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Olivia de Havilland

Best known for her role in The Adventures of Robin Hood, Gone With The Wind and and her Academy Award winning role in The Heiress.

Olivia de Havilland

Filmography

1935
Alibi Ike
The Irish in Us
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Captain Blood

 

1936
Anthony Adverse
The Charge of the Light Brigade

 

1937
Call It a Day
The Great Garrick
It’s Love I’m After

 

1938
Gold Is Where You Find It
The Adventures of Robin Hood
Four’s a Crowd
Hard to Get

 

1939
Wings of the Navy
Dodge City
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex
Gone with the Wind
Raffles

 

1940
My Love Came Back
Santa Fe Trail

 

1941
The Strawberry Blonde
Hold Back the Dawn
They Died with Their Boots On

 

1942
The Male Animal
In This Our Life

 

1943
Thank Your Lucky Stars
Princess O’Rourke

 

1944
Government Girl

 

1946
To Each His Own
Devotion
The Well-Groomed Bride
The Dark Mirror

 

1948
The Snake Pit

 

1949
The Heiress

 

1952
My Cousin Rachel

 

1955
That Lady
Not as a Stranger

 

1956
The Ambassador’s Daughter

 

1958
The Proud Rebel

 

1959
Libel

 

1962
Light in the Piazza

 

1964
Lady in a Cage
Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte

 

1970
The Adventurers

 

1972
Pope Joan

 

1977
Airport ’77

 

1978
The Swarm

 

1979
The Fifth Musketeer

 

2009
I Remember Better When I Paint

Awards

Olivia de Havilland was nominated for four Best Actress in a Leading Role Academy Awards and won two:

Hold Back the Dawn (1941), To Each His Own (1946) WON, The Snake Pit (1948), The Heiress (1949) WON

She was also nominated for one Best Actress in a Supporting Role Academy Award for Gone with the Wind (1939)

I would prefer to live forever in perfect health, but if I must at some time 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 cryptic crossword. ~ Olivia de Havilland  

Born in Tokyo to British parents, Olivia Mary de Havilland and her younger sister Joan moved with their mother to California in 1919.  

Olivia was raised to appreciate the arts, beginning with ballet lessons at the age of four, and piano lessons a year later. She learned to read before she was six, and her mother, who occasionally taught drama, music, and elocution, had her reciting passages from Shakespeare to strengthen her diction. During this period, her younger sister Joan first started calling her “Livvie”, a nickname that would last throughout her life. De Havilland entered Saratoga Grammar School in 1922 and did well in her studies. She enjoyed reading, writing poetry, and drawing, and once represented her grammar school in a county spelling bee, coming in second place. In 1923, Lilian had a new Tudor-style house built, where the family resided until the early 1930s. In April 1925, after her divorce was finalized, Lilian married George Milan Fontaine, a department store manager for O. A. Hale & Co. in San Jose. Fontaine was a good provider and respectable businessman, but his strict parenting style generated animosity and later rebellion in both of his new stepdaughters.

De Havilland continued her education at Los Gatos High School, near her home in Saratoga. There, she excelled in oratory and field hockey and participated in school plays and the school drama club, eventually becoming the club’s secretary. With plans of becoming a schoolteacher of English and speech, she also attended Notre Dame Convent in Belmont.

In 1933, de Havilland made her debut in amateur theatre in Alice in Wonderland, a production of the Saratoga Community Players based on the novel by Lewis Carroll.

After graduating from high school in 1934, de Havilland was offered a scholarship to Mills College in Oakland to pursue her chosen career as an English teacher. She was also offered the role of Puck in the Saratoga Community Theater production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That summer, Austrian director Max Reinhardt came to California for a major new production of the same play to premiere at the Hollywood Bowl. After one of Reinhardt’s assistants saw her perform in Saratoga, he offered her the second understudy position for the role of Hermia. One week before the premiere, the understudy Jean Rouverol and lead actress Gloria Stuart both left the project, leaving 18-year-old de Havilland to play Hermia. Impressed with her performance, Reinhardt offered her the part in the four-week autumn tour that followed. During that tour, Reinhardt received word that he would direct the Warner Bros. film version of his stage production, and he offered her the film role of Hermia. With her mind still set on becoming a teacher, de Havilland initially wavered, but eventually Reinhardt and executive producer Henry Blanke persuaded her to sign a five-year contract with Warner Bros. on November 12, 1934, with a starting salary of $200 a week.

