Olivia Mary De Havilland was born in Tokyo on July 1 st 1916, and was older sister of Joan de Havilland, who later became known as Joan Fontaine. At the age of three, Olivia’s parents divorced, and she moved to California with her family. She developed an interest in stage whilst at high school, and after graduation she enrolled at Mills College and acted in the play ‘A midsummer Night’s Dream’.
It was here that she was spotted by a producer who cast her in the stage version of the same play, and then the movie version in 1935. After this, Warner signed her for a seven-year contract. She went on to start in several movies that same year, including ‘The Irish In Us’ and ‘Alibi Ike’. She was also loaned out for a supporting role in the 1939 smash hit ‘Gone with the Wind’ where she played Melanie Hamilton.
Olivia’s role in the 1941 production ‘Hold Back the Dawn’ saw her nominated for an Oscar, but she lost this to her sister, Joan Fontaine who won for her performance in the movie ‘Suspicion’. It was after this that Olivia was suspended by the movie studios for demanding more high-profile roles. When her contract was up, Warner insisted that Olivia make up the time lost by the six-month suspension, and she tool them to court. Olivia’s case was successful and resulted in a new regulation where the studios could only sign to a seven-year contract, and this included any suspensions. This became known as the De Havilland Law.In the mid- and late-1940s Olivia starred in a number of movies, and won the Oscar she had always craved for her part in ‘To Each His own’. The 1950s saw her appear on stage and she finally retired altogether in the early 1980s. Joan now enjoys her retirement in Paris, France.
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