Within Olivia de Havilland’s unpleasant lifelong feud with sister Joan Fontaine

Inside Olivia de Havilland’s ugly lifelong feud with sister Joan Fontaine

Olivia de Havilland was celebrated for her role in Gone With the Wind – but when it arrived to the connection she experienced with her sister, actress Joan Fontaine, she was also long gone with the kin.

See, the Hollywood icon who portrayed sweet, doomed Melanie was truly a fighter.

De Havilland, who died Sunday just weeks right after turning 104, did not just maintain a grudge in opposition to Fontaine mainly because the latter gained an Oscar for Best Actress in 1942 – in a classification for which they ended up the two nominated. Their sibling rivalry commenced a lot of years before and was her biggest fight, aided by de Havilland’s infamous grudge-keeping persona.

That combating spirit sparked far more lately when, at 102, she sued Forex for an unauthorised use of her identification in the 2017 collection Feud: Bette and Joan. The Supreme Court docket declined to hear her circumstance in 2019. (She did, on the other hand, blaze trails for actresses through her litigious contract battles with motion picture studios circa the 1930s.)

But again to the fractured sister act: de Havilland and Fontaine, the latter of whom died at 96 in 2013, were born just a year apart, de Havilland being the elder sibling. Fontaine at the time reportedly stated, “I try to remember not 1 act of kindness from Olivia all as a result of my childhood. She so hated the idea of having a sibling she would not go in close proximity to my crib.”

The evident root of the challenge: When their mother remarried soon after their father deserted the spouse and children to return to his mistress, Fontaine promptly cozied up to their new stepfather, George Fontaine – whom de Havilland by no means favored. In contrast to de Havilland, Fontaine turned much more open to speaking about their rivalry – and in her 1978 autobiography No Bed of Roses, also credited the situation with de Havilland’s resentment to sharing parental interest with a sibling.

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At 9, de Havilland acquired a school assignment to create a make-believe that past will and testomony. “I bequeath all my elegance to my younger sister, Joan, since she has none,” she allegedly wrote.

Later, it only worsened when Fontaine been given an offer for the function of Melanie Hamilton Wilkes in the now-controversial Long gone With the Wind, but she recommended de Havilland for it.

“I made a great slip-up and I have regretted it generally,” Fontaine recalled in her memoir. “Because it was George Cukor (who in the beginning directed the film), I wore some somewhat stylish garments. He claimed ‘Oh you are much also classy for the role that I want you to do.’ And I mentioned, ‘Well, what about my sister?’ And he explained, ‘Who’s your sister?’ I discussed. And he mentioned, ‘Thank you.’ And that is how Olivia got that role.”

(De Havilland, for her component, informed the Hollywood Reporter that Cukor identified as her and requested if she would be eager to read through for the aspect of Melanie, while she was beneath agreement with Warner Bros., to see if she would function for the position.)

In 1940, de Havilland was nominated for a Ideal Supporting Actress Oscar for that portrayal, and under no circumstances acknowledged her tiny sister for the strengthen.

The hatred even manifested bodily. In 1933, for occasion, a 17-yr-previous de Havilland broke a single of Fontaine’s collarbones by pushing her around by a swimming pool and jumping on her. De Havilland, then an amateur actress who had landed roles in Shakespeare plays, would then go on to reduce the 1942 Very best Actress Oscar to Fontaine, who won for her position in the Alfred Hitchcock movie Suspicion.

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“Oh, my God,” de Havilland reportedly imagined right after Fontaine’s identify was declared as the winner. “I’ve dropped prestige with my own sister. And it was correct – she was haughty to me following that.”

As for Fontaine, she disclosed in her e book, “My paralysis was whole. I felt Olivia would spring throughout the table and get me by the hair.”

But de Havilland would ultimately have her second in the solar, however an uncomfortable one that photographers famously captured. In 1946, she won an Oscar for To Each individual His Individual — but when Fontaine supplied a hand to shake in a congratulatory gesture, de Havilland refused to get it.

“I went more than to congratulate her as I would have done to any winner,” Fontaine later wrote. “She took a person glimpse at me, disregarded my hand, clutched her Oscar and wheeled away.”

“On my element, it was generally loving, but from time to time estranged and, in the later on many years, severed,” de Havilland the moment explained of their romantic relationship. “Dragon Lady, as I at some point resolved to connect with her, was a outstanding, multi-gifted individual, but with an astigmatism in her notion of individuals and functions which typically prompted her to react in an unfair and even injurious way.”

De Havilland ditched Hollywood and moved to France in the 1950s, paying the relaxation of her lifetime in Paris. In 1975, their mom died, and de Havilland tried out blocking Fontaine from attending the memorial provider.

Fontaine threatened to go to the media with this information – and then received an invitation to arrive, while they mainly ignored each individual other in the course of the provider. The only make contact with they experienced that working day: de Havilland passed their mother’s urn to Fontaine so she could get and scatter a handful of her ashes.

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By 1979, the romantic relationship experienced seemingly grown worse. That 12 months, they equally attended the Oscars – and sat at reverse ends of the phase. In 1989, the two found out they had been company at the same time at the exact same Beverly Hills resort, most of all in adjacent rooms. Fontaine checked out straight away.

On the other hand, even with years of these documented spats, Fontaine bizarrely informed the Hollywood Reporter in 2013 that the two sisters experienced never ever experienced a tough patch.

“Let me just say, Olivia and I have in no way had a quarrel,” she informed the publication. “We have never ever experienced any dissatisfaction. We have never experienced tricky words. And all this is push.”

This tale originally appeared on the NY Post and is republished right here with permission.

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Alfred Lee covers public and private tech markets from New York. He was previously a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economics and Business Journalism at Columbia University, and prior to that was a reporter at the Los Angeles Business Journal. He has received a Journalist of the Year award from the L.A. Press Club and an investigative reporting award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

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