone with the Wind (1939) saga. We didn't know what the new world was going to be, but we were sure it wasn't going to be as good. We were right.
[1979, on the autobiography of Joan Fontaine] My book will have nothing to do with my sister's. I have not read it, but I think I have become a monomania with her. It is painful to think that her own life is incomplete to such a degree that it's still so keyed to me.
[1999, on her role in Gone with the Wind (1939)] It's ironic, isn't it? Melanie dies . . . and I didn't die. I haven't, and I don't intend to.
[1977, on filming Gone with the Wind (1939)] Vivien Leigh and I were very upset when they fired George Cukor as the director. He was a gentleman and he knew how to direct women. His replacement was Victor Fleming, who was a hunting buddy of Clark Gable's. Clark didn't like George Cukor...You know, Vivien was a bitch. All you heard is true. But understandably. She had to be. She had to fight back. They were killing her. She was in every scene of a movie that was heralded as amazing even as it was being filmed. They used her terribly. She worked endlessly. She and I stuck together. We were the women against all the men, but we seldom won. The hours and the working conditions were terrible, but what a joy. Looking back, it was the supreme joy.
[1999, on Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother] I want to follow her example and live many years longer. I consider every birthday a victory.
To write is divine. Forget all the rest.
[in 1977] I think the lack of women's roles is due to the fact that everyone, men and women, have some idea of creating a 'new' kind of 'modern' woman. They aren't interested in the fantasy of women anymore. Personally, I think women ruled from the first, and that we were better off not to let the men know about it. Movies should return to mystiques.
[1977, after living in Paris for 24 years] When I lived here [Hollywood] we were so impassioned with the movie business, and that's all we would talk about, and we would talk about finding a different world. I decided it wasn't enough to complain and feel restless. Now I have several sets of friends, and when I am in Paris, we never discuss movies; I don't have to think about work. I can think about other things. It's very rewarding to divide your life that way; it's gorgeous.
[2015, anticipating her hundredth birthday] Oh, I can't wait for it. I'm certainly relishing the idea of living a century. Can you imagine that? What an achievement.
[on Dodge City (1939)] I was in such a depressed state that I could hardly remember my lines.
[on being typecast] I wanted to do complex roles, like Melanie [Gone with the Wind (1939)] for example, and Jack L. Warner saw me as an ingénue. I was really restless to portray more developed human beings. Jack never understood this, and he would give me roles that really had no character or quality in them. I knew I wouldn't even be effective.
[on Errol Flynn] He never guessed I had a crush on him; it never occurred to me that he was smitten with me, too. I was deeply affected by him. It was impossible for me not to be.
[on preparing for her role in The Snake Pit (1948)] I met a young woman who was very much like Virginia, about the same age and physical description, as well as being a schizophrenic with guilt problems. What struck me most of all was the fact that she was rather likable and appealing. It hadn't occurred to me before that a mental patient could be appealing, and it was that that gave me the key to the performance.
[on Howard Hughes] He was a rather shy man and yet, in a whole community where the men every day played heroes on the screen and didn't do anything heroic in life, here was this man who was a real hero.
[on her Gone with the Wind (1939) character] Melanie was someone different. She had very, deeply feminine qualities that I felt were very endangered at that time, and they are from generation to generation, and that somehow they should be kept alive, and that's why I wanted to interpret her role. The main thing is that she was always thinking of the other person, and the interesting thing to me is that she was a happy person - loving, compassionate.
[on John Huston] John was a very great love of mine. He was a man I wanted to marry.
[on working with Errol Flynn on their eighth and final movie together, They Died with Their Boots On (1941)] Errol was quite sensitive. I think he knew it would be the last time we worked together.
[on her damehood] I am extremely honoured that the Queen has appointed me a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. To receive this honour as my 101st birthday approaches is the most gratifying of birthday presents.
[on her lawsuit regarding her portrayal in Feud (2017)] The creators of 'Feud' used my identity without my consent and put false words in my mouth, including having me publicly calling my sister, Joan Fontaine, a "bitch". The show was designed to make it look as if I said these things and acted this way. I feel strongly about it because when one person's rights can be trampled on this way, the rights of others who are more vulnerable can be abused as well. I have spent a good portion of my life defending the film industry. However, studios, which choose to chronicle the lives of real people, have a legal and moral responsibility to do so with integrity. They have a duty not to steal the value of an actor's identity for profit. I am fortunate to be able to be the standard bearer for other celebrities, who may not be in a position to speak out for themselves under similar circumstances.
[on starring with Montgomery Clift in The Heiress (1949)] I had a sense that Monty was thinking almost entirely of himself and leaving me out. It was difficult for me to adapt to playing that way. But my having to adapt to him, and not his adapting to me, was really part of my character, so in the end it worked. But there was something ... well, something in Monty that just stood apart from the proceedings.
[on becoming famous at age 19] It was an extraordinary transformation. You lose your anonymity, which is a terribly precious thing, and you go through a great deal of identity confusion.
[1994, reflecting on her 1940s court victory over Warner Brothers] 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. Among those who benefited by the decision were the actors who fought in World War II and who, throughout that conflict, were on suspension.
I never met Bette Davis. I *encountered* her!
[on turning down the role of Mary Hatch Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life (1946)] It would be awkward to work with James Stewart because of our many months together in a sort of high school pre-war romance, which came to an end.
[speaking in 2005] lf I must leave this life, I would like to do so ensconced on a chaise longue, perfumed, wearing a velvet robe and pearl earrings, with a flute of champagne beside me and having just discovered the answer to the last problem in a British crossword.
[speaking in 2009] I feel not happy, not contented, but something else. Just grateful for having lived and having done so many things that I wanted to do and have also had so much meaning for other people.
[on Gone with the Wind (1939), 1987] Ashley knew that the war between the north and the south might break out and feared that the south would lose. Leslie Howard, as an Englishman, feared that war might break out between England and Germany, and England might lose. And indeed we were still doing retakes when the war did break out.

Salary (4)

Raffles (1939) $1,250 /week
Gone with the Wind (1939) $25,000
Lady in a Cage (1964) $300,000
Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) $100,000

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