Today is the one hundredth birthday of Olivia De Havilland, born July 1st, 1916, Hollywood star and winner of two Academy Awards for Best Actress (for the 1946 To Each His Own and the 1949 The Heiress). As one of the last great stars from classic Hollywood still with us today, Miss De Havilland would merit all the recognition and good wishes which the classic film community can and does offer; but her great acting talents and gracious personality offer an even more solid base for the admiration and respect which each new generation of moviegoers necessarily tenders her once it has been introduced to the most significant films in her impressive body of work.
From her turn as Melanie in Gone with the Wind (1939) through her eight collaborations with Errol Flynn (including Dodge City, Captain Blood, They Died with Their Boots On, and The Adventures of Robin Hood), to her groundbreaking presentation of mental illness in The Snake Pit (1948), to her two Oscar-winning roles and beyond, Olivia De Havilland offered a range of often sparkling and always memorable performances. She was one of the rare actresses who could make a good girl not just interesting, but also enchanting. And while it is tempting to say that these performances came so easily to her because they were so close to her own character, it is equally true that she could play women whose charm and intelligence overlaid mysterious, often dangerous depths, proving that she was a highly skilled and intelligent actress.
Much has been written about Olivia De Havilland`s life, her courageous and epoch-making challenge of studio-system injustice in the 1940s, her relationship with her sister (the late actress Joan Fontaine), and her eventual retirement to France, where she still lives. This tribute is not intended to recap information readily available elsewhere, but simply to express a deep personal gratitude for the pleasure this writer has received from so many hours of moving or delightful work from Miss De Havilland, and a sincere wish that she will have a happy day and year, confident in the knowledge that her fans are as devoted as they are numerous.
Do you have a favorite performance by Olivia De Havilland, or is there a particular role of hers which marks an important moment in your film-viewing history? Please share with us in the comments below!