OLIVIA de HAVILLAND: SHINING STAR

OLIVIA deHAVILLAND ( I )The Ultimate Errol Flynn Leading Lady. The heart and soul of “GWTW.” She weathered victoriously against the hurricane that is Bette Davis. She was a fair maiden, a damsel-in-distress, an old maid learning cruel life lessons from those who should have protected her most. She played a good AND evil twin…fought her way out of an insane asylum and an elevator. She was an unwed mother. She was this and so much more in her illustrious career. She is Olivia de Havilland.

She uses her dulcet voice to calming effect. Her line readings feel spoken, not scripted. Her mellifluous voice can turn steely hard when she says: “He came back with the same lies.” Hard, cold, flat. Her eyes so kind and smile so sweet…but when she turns on Bette Davis in Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte there’s an intensity you want no part of. It feels to me, she teeters between fragility and quiet steely strength. She’s feisty. As much sexual magnetism as Errol Flynn has, her characters do not fear him. Think of their pairings. He has to work to win her:

OLIVIA ( CAPT BLOOD )  OLIVIA ( LIGHT BRIGADE )  OLIVIA ( 4'S A CROWD )OLIVIA ( ROBIN HOOD )OLIVIA ( DODGE CITY )OLIVIA ( ESSEX )OLIVIA ( SANTE FE TRAIL )

From my friend, Wendy Merckel:

“When I was little, I thought she was the prettiest of stars. She has an uncanny way of looking directly into the camera in some photos…like she’s looking into you right through time. It gives me chills in certain pictures. But the one that first made me notice was this:

OLIVIA ( III ) OLIVIA ( MIDSUMMER NIGHT )

It’s as if she’s looking straight at you. Her persona was almost stately and yet it’s obvious there was far more to her. Such a lady… and yet there is something really strong underneath. I think she must have had a terrific confidence somehow.

The scene in ‘They Died With Their Boots On’ is perfect. She doesn’t look at him. Together they move in synch with one another both hiding their foreboding. But they both know. And she holds herself up…till he leaves. Its palpable, the tension, love, regret…regret that it will end I mean.”

 

I second what Wendy says. In this dear wonderful goodbye love scene in They Died With Their Boots On, Custer and his wife Libby live their last moments together NOT saying their final goodbyes. It’s so delicately done…the things unsaid. They protect each other. DeHavilland is 25 years old in this scene and her maturity is amazing…tempered …steady…true. This is the last movie de Havilland and Flynn make together, the last scene they filmed together. It makes this goodbye all the more poignant. The music underscoring their goodbye is by master, Max Steiner…tender…heartbreaking. It’s a scene difficult for me to watch without tears in my eyes. I offer you these screen caps so you can dwell on deHavilland’s face and expressions.

BOOTS ( I )BOOTS ( XI )BOOTS ( XIII )BOOTS ( X )BOOTS ( II )BOOTS ( IV ) BOOTS ( XIX )

I liked how Wendy described the three screen caps below I sent to her as:
Photo 1. Embarrassment, trying to explain
Photo 2. Sinking feeling in stomach, truth…resignation Photo 3. Presentiment of fear, heartbreak

BOOTS ( XXI ) BOOTS ( XXIII ) BOOTS ( XXIV )

BOOTS ( L )BOOTS ( LI )BOOTS ( LII )

BOOTS ( XXXI )BOOTS ( XXXIV )

The halo’d effect and lighting in this scene is dramatic and wonderful. Then Flynn steps from the shadows into her arms:

BOOTS ( XXXV )BOOTS ( XIL )BOOTS ( XL )

Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 7.02.04 PM BOOTs ( XXX )
“Walking through life with you ma’am, has been a very gracious thing.”

BOOTS ( LVII ) BOOTS ( LV ) BOOTS ( LX ) BOOTS ( LIV )

OLIVIA deHAVILLANDIn The Snake Pit a sense of humor comes through even in the face of those terrifying conditions. In Gone With The Wind she plays the hardest role, the Nice Girl and makes her goodness a character strength. In To Each His Own keeping a vigil and love for her child she has had to give up wins her an Oscar. DeHavilland’s acting is not showy or large. She doesn’t chew scenery. Who else could make it a triumph exclaiming: “I can be very cruel. I have been taught by Masters,” and then walk up those stairs taking the light with her. I find her to be still. Contained.  Not flashy and flamboyant.

There’s so much more to say about this Actress. We have The De Havilland Decision because of her; actors owe her a debt of gratitude for that. Actors are no longer “indentured servants” to a studio – working for them forever. Bette Davis started it, but de Havilland finished it. DeHavilland made her way from ingenue, to a Matinee Idol’s leading lady. And as Ginger Rogers did, deHavilland leaves an established screen partnership to really venture out on her own and see what she’s made of. Of course, she did films without Flynn before, but now, when one puts a final period on one thing…one start another. She showed us what she was made of in a myriad of roles. Her piercing eyes tell a tale of love, fear, contempt or desire. Yes, she is one of a handful of the truly greats from Hollywood’s Golden Era who is STILL with us. She is Miss Olivia de Havilland, two-time Academy Award winner, and she is 99 years old today.