Olivia de Havilland and Dick Powell in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Olivia de Havilland and Dick Powell in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

De Havilland made her screen debut in Reinhardt’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was filmed at Warner Bros. studios from December 19, 1934 to March 9, 1935. During the production, de Havilland picked up film acting techniques from the film’s co-director William Dieterle, and camera techniques from cinematographer Hal Mohr, who was impressed with her questions about his work. By the end of filming, she had learned the effect of lighting and camera angles on how she appeared on screen and how to find her best lighting. Following premieres in New York and Beverly Hills, the film was released on October 30, 1935. Despite the publicity campaign, the film generated little enthusiasm with audiences.

Two minor comedies followed, Alibi Ike with Joe E. Brown and The Irish in Us with James Cagney. In both films, she played the sweet and charming love interest‍—‌a role into which she would later become typecast. After the experience of being a Reinhardt player, de Havilland felt disappointed being assigned these routine heroine roles.

Although Warner Brothers studio had assumed that the many costumed films that studios like MGM had earlier produced would never succeed during the years of the Great Depression, they nonetheless took a chance by producing Captain Blood in 1935. The film is a swashbuckler action drama based on the popular novel by Rafael Sabatini and directed by Michael Curtiz. It would star a then unknown extra, Errol Flynn, alongside the little-known de Havilland. According to film historian Tony Thomas, both actors had “classic good looks, cultured speaking voices, and a sense of distant aristocracy about them”. Filmed between August 5 and October 29, 1935, Captain Blood gave de Havilland the opportunity to appear in her first costumed historical romance and adventure epic, a genre to which she was well suited, given her beauty and elegance. Captain Blood was released on December 28, 1935 and received good reviews and wide public appeal. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

In 1936, de Havilland appeared in Mervyn LeRoy’s historical period drama Anthony Adverse with Fredric March. Based on the popular novel by Hervey Allen, the film follows the adventures of an orphan raised by a Scottish merchant, whose pursuit of fortune separates him from the innocent peasant girl he loves, marries, and eventually loses. De Havilland played a peasant girl, Angela, who after being separated from her slave-trader husband, becomes opera star Mademoiselle Georges, the mistress of Napoleon. The film earned six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. It garnered de Havilland good exposure and the opportunity to portray a character as she develops over time.

During the film’s production, de Havilland renegotiated her contract with Warner Bros. and signed a seven-year contract on April 14, 1936, with a starting weekly salary of five hundred dollars (equivalent to $8,800 in 2017).

In 1937, de Havilland had her first top billing in Archie Mayo’s comedy Call It a Day, about a middle-class English family struggling with the romantic effects of spring fever during the course of a single day. De Havilland played daughter Catherine Hilton, who falls in love with the handsome artist hired to paint her portrait. The film did not do well at the box office and did little to advance her career. She fared better in Mayo’s screwball comedy It’s Love I’m After with Leslie Howard and Bette Davis. The film received good reviews.

That same year, de Havilland made two more period films, beginning with The Great Garrick, a fictional romantic comedy about the 18th-century English actor’s encounter with jealous players from the Comédie-Française who plot to embarrass him on his way to Paris.

Her final film that year was Michael Curtiz’s romantic drama Gold Is Where You Find It, a film about the late 19th-century conflict in the Sacramento Valley between gold miners and their hydraulic equipment and farmers whose land is being flooded. De Havilland played the daughter of a farmer, Serena Ferris, who falls in love with the mining engineer responsible for the flooding. The film was released in February 1938 and was her first appearance in three-strip Technicolor.

