2020 took a lot from us. In February, before the world was aware of a thing called coronavirus, he passed away. Kirk Douglas. The titan followed, on July 26 and in the heat of the heatwave, Olivia de Havilland. With the two of them, as we were told by hundreds of headlines, the last remnant of the golden Hollywood was gone, of that golden century of cinema in which serial films were made in studios that controlled even the smallest aspect of the lives of its stars. . Both closed a sublime cinema that meant the splendor of the careers of greats such as Hitchcock O John Ford. Of Olivia, who died with 104 years, everything was published: from how badly she got along with her sister Joan Fontaine to the demand that, already centenary, filed against the series ‘Feud’ for the portrait he made of her Catherine Zeta Jones.
Throughout this year since the eternal Melita of ‘Gone With the Wind’ we have discovered much more about her; We have learned more about the tough personality of an actress who revolutionized the star system and, in part, helped to end it. When he sued Warner Bros By extending his seven-year contract by counting the suspension of salary for not accepting superfluous films, he ended up winning the trial and ended the slavery to which those screen gods were subjected. But we already knew this.
The unusual details, what we did not know about the protagonist of ‘The heiress’, They have arrived in book and documentary form. ‘Sisters’, written in the 80s by Charles Higham and published this year by Notorious, it revealed to us how Olivia and Joan’s mother fostered animosity between them since they were little girls. Joan had to give up her paternal surname, de Havilland, in order not to spoil her sister’s career. It is well known that, in front of the roles of sweet damsel next to Errol Flynn or suffered victim in ‘Nest of vipers’Olivia de Havilland had an iron personality. During his days at Warner, which lasted until the lawsuit of 1943, he was, according to Higham, haunting hairdressers and costume designers with his demands.
When he shot ‘The Heiress’, which is probably the best role of his career beyond the long popularity of his Melania, William Wyler it finished right up to her nose. The cannon shots between the director and the actress were mutual. The call ‘50 tomas Wyler’ made him repeat, until exhaustion, the sequence in which he climbs the ladder, suitcase in hand, after being planted by his beloved Montgomery Clift. The luggage was littered with boulders to make the character’s anguish plausible, and it’s not uncommon for de Havilland to end up remembering Wyler’s mother in more than a moment. Nor that, in the 1950s, he changed the artificiality of Hollywood for the discreet elegance of Paris when he decided to move to the capital of France.
A documentary with little personal content
The country where he lived until his death has also paid tribute to him these days, in the recent Cannes film festival. There it has been released ‘The rebellious Olivia de Havilland’, a documentary directed by Daphne Baiwir that reviews, in 56 minutes, the litigating nature of the actress, ignoring her most personal troubles.
Olivia de Havilland was not a woman who spoke excessively of her most private concerns. Not even about Dragon Lady, the nickname with which he described his sister Joan. Neither of Benjamin, the son she had in 1949 and whom she lost very soon, in 1991, when he was barely over 40 years old.
Benjamin’s father was Marcus Goodrich, a writer and journalist whom Olivia had married in 1946 after a series of romances with Howard Hughes, James Stewart and John Huston. The family and promotional photos of that time, in which it was common to see the star on duty with her offspring, show the happy and smiling actress with her first-born. But the divorce broke, in 1952, the family peace in the star’s house. Joan Fontaine herself had already viewed her sister’s marriage with skepticism. “All I know about him is that he has had four wives and written a book. What a pity that it is not the other way around,” they say, ironically, the protagonist of ‘Rebeca’.
In 1955, Olivia remarried; this time with the french Pierre Galante. Her decision to move permanently to Paris was influenced not only by her husband’s nationality, but also by Benjamin’s custody, which the actress did not want to lose. Finally, he was able to settle in France with Galante, his first-born son, and the daughter who came later, Gisèle, born in 1956. It was around this time that de Havilland began to lose interest in the world of Hollywood and movies. When she appeared in one of them, it was sporadically, like that time she replaced a sick Joan Crawford on the set of ‘Lullaby for a corpse’, tape that reunited her with her great friend Bette Davis.
Sadly, Benjamin’s life was short, as a heart condition caused by Hodgkin’s disease ended his life in 1991, when he was 41 years old. His mother was with him to the end, but rarely mentioned his loss in the media. Olivia, who had grown tired of the tinsel of fame during her French seclusion, suffered a kind of ‘síndrome Katharine Hepburn’ as he got older. As with the Hepburn, from the 90’s onwards it was easier to interview her and she did not miss a single delivery of the awards she was awarded: from the Medal of Arts that then-President Bush awarded in 2008 to the Lady of the Empire. British who was interposed by Elizabeth II herself when she had already turned 100, in 2017.
On July 27, after turning 104 that same month and looking immortal, the not-so-sweet Olivia left forever orphans the faithful of a cinema that also left with her; a way of making movies that was definitely blown away.