(Tim Gray’s article appeared in Variety, 7/26; photo: Associated Press; via Pam Green.)
Olivia de Havilland, one of the last remaining actresses of Hollywood’s Golden Age, two-time Academy Award winner and star of “Gone With the Wind,” has died. She was 104.
Her publicist Lisa Goldberg confirmed the news to Variety, saying de Havilland died from natural causes on Sunday at her residence in Paris.
De Havilland’s former lawyer Suzelle M. Smith said, “Last night, the world lost an international treasure, and I lost a dear friend and beloved client. She died peacefully in Paris.”
Numerous Hollywood figures paid tribute to de Havilland upon the news of her death. SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris extended her sympathies, saying, “Olivia de Havilland was not only beautiful and talented, she was a courageous visionary and an inspiration to generations. She was a marvel and a legend. Rest in peace.”
The striking brunette won best actress Oscars for “The Heiress” and “To Each His Own” in the late 1940s, and was Oscar-nominated for “Gone With the Wind,” “The Snake Pit” and “Hold Back the Dawn.”
She was known for her sincerity, fragile beauty and beautiful diction, and for bringing dimension to sympathetic characters. When she made a rare foray into villainous roles, she was expert. But the public preferred her as a heroine, which suited her well, since she said it was harder to play “a good girl” rather than a bad one.
Described as “the last surviving star” of “Gone With the Wind” for more than 50 years, after Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard and Clark Gable died much earlier, she rarely capitalized on that fact, staying mostly out of the limelight and preferring to live a quiet life in France.
De Havilland was beloved in France, where she received the prestigious Legion of Honor in 2010 from then President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Thierry Fremaux, the director of the Cannes Film Festival, paid homage to de Havilland on Sunday, noting that she was the first female president of Cannes’ jury in 1965.
“At a time when we question the place of women in cinema, we must remember Olivia de Havilland for her strength in facing off the studios to liberate actors from contracts which exploited them,” said Fremaux. “Strength and courage which she never stopped demonstrating through her career and her life. As for the rest, she was a queen of Hollywood and will also be revered as such in the history of cinema.”