The last surviving star of Gone With the Wind turned 103-years-young today. Olivia de Havilland, who played Melanie Wilkes, celebrated her special day on July 1, as the film also celebrated a milestone anniversary. Gone With the Wind hit theaters 80 years ago and was an instant smash, depicting a story of love and loss before, during and after the Civil War in the Deep South.
The actress was awarded two Oscars during her esteemed film career for her roles in To Each His Own in 1946 and The Heiress in 1949. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1940 for her work in Gone With the Wind, but lost to her castmate Hattie McDaniel, who portrayed Scarlett O’Hara’s maid, Mammy, and was the first African-American woman to win Hollywood’s highest honor.
De Havilland later stated in an interview with Entertainment Weekly of her loss to McDaniel: “When I returned home on Oscar night, aged 23 and the loser of the award…. I was convinced there was no God.” She said that she soon realized just how historic McDaniel’s win was, and was consoled and thrilled for her castmate’s joyous victory.
In the 1950s, de Havilland left Hollywood for good and moved to France to marry her second husband and have two children, Benjamin and Gisele. She acted sporadically and was last seen on-camera in the 1980s in the Agatha Christie television film Murder Is Easy, the television drama The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana and the 1986 ABC miniseries North and South, Book II. She won a Golden Globe Award for her role as Dowager Empress Maria in the television film Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna in 1986.
Born in Tokyo on July 1, 1916, de Havilland made her big-screen debut in the 1935 drama A Midsummer Night’s Dream, followed by Alibi Ike and The Irish in Us.
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Ladies and gentlemen please be upstanding to wish a very happy and champagne filled 103rd birthday to the double #AcademyAward winning movie legend #OliviaDeHavilland. I visited Miss De Havilland at her glorious home in Paris. She welcomed me with a huge radiant smile with the words “Mr Gotts are you in a hurry to begin or shall we share a champagne?” How could I refuse such an invitation! We sat In her chic lounge sipping a chilled Dom Perignon. She spoke of #ErrolFlynn and their relationship which they shared during the seven movies they made together. We also spoke of her double #Oscar winning sister #JoanFontaine and the famous frosty relationship they endured. Miss De Havilland said “My sister was born a lion, and I was born a tiger, and in the laws of the jungle, they were never friends.” Just before we finished our second glass of fizz, she asked if she could quickly peruse some of my portraits (I had a handful of 10x10 prints of actors from Hollywood’s Golden Era that I’ve been fortunate enough to shoot.). Miss DH stopped at my shot of #LaurenBacall. She raised her hand to cover her mouth a a tear rolled slowly down her cheek. She looked at me and said “Oh Mr Gotts she looks so sad.” And with her eyes still dewy we began our shoot. My memories of my time with the last living actor from #GoneWithTheWind in Paris will always be treasured ones. #Icon #GoneWithTheWind #NaughtyGiggle #ChampagneOclock #photography #AndyGotts #celebrityphotographer #OneShotGotts
Forbes noted that de Havilland’s career spanned 53 years, from 1935 to 1988. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960, and was given an honorary doctorate from the University of Hertfordshire in the U.K. She also received the 2010 National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama for her lifetime achievements and contributions to American culture as an actress.
A conflict over Olivia de Havilland’s contract with Warner Brothers sidelined her film career during the mid-1940s, but changed the rules in Hollywood forever, as the 1944 de Havilland Decision “made it clear that California law limits to seven years the time an employer can enforce a contract with an employee,” cited People Magazine in a story about the actress.
The legendary screen presence was recently in the news after she took on super-producer Ryan Murphy for what she called his inaccurate portrayal of her, and for using her likeness without her permission in the FX drama Feud: Bette and Joan. She took her case all the way to the Supreme Court, but her petition to review a California court’s dismissal of her lawsuit against FX was rejected in January of this year, reported Forbes. Catherine Zeta-Jones portrayed the actress in the series.
She and her late sister Joan Fontaine are the only siblings in the Academy’s history to have been awarded Best Actress in a Leading Role.