Olivia de Havilland, one of the last surviving cast members of the classic 1939 film “Gone With The Wind,” will celebrate her 101st birthday on Saturday.
De Havilland, who won two Academy Awards, began her movie career after director Max Reinhardt saw her in a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and cast her in his 1935 film version of the play. Warner Bros was impressed and, as was the custom at the time, signed the teenager to a seven-year contract.
Warner Bros. then loaned her out to make “Gone With the Wind,” and de Havilland’s gentle but willful personality helped make the role of Melanie one of the movie’s most intriguing parts. The role earned her the first of her five Oscar nominations.
The prestige of the Oscar nomination and the popularity of “Gone With the Wind” did not get de Havilland the types of roles she wanted. She often refused the parts Warner Bros. offered, which resulted in suspensions.
In 1943 de Havilland declared that her seven-year deal with Warners had expired but the studio said she still owed them the six months that she spent on suspension.
De Havilland won in court, weakening the major studios’ dominance over actors by limiting actors’ contracts to seven years, regardless of suspension time.
De Havilland’s career was also marked by a legendary feud and rivalry with her younger sister and fellow Oscar-winner Joan Fontaine that was worthy of a screenplay. Fontaine died in 2013.
De Havilland made 50 movies in her career and nine were with Errol Flynn, including “Captain Blood,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” “The Adventures of Robin Hood” and “They Died With Their Boots On.” She told LA Weekly she had a crush on Flynn but never acted on it.
De Havilland moved to Paris in the 1950s and rarely made public appearances after retiring but returned to Hollywood in 2003 to take part in the 75th Academy Awards show.