In September 1937, de Havilland was selected by Warner Bros. studio head Jack L. Warner to play Maid Marian opposite Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). The Technicolor production was filmed on location between September 26, 1937, and January 14, 1938, at Bidwell Park, Busch Gardens, and Lake Sherwood in California. Directed by William Keighley and Michael Curtiz, the film is about the legendary Robin Hood, a Saxon knight who opposes the corrupt and brutal Prince John and his Norman lords while good King Richard is away fighting in the Third Crusade. The king’s ward, Maid Marian, initially opposes Robin, but later supports him after learning his true intentions of helping his oppressed people.

The Adventures of Robin Hood was released on May 14, 1938, and was an immediate critical and commercial success, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. It went on to become one of the most popular adventure films of the Classical Hollywood era.

Some film scholars consider 1939 to be the high point of the golden age of Classical Hollywood, producing classics in many genres, including the Western. Warner Bros. produced Michael Curtiz’s sprawling Technicolor adventure Dodge City, Flynn and de Havilland’s first Western film. Set during the American Civil War, the film is about a Texas trailblazer who witnesses the brutal lawlessness of Dodge City, Kansas, and becomes sheriff to clean up the town. De Havilland played Abbie Irving, whose initial hostility towards Flynn’s character Wade Hatton is transformed by events, and the two fall in love‍—‌by now a proven formula for their on-screen relationships. Curtiz’s action sequences, Sol Polito’s cinematography, Max Steiner’s expansive film score, and perhaps the “definitive saloon brawl in movie history” all contributed to the film’s success. Variety described the film as “a lusty western, packed with action”. For de Havilland, playing yet one more supporting love interest in a limited role, Dodge City represented the emotional low point of her career to that point.

Olivia de Havilland and Hattie McDaniel, featured here in a scene still from "Gone with the Wind," were both nominated in the Supporting Actress category at the 12th Academy Awards®.  McDaniel won the Oscar® for her role as Mammy in the 1939 film.

Olivia de Havilland and Hattie McDaniel, featured here in a scene still from “Gone with the Wind,” were both nominated in the Supporting Actress category at the 12th Academy Awards®. McDaniel won the Oscar® for her role as Mammy in the 1939 film.

In a letter to a colleague dated November 18, 1938, film producer David O. Selznick wrote, “I would give anything if we had Olivia de Havilland under contract to us so that we could cast her as Melanie.” The film he was preparing to shoot was Gone with the Wind, and Jack L. Warner was unwilling to lend her out for the project. De Havilland had read the novel, and unlike most other actresses, who wanted the Scarlett O’Hara role, she wanted to play Melanie Hamilton‍—‌a character whose quiet dignity and inner strength she understood and felt she could bring to life on the screen.

De Havilland turned to Warner’s wife Anne for help. Warner relented, and de Havilland was signed to the project a few weeks before the start of principal photography on January 26, 1939.

Gone with the Wind had its world premiere in Atlanta, Georgia, on December 15, 1939, and was well received. The film won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and de Havilland received her first nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Within days of completing her work in Gone with the Wind in June 1939, de Havilland returned to Warner Bros. and began filming Michael Curtiz’s historical drama The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex with Bette Davis and Errol Flynn. She had hoped her work on Selznick’s prestige picture would lead to first-rate roles at Warner Bros., but instead she received third billing below the title as the queen’s lady-in-waiting. In early September, she was lent out to Samuel Goldwyn Productions for Sam Wood’s romantic caper film Raffles with David Niven, about a high-society cricketer and jewel thief.

