Olivia de Havilland, a two-time winner of the Academy Award for the best actress has passed away at the age of 104. Her publicist Lisa Goldberg confirmed the news of de Havilland's death, stating that she died from natural causes at her Paris home. She has a career spanning half a century with over 50 feature films in her kitty, but she was best known for her role as Melanie Hamilton Wilkes in the 1939 classic Gone with the Wind. She was also the last surviving actor from the iconic film and was among the last of the Hollywood’s fabled Golden Age actors as well.
de Havilland was the oldest living performer to have won the Oscar until the time of her passing. She was responsible for taking down Hollywood's studio system, giving actors better contracts, reported the BBC . She was under contract at Warner Brothers studios which added more time to her original contract as a penalty for turning down roles. She took the studio to court with the support of the Screen Actors Guild, and The California Supreme Court ruled in her favor. This came to be known as "De Havilland Law," which then loosened the grip studios had on their actors.
de Havilland made her screen debut in Max Reinhardt's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream as Hermia. She then went on to make other films such as Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood through which she became a Hollywood star. She had become the top actress in the industry by the late 1940s and went on to act in films such as To Each His Own, The Snake Pit, and The Heiress, reports CNN . She won the Oscar for best actress for her role in To Each His Own as Jody Norris and The Heiress as Catherine Sloper. Gone with the Wind earned her five Oscar nominations.
She was born on July 1, 1916, in Tokyo to Walter de Havilland and Lillian Ruse. Her younger sister was none other than fellow Oscar-winning actress Joan Fontaine, with whom she had a rocky relationship. Their mother later married George M. Fontaine whose name Joan took for her stage name. The sisters' difficult relationship was always a subject that made its way to gossip columns. This feud seemed to have aggravated when Fontaine won the best actress Oscar in 1942, for which de Havilland had also been nominated for. Fontaine passed away in 2013.
Fontaine is known to have famously said , "I married first, won the Oscar before Olivia did, and if I die first, she’ll undoubtedly be livid because I beat her to it." Their sibling rivalry went down as the fiercest in Hollywood history.
de Havilland was married twice, first to Marcus Aurelius Goodrich, a Texan novelist, and then to Pierre Galante, a writer, and editor. Both marriages ended in divorce. She moved to Paris in the mid-1950s and there she lived in a five-story townhouse, built around 1880, according to The New York Times . "I loved being around real buildings, real castles, real churches — not ones made of canvas," she told Vanity Fair . She is survived by her daughter, Giselle Galante Chulack.