Celebrities & Pop Culture

‘Gone With The Wind’ Star Olivia De Havilland Turns 101

Happy birthday to this American icon!

On the Fourth of July, we celebrate America’s birthday.

But three days before that, it’s time to celebrate the birthday of an American icon: Olivia de Havilland, the last surviving principal cast member of “Gone With the Wind.”

By MGM (eBay) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On July 1, de Havilland will turn 101.

A Long, Successful Career

Her career has included roles in 49 feature films.

While her portrayal of Melanie in “Gone With the Wind” may be what she’s best known for, she has two Academy Awards for best actress for her work in other films: “To Each His Own” and “The Heiress.”

De Havilland has been awarded a number of state distinctions on top of her artistic awards, including National Medal of the Arts from President George W. Bush.

And just this month, de Havilland was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to drama, joining a long list of famous actresses who’ve been given the British distinction, including Julie Andres, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, Angela Lansbury and Elizabeth Taylor.

So now she’s Dame Olivia de Havilland to you.

75th Annual Academy Awards
Getty Images | Getty Images

Famous Rivalry

During de Havilland’s career, her name made headlines for more than just her work on screen.

De Havilland’s younger sister, Joan Fontaine, also became an an actress. The sisters were born in Tokyo to British parents. The family moved to California in 1919, and their mother—a former stage actress—introduced both girls to acting at an early age.

It was, in part, this shared artistic pursuit that created a bitter—and well-known—rivalry between the sisters, though de Havilland has said that the feuding started in childhood. The sisters were just 15 months apart, and apparently Olivia had not been pleased to have to share her parents’ attention with Joan.

Vanity Fair called de Havilland’s feud with her sister “the most notorious sibling rivalry in Hollywood.” The gorgeous sisters achieved unprecedented success as actresses, but Fontaine had a habit of saying scathing things about de Havilland in the press (and later in a memoir called “No Bed of Roses“), and de Havilland resented having to compete with her sister for roles, awards and publicity.

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In 1942, the sisters were both nominated for best actress, and Fontaine won. To this day, de Havilland and Fontaine are the only sisters to both have a best actress Academy Award. Sadly, their relationship never recovered. The two were estranged for most of their lives until Fontaine passed away in 2013.

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