In early 1940, de Havilland refused to appear in several films assigned to her, initiating the first of her suspensions at the studio. She did agree to play in Curtis Bernhardt’s musical comedy drama My Love Came Back with Jeffrey Lynn and Eddie Albert, who played a classical music student turned swing jazz bandleader. De Havilland played violinist Amelia Cornell, whose life becomes complicated by the support of a wealthy sponsor. That same year, de Havilland was reunited with Flynn in their sixth film together, Michael Curtiz’s Western adventure Santa Fe Trail, set against the backdrop of abolitionist John Brown’s fanatical antislavery attacks in the days leading up to the American Civil War. The mostly fictional story follows West Point cadets J. E. B. Stuart, played by Flynn, and George Armstrong Custer, played by Ronald Reagan, as they make their way west, both vying for the affection of de Havilland’s Kit Carson Halliday. Following a world premiere on December 13, 1940, at the Lensic Theatre in Santa Fe, New Mexico‍—‌attended by cast members, reporters, the governor, and over 60,000 fans—‌Santa Fe Trail went on to become one of the top-grossing films of 1940. De Havilland, who accompanied Flynn on the well-publicized train ride to Santa Fe, did not attend the premiere, having been diagnosed with appendicitis that morning and rushed into surgery.

Following her emergency surgery, de Havilland began a long period of convalescence in a Los Angeles hospital during which time she rejected several scripts offered to her by Warner Bros., leading to another suspension. In 1941, she appeared in three commercially successful films, beginning with Raoul Walsh’s romantic comedy The Strawberry Blonde with James Cagney. The film was a critical and commercial success. In Mitch Leisen’s romantic drama Hold Back the Dawn with Charles Boyer for Paramount Pictures, she transitioned to a different type of role for her‍—‌an ordinary, decent small-town teacher whose life and sexuality are awakened by a sophisticated European gigolo, whose own life is positively affected by her love. For this performance she garnered her second Academy Award nomination‍—‌this time for Best Actress.

In July 1941, de Havilland was reunited with Flynn for their eighth movie together, Raoul Walsh’s epic They Died with Their Boots On. The film is loosely based on the courtship and marriage of George Armstrong Custer and Elizabeth “Libbie” Bacon. Flynn and de Havilland had a falling out the previous year‍—‌mainly over the roles she was being given‍—‌and she did not intend to work with him again. After she learned from Warner that Flynn had come to his office saying he needed her in the film, de Havilland accepted. Screenwriter Lenore Coffee was brought in to add several romantic scenes and improve the overall dialogue. The result is a film that includes some of their finest work together. Their last appearance on screen is Custer’s farewell to his wife. They Died with Their Boots On was released on November 21, 1941, and while some reviewers criticized the film’s historical inaccuracies, most applauded the action sequences, cinematography, and acting. The film went on to earn $2,550,000 (equivalent to $42,400,000 in 2017), Warner Bros’ second-biggest money-maker of that year.

In 1942, de Havilland appeared in Elliott Nugent’s romantic comedy The Male Animal with Henry Fonda, about an idealistic professor fighting for academic freedom while trying to hold onto his job and his wife Ellen. While her role was not particularly challenging, de Havilland’s delineation of an intelligent, good-natured woman trying to resolve the unsettling circumstances of her life played a major part in the film’s success, according to Tony Thomas. The film was a critical and commercial success, with Bosley Crowther of The Times noting that de Havilland “concocts a delightfully pliant and saucy character as the wife”. That year, she also appeared in John Huston’s drama In This Our Life with Bette Davis. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Ellen Glasgow, the story is about two sisters whose lives are destroyed by the anger and jealousy of one of the sisters. During production, de Havilland and Huston began a romantic relationship that lasted three years.

According to de Havilland, one of the few truly satisfying roles she played for Warner Bros. was the title character in Norman Krasna’s romantic comedy Princess O’Rourke (1943), with Robert Cummings. Filmed in July and August 1942, the story is about a European princess in Washington, DC, visiting her diplomat uncle, who is trying to find her an American husband. Intent on marrying a man of her own choosing, she boards a plane heading west and ends up falling in love with an American pilot, who is unaware of her true identity. The film was released on October 23, 1943 and did well at the box office.

