TCM Summer Under the Stars 2020: Recap, Review, Rejoice!

•August 31, 2020 • 3 Comments

Another TCM Summer Under the Stars event is behind us, but the 2020 celebration was a blast — I learned so much about the stars and added many films to my must-watch list! In case you missed any of the days, here’s the entire month’s worth of posts. Enjoy!

Day 1: Barbara Stanwyck

Day 2: Rock Hudson

Day 3: Rita Hayworth

Day 4: S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall

Day 5: Ann Miller

Day 6: Burt Lancaster

Day 7: Sylvia Sidney

Day 8: Charlie Chaplin

Day 9: Goldie Hawn

Day 10: Norma Shearer

Day 11: Sammy Davis, Jr.

Day 12: Lana Turner

Day 13: John Barrymore

Day 14: Steve McQueen

Day 15: Nina Foch

Day 16: Cary Grant

Day 17: Maureen O’Hara

Day 18: Warren Beatty

Day 19: Dolores del Rio

Day 20: William Powell

Day 21: Diana Dors

Day 22: Natalie Wood

Day 23: Olivia de Havilland

Day 24: George Raft

Day 25: Anne Shirley

Day 26: Laurence Olivier

Day 27: Claudette Colbert

Day 28: Paul Henreid

Day 29: Eva Marie Saint

Day 30: Charlton Heston

Day 31: Alain Delon

TCM Summer Under the Stars: Day Thirty-One — Alain Delon

•August 31, 2020 • 5 Comments

The most seductive man in cinema.

Never heard of Alain Delon?

Never seen one of his movies?

TCM has a remedy for that. And believe me, you won’t need a spoonful of sugar to help this medicine go down.

IN THE BEGINNING:

Alain Fabien Maurice Marcel Delon was born on November 8, 1935, in a suburb of Paris, France. His parents divorced when Alain was four years old, and he was sent to live with foster parents. The death of his foster parents prompted the boy’s birth parents to share custody of him, but this arrangement didn’t work out. Alain was expelled from several schools, including a Catholic boarding school, because of his behavior, and at the age of 14, he left school for good. Three years later, he enlisted in the French Navy, but during his military service, he reportedly spent nearly a year in a military jail and was dishonorably discharged.

After his military experience, Alain made ends meet by working a variety of jobs, including waiter and sales assistant. After befriending actress Brigitte Auber, he accompanied her to the Cannes Film Festival, where he was seen by a talent scout for David O. Selznick. He was offered a contract and returned to Paris to study English, but he was later convinced by French director Yves Allégret to remain in France and the Selznick contract was cancelled. Instead, Alain made his big screen debut in Allégret’s film Send a Woman When the Devil Fails (1957).

OTHER STUFF:

Alain and Romy remained friends until her 1982 death.

  • Alain became an international star after starring in two films released in 1960: Purple Noon and Rocco and His Brothers.
  • Alain’s first leading role was in the period romance Christine (1958), opposite actress Romy Schneider. Alain and Romy announced their engagement in 1959 and were romantically involved for five years; in a 2018 interview in GQ magazine, he called Romy “the love of my life.”

MY SUTS PICK:

See Purple Noon.

I’ve only seen one Alain Delon from start to finish – Purple Noon – so, naturally, that will be my pick. It’s about a murderous sociopath who . . . well, I don’t want to spoil it. It was remade in 1999 as The Talented Mr. Ripley, and it’s good stuff.

I’m going out on a limb, though, to endorse two others – Rocco and His Brothers, which I saw recommended on Twitter, and Le Samourai (1967), which I started watching a couple of years ago but, unfortunately, never finished.

This is the last day of the 2020 TCM Summer Under the Stars event! I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have!

TCM Summer Under the Stars: Day Thirty — Charlton Heston

•August 29, 2020 • 4 Comments

Forever Ben.

When many people think of Charlton Heston’s film career, they think of his biblical epics, like Ben Hur or The Ten Commandments or El Cid.

But Heston produced a body of work that encompassed a wide range of roles in a variety of films, from noir to westerns, and from science fiction to adventure. He could do it all.

IN THE BEGINNING:

Heston was born John Charles Carter on October 4, 1923, in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. His father, Russell, a sawmill operator, moved his family to St. Helen, Michigan, when young John was an infant, but his parents divorced when he was 10. His mother remarried and John took the last name of his new stepfather – Heston. (He later adopted the first name Charlton, which was the maiden name of his maternal grandmother.) The family moved to nearby Wilmette, where Heston attended New Trier High School and participated in what he later called the school’s “extraordinarily well-developed” drama program. Upon his graduation, he received a drama scholarship to Northwestern University, which he attended for two years.

Young Charlton.

Heston married fellow Northwestern student Lydia Clarke in 1944, and left college that same year to join the U.S. Army Air Forces. During World War II, he served as a radio operator and aerial gunner, reaching the rank of staff sergeant. He moved to New York with his wife when the war was over, working for a while as an artists’ model and then moving to North Carolina to manage a playhouse in Asheville. The Hestons later returned to New York, and Heston was promptly offered a role in a Broadway revival of Antony and Cleopatra. He was also seen on a number of television programs, including productions of Julius Caesar, in which he played Mark Antony, and Wuthering Heights. His performance in the latter telefilm was spotted by Hollywood producer Hal Wallis, who signed Heston to a contact. He debuted on the big screen later that year, in Dark City, a film noir with Lizabeth Scott, Jack Webb, and Mike Mazurki.

OTHER STUFF:

  • Heston’s classmates at Northwestern included Cloris Leachman, Paul Lynde, Charlotte Rae, and Patricia Neal.

    Heston and his wife of 64 years.

  • The baby Moses in Heston’s 1959 film The Ten Commmandments was played by the actor’s son, Fraser. (Incidentally, I had the pleasure of seeing Fraser at the 2019 TCM Film Festival.)
  • Heston and his wife, Lydia, were married for 64 years, until the actor’s death in 2008.
  • Heston won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Ben Hur (1959). Nearly 20 years later, in 1978, he was given the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Oscar ceremony.
  • Carrying on the tradition from his early career, Heston actor played Mark Antony in three films: Julius Caesar in 1950 and 1970, and Antony and Cleopatra in 1972.

MY SUTS PICK:

