Olivia de Havilland, Gone with the Wind star, dies aged 104
The last remaining superstar from Hollywood’s Golden Age won two Oscars
Olivia de Havilland who died in Paris. She was 104. Photograph: John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
Olivia de Havilland, the last remaining superstar of Hollywood’s Golden Age, has died in Paris at the age of 104. Reports say she died peacefully from natural causes.
In the early 1930s, she formed a memorable partnership with Errol Flynn in delightful adventure pictures such as Captain Blood, The Charge of the Light Brigade and, most memorably, The Adventures of Robin Hood.
In 1939, she starred as Melanie Hamilton, meek mouse to Scarlett O’Hara’s turbulent tigress, in the world-conquering Gone with The Wind. That film remains the highest-grossing ever after adjustments for inflation.
De Havilland, born in Tokyo while her father, a distinguished legal academic, taught at the Imperial University, won two Academy Awards - for The Heiress and To Each his own - on her way to becoming among the most beloved actors of her generation.
Much speculation surrounded the uneasy relationship between de Havilland and her equally successful sister Joan Fontaine. The two actors fell out in the 1940s, were subsequently reconciled and then broke contact again after disagreeing over arrangements for their mother’s medical care in 1975. De Havilland said that she was “shocked and saddened” to hear of Fontaine’s death in 2013.
Olivia de Havilland is also celebrated for her campaigns against the iniquities of the Hollywood studio system. In 1943, she filed suit against Warner Brothers for what she saw as an unfair attempt to extend her contract. De Havilland won her case, but was shut out of studio work for the next two years. The resulting ruling, which limited the studio’s power over labour, is still referred to as the De Havilland Law.
She remained successful after the war, appearing in such films as My Cousin Rachel and The Snake Pit. In the 1960s, like near-contemporaries Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, she found a third or fourth wind in shockers such as Lady in a Cage and Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte. Television work followed.
De Havilland retired formally in 1988, but remained active in the Hollywood community. In 2017, at 101, she became the oldest woman to be made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Twice married, she is survived by her daughter Gisèle Galante.