After fulfilling her seven-year Warner Bros. contract in 1943, de Havilland was informed that six months had been added to her contract for the times that she had been suspended. At the time, the studios had adopted the position that California law allowed them to suspend contract players for rejecting a role, and the period of suspension could be added to the contract period. Most contract players accepted this, but a few tried to change the system, including Bette Davis, who mounted an unsuccessful lawsuit against Warner Bros. in the 1930s. On August 23, 1943, acting on the advice of her lawyer, Martin Gang, de Havilland filed suit against Warner Bros. in California Superior Court seeking declaratory judgment that she was no longer bound by her contract on the grounds that an existing section of the California Labor Code that forbade an employer from enforcing a contract against an employee for longer than seven years from the date of first performance. In November 1943, the Superior Court found in de Havilland’s favor, and Warner Bros. immediately appealed. A little over a year later, the California Court of Appeal for the Second District ruled in her favor. The decision was one of the most significant and far-reaching legal rulings in Hollywood, reducing the power of the studios and extending greater creative freedom to performers. California’s resulting “seven-year rule”, also known as Labor Code Section 2855, is still known today as the De Havilland Law. Her legal victory, which cost her $13,000 (equivalent to $180,000 in 2017) in legal fees, won de Havilland the respect and admiration of her peers, among them her own sister, Joan Fontaine. Warner Bros. reacted to de Havilland’s lawsuit by circulating a letter to other studios that had the effect of a “virtual blacklisting”. As a consequence, de Havilland did not work at a film studio for nearly two years.

De Havilland became a naturalized citizen of the United States on November 28, 1941, ten days before the United States entered World War II militarily, alongside the Allied Forces. During the war years, she actively sought out ways to express her patriotism and contribute to the war effort. In May 1942, she joined the Hollywood Victory Caravan, a three-week train tour of the country that raised money through the sale of war bonds. Later that year she began attending events at the Hollywood Canteen, meeting and dancing with the troops. In December 1943 de Havilland joined a USO tour that traveled throughout the United States, Alaska, and the South Pacific, visiting wounded soldiers in military hospitals. She earned the respect and admiration of the troops for visiting the isolated islands and battlefronts in the Pacific. She survived flights in damaged aircraft and a bout with viral pneumonia requiring several days’ stay in one of the island barrack hospitals.

After the California Court of Appeal ruling freed her from her Warner Bros. contract, de Havilland signed a two-picture deal with Paramount Pictures. In June 1945, she began filming Mitchell Leisen’s drama To Each His Own, about an unwed mother who gives up her child for adoption and then spends the rest of her life trying to undo that decision. De Havilland insisted on bringing in Leisen as director, trusting his eye for detail, his empathy for actors, and the way he controlled sentiment in their previous collaboration, Hold Back the Dawn. The role required de Havilland to age nearly 30 years over the course of the film‍—‌from an innocent, small-town girl to a shrewd, ruthless businesswoman devoted to her cosmetics company. While de Havilland never formally studied acting, she did read Stanislavsky’s autobiography My Life in Art and applied one of his “methods” for this role. To help her define her character during the four periods of the story, she used a different perfume for each period. She also lowered the pitch of her voice incrementally in each period until it became a mature woman’s voice. Her performance earned her the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1946‍—‌her first Oscar. According to film historian Tony Thomas, the award represented a vindication of her long struggle with Warner Bros. and confirmation of her abilities as an actress.

Olivia de Havilland and Lew Ayres in The Dark Mirror (1946)

Olivia de Havilland and Lew Ayres in The Dark Mirror (1946)

Her next two roles were challenging. In Robert Siodmak’s psychological thriller The Dark Mirror (1946), de Havilland played twin sisters Ruth and Terry Collins‍—‌one loving and normal, the other psychotic. In addition to the technical problems of showing her as two characters interacting with each other on screen at the same time, de Havilland needed to portray two separate and psychologically opposite people. While appearing in a summer stock production of What Every Woman Knows in Westport, Connecticut, her second professional stage appearance, de Havilland began dating Marcus Goodrich, a Navy veteran, journalist, and author of the 1941 novel Delilah. They were married on August 26, 1946.

De Havilland was praised for her performance as Virginia Cunningham in Anatole Litvak’s drama The Snake Pit (1948), one of the first films to attempt a realistic portrayal of mental illness and an important exposé of the harsh conditions in state mental hospitals. Based on a novel by Mary Jane Ward and produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, the film is about a woman placed in a mental institution by her husband to help her recover from a nervous breakdown. Virginia Cunningham was one of the most difficult of all her film roles, requiring significant preparation both mentally and physically‍—‌she deliberately lost weight to help create her gaunt appearance on screen. She consulted regularly with psychiatrists hired as consultants for the film, and visited Camarillo State Mental Hospital to research her role and observe the patients. The extreme physical discomfort of the hydrotherapy and simulated electric shock therapy scenes were especially challenging for the slight 5-foot-3-inch (160 cm) actress. In her performance, she conveyed her mental anguish by physically transforming her face with furrowed brow, wild staring eyes, and grimacing mouth.

For her performance in The Snake Pit, de Havilland received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress, and the Venice Film Festival Volpi Cup.

In 1949, de Havilland appeared in William Wyler’s period drama The Heiress (1949), the fourth in a string of critically acclaimed performances. After seeing the play on Broadway, de Havilland called Wyler and urged him to fly to New York to see what she felt would be a perfect role for her. Wyler obliged, loved the play, and with de Havilland’s help arranged for Paramount to secure the film rights. Adapted for the screen by Ruth and Augustus Goetz and based on the 1880 novel Washington Square by Henry James, the film is about a young naïve woman who falls in love with a young man, over the objections of her cruel and emotionally abusive father, who suspects the young man of being a fortune seeker. As she had done in Hold Back the Dawn, de Havilland portrayed her character’s transformation from a shy, trusting innocent to a guarded, mature woman over a period of years. Her delineation of Catherine Sloper is developed through carefully crafted movements, gestures, and facial expressions that convey a submissive and inhibited young woman. Her timid voice, nervous hands, downcast eyes, and careful movements all communicate what the character is too shy to verbalize. Throughout the production, Wyler pressed de Havilland hard to elicit the requisite visual points of the character. When Catherine returns home after being jilted, the director had the actress carry a suitcase filled with heavy books up the stairs to convey the weight of Catherine’s trauma physically instead of using a planned speech in the original script. The Heiress was released in October 1949 and was well received by critics. For her performance, she received the New York Film Critics Award, the Golden Globe Award, and the Academy Award for Best Actress‍—‌her second Oscar.

After giving birth to her first child, Benjamin, on September 27, 1949, de Havilland took time off from making films to be with her infant. She turned down the role of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, later explaining that becoming a mother was a “transforming experience” and that she could not relate to the character. In 1950, her family moved to New York City, where she began rehearsals for a major new stage production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; it was her lifelong ambition to play Juliet on the stage. The play opened at the Broadhurst Theatre on March 11, 1951, to mixed reviews, with some critics believing the 35-year-old actress was too old for the role. The play closed after 45 performances. Undaunted, de Havilland accepted the title role in the stage production of George Bernard Shaw’s comedy Candida, which opened at the National Theatre on Broadway in April 1952. While reviews of the play were mixed, de Havilland’s performance was well received, and following the scheduled 32 performances, she went on tour with the company and delivered 323 additional performances, many to sold-out audiences. While de Havilland achieved major accomplishments during this period of her career, her marriage to Goodrich, 18 years her senior, had grown strained due to his unstable temperament. In August 1952, she filed for divorce, which became final the following year.

In April 1953, at the invitation of the French government, she traveled to the Cannes Film Festival, where she met Pierre Galante, an executive editor for the French journal Paris Match. Following a long-distance courtship and the requisite nine-month residency requirement, de Havilland and Galante married on April 12, 1955, in the village of Yvoy-le-Marron, and settled together in a three-story house near the Bois de Boulogne park in Paris’ 16th Arrondissement. That same year, she returned to the screen in Terence Young’s period drama That Lady (1955), about a Spanish princess and her unrequited love for King Philip II of Spain, whose respect she earned in her youth after losing an eye in a sword fight defending his honor.

Following her appearances in the romantic melodrama Not as a Stranger (1955) and The Ambassador’s Daughter (1956)‍—‌neither of which were successful at the box office‍—‌de Havilland gave birth to her second child, Gisèle Galante, on July 18, 1956.

Olivia de Havilland, George Hamilton, Rossano Brazzi, and Yvette Mimieux in Light in the Piazza (1962)

Olivia de Havilland, George Hamilton, Rossano Brazzi, and Yvette Mimieux in Light in the Piazza (1962)

One of de Havilland’s most noted performances during this period was in Guy Green’s romantic drama Light in the Piazza (1962) with Rossano Brazzi. Filmed in Florence and Rome, and based on Elizabeth Spencer’s novel of the same name, the film is about a middle-class American tourist on extended vacation in Italy with her beautiful 26-year-old daughter, who is mentally disabled as a result of a childhood accident. Faced with the prospect of her daughter falling in love with a young Italian, the mother struggles with conflicting emotions about her daughter’s future. De Havilland projects a calm maternal serenity throughout most of the film, only showing glimpses of the worried mother anxious for her child’s happiness. The film was released on February 19, 1962 and was well received.

The year 1962 also had the publication of de Havilland’s first book, Every Frenchman Has One, a lighthearted account of her often amusing attempts to understand and adapt to French life, manners, and customs. The book sold out its first printing prior to the publication date and went on to become a bestseller.

In 1964, de Havilland appeared in her last two leading roles in feature films‍—‌both psychological thrillers. In Walter Grauman’s Lady in a Cage, she played a wealthy poet who gets trapped in her mansion’s elevator and faces the threat of three terrorizing hooligans in her own home. Critics responded negatively to the graphic violence and cruelty shown on screen. A. H. Weiler of The New York Times called it a “sordid, if suspenseful, exercise in aimless brutality”. That same year, de Havilland appeared in Robert Aldrich’s Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte with her close friend Bette Davis. After Joan Crawford left the picture due to illness, Davis had Aldrich fly to Switzerland to persuade a reluctant de Havilland to accept the role of Miriam Deering, a cruel, conniving character hidden behind the charming façade of a polite and cultured lady. Her quiet, restrained performance provided a counterbalance to Davis. The film was well received and earned seven Academy Award nominations.

Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland in Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)

Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland in Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)

Throughout the 1970s, de Havilland’s film work was limited to smaller supporting roles and cameo appearances. Her last feature film was The Fifth Musketeer (1979). During this period, de Havilland began doing speaking engagements in cities across the United States with a talk entitled “From the City of the Stars to the City of Light”, a program of personal reminiscences about her life and career. She also attended tributes to Gone with the Wind.

In the 1980s, her television work included an Agatha Christie television film Murder Is Easy (1982), the television drama The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana (1982) in which she played the Queen Mother, and the 1986 ABC miniseries North and South, Book II. Her most notable performance of the decade was in the television film Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna (1986) as Dowager Empress Maria, which earned her a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film. In 1988, de Havilland appeared in the HTV romantic television drama The Woman He Loved; it was her final screen performance.

In retirement, de Havilland has remained active in the film community. In 1998, she traveled to New York to help promote a special showing of Gone with the Wind. In 2003, she appeared as a presenter at the 75th Academy Awards, earning a six-and-a-half-minute standing ovation upon her entrance. In 2004, Turner Classic Movies produced a retrospective piece called Melanie Remembers in which she was interviewed for the 65th anniversary of the original release of Gone with the Wind. In June 2006, she made appearances at tributes commemorating her 90th birthday at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

On November 17, 2008, at the age of 92, de Havilland received the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor conferred to an individual artist on behalf of the people of the United States. The medal was presented to her by President George W. Bush.

The following year, de Havilland narrated the documentary I Remember Better When I Paint (2009), a film about the importance of art in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

On September 9, 2010, de Havilland was appointed a Chevalier (knight) of the Légion d’honneur, the highest decoration in France, awarded by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

In June 2017, two weeks before her 101st birthday, de Havilland was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2017 Birthday Honours for services to drama. She is the oldest woman ever to receive the honour. In a statement, she called it “the most gratifying of birthday presents”.

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