She’s over 101, and she’s been retired from the screen since the 1980s. But Olivia de Havilland is still alive and kicking — she recently sued FX over the portrayal of her in the miniseries Feud, about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford around the time they filmed Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? in 1962. In Feud, Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Olivia de Havilland, and de Havilland claims that the series showed events that never happened and was demeaning her reputation for being a lady” and some material in the TV series is “in contrast with Olivia de Havilland’s reputation for good manners, class, and kindness.” It’s not her first lawsuit, having famously sued Warner Brothers over a contract dispute in 1944 and won. That cost her a few years of goodwill among Hollywood’s studios, but she managed to come back and make some of her most famous films. Let’s look at her best work in historical costume!
Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935)
Arabella Bishop in Captain Blood (1935)
Angela Guessippi in Anthony Adverse (1936)
Elsa Campbell in The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936)
Maid Marian in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Lady Penelope Gray in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)
Melanie Hamilton in Gone With the Wind (1939)
Elizabeth Bacon in They Died With Their Boots On (1941)
Charlotte Brontë in Devotion (1946)
Catherine Sloper in The Heiress (1949)
Rachel Ashley in My Cousin Rachel (1952)
Ana de Mendoza in That Lady (1955)
Mrs. Warner in Roots: The Next Generations (1979)
Mrs. Neal in North and South, Book II (1986)
Dowager Empress Maria in Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna (1986)
Aunt Bessie Merryman in The Woman He Loved (1988)
What’s your favorite historical movie or TV series with Olivia de Havilland? What do you think of how she was portrayed in Feud?
IMHO Ms de Havilland is a national treasure. I loved her in Robin Hood as Lady Marian. She literally lit up each an every scene she was in.
GWTW isn’t a favourite film, but Melanie is a favourite character.
Her Catherine Sloper in Washington Square, I kinda feel is my favourite film, bc of the prep work she did and that she was willing to appear unglam.
Her later roles were excellent especially Dagmar, er Marie Feodorovna.
Hard to choose between Maid Marian and Melanie.
The Heiress is my absolute favorite!
I may need to make that robe thing from The Heiress.
She is also good exchanging slantendicular looks with James Cagney in The Strawberry Blonde set in 1890s New York.
Fuck Yes, About time this beauty got mentioned. I happen to love her! She’s a fantastic actress!
Beautiful, clever & awesome lady! Her Maid Marian is my second favourite ever (Sorry, massive fan of the Disney version.) I have her & Mr. Flynn’s movie collection… still need to re-watch it :-). (best thing about GWT is the costumes & her, the movie, less so. sorry x)
My second favorite Marian after Bernadette O’Farrell.
In the book, Melanie was pretty much a drip, but in the movie, Miss De Havilland gave her warmth and sympathy and class. She is a treasure.
Catherine Sloper in “The Heiress” of course.
Yes yes yes! A great actress and a great lady- but Theresa, please re-read GWTW- Melanie in the book and the movie is not a drip- she is frail but not fragile- gentle, but not weak- she is the thing that keeps Scarlett going- you have only to read the scene where Scarlett shoots the Yankee who is taking the last few things of Scarlett’s mother to know this- Melanie is always there holding up the people she loves- I am well aware of GWTWs flaws, but I do find the relationships between all the women fascinating.
You know, FX might have thought about the fact that one of these Classic Hollywood ladies is still around to be offended by the movie industry’s tendency to do whatever they want in depicting people’s lives. :P
I can’t express in words my love for her. She is just so classy. Nothing beats The Heiress for me, especially at the very end with, “Bolt the door, Mariah.”
I remember the ending of Anthony Adverse her character ended up being Napoleon’s mistress Mlle. Georges one of his less known mistresses