Attention must be paid.

* * * * *

JULY 1st, 2016 ~ Thursday ~ HAPPY BIRTHDAY OLIVIA!!

OLIVIA AT 100

Here is one more look:

(  H O M E  )

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18 thoughts on “OLIVIA de HAVILLAND: SHINING STAR

  1. The first film I saw de Havilland in was HUSH, HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE. It was in a theater and it was pretty heady stuff for a 12-year-old to see de Havilland, Bette Davis, Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead, and Mary Astor all in one film some 20-30 years after their initial fame. And it’s got William Campbell, George Kennedy and Bruce Dern in it, too!

    I recently saw de Havilland in an underrated Technicolor epic from Warners called GOLD IS WHERE YOU FIND IT (1938). She’s quite good as a farmer working with her father, Claude Rains, in a valley soon to be polluted by mud and run-off from a nearby industrial gold mine. The reason this film isn’t as well remembered as it should be is because the leading man is George Brent and not Errol Flynn, who would have been great in the part of a mining engineer working for the gold miners who falls for Olivia and is caught in the middle of a war between the miners and the farmers. Brent was a good actor, but he wasn’t the swashbuckler that the role required.

    I remember watching a DVD extra where Olivia talks about shooting THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) with Flynn and she describes how she was mad at Flynn because he was fooling around off-set with someone else, so in one of their scenes together she played it way sexier than the script required and got real close to him and made him get an erection–which made him very uncomfortable during the scene.

    Liked by 1 person

    • One more thing: Bette Davis had an affair with her THE LETTER director, William Wyler, while Olivia had one with John Huston who directed both of them in IN THIS OUR LIFE (23 years before they reteamed for CHARLOTTE).

      Liked by 1 person

      • I love trivia like that. As for that Director / Star collaboration…this is sometimes what it takes to get a really great performance. ( See my post: here ).

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    • I can’t recall the first time I saw de Havilland. It might have been my high school class trip to see “GWTW” back in 1968. I was quite taken by her performance. But I know and see you were a movie-goer from waaaaay back in your childhood. Many of the movie stars I’ve come to know and love have been from seeing their movies on television. She was pretty special. And 99…it’s a big big deal. As for her revenge on Flynn during their “…Robin Hood” shoot…all I can say is “Atta girl!” L0L!

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  2. Marvin.Go see Mary Poppins; you won't be sorry, and Victor, Victoria as well! See you at Gee Whiz. on said:

    Absolutely one of my favorite actresses and she together with Flynn remain my favorite and most beautiful screen couple! Their farewell scene in They Die With Their Boots On is one of the most poignant, beautiful and greatest in all of film!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marvin, I have to agree with you wholeheartedly. It’s a great and tender scene. but it’s a menage-a-trois. The third partner in that scene is Max Steiner’s music. Flynn and de Havilland…weren’t they a great screen team.

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    • Hi there Susan. As I was gathering my thoughts to create this post, it just got me to thinking a lot about Olivia de Havilland. Gee, she made it look so easy. What a beautiful girl she was, and a fine actress she is. Thanx for reading and commenting. Under-appreciated? You said a mouthful!

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    • Thank you very much Joanie. If Olivia reaches 100, forget about doing a blog post…we should all save money to go to Paris to SEE her. L0L! Thanks for the invite. I’ll check it out and see if I can contribute. Thanks for reading

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  3. I saw HUSH HUSH in a theater long ago, long before I was ‘aware’ enough to place all the actors into my now-proportioned ‘grandeur’. And all of the Errol films have powerful and fun moments. But it’s THE SNAKE PIT that leaves me with this awesome – awe-filling, – regard for Olivia as an actress. I know scripts and stories have so much to do, but her closing scene is so amazing.

    I’m glad that THE GOVERNMENT GIRL finally made it onto DVD – although it’s still sitting somewhere on our To-Buy list. I’ve only seen it once, long long ago, and I hope it’s as fun as I remember it.

    1916. Born in Tokyo. My my… how far can we travel in life?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree that de Havilland does a fantastic job in “The Snake Pit” – especially if you’re used to seeing her other roles and expect a certain type of reserved ladyship ( I make up words ) of her. I’d have to really sit down and think of my favorite Olivia de Havilland performance, but just preparing this post and thinking about her work washed over me like a warm spring rain. Enjoy “Government Girl” when you finally get it. I do think I enjoy my Olivia in a more serious mode. Awww hell…I just love to listen to her speak.

      Ollie, how thought-provoking of you to write: “1916. Born in Tokyo. My my… how far can we travel in life?” Indeed. Thanks for stopping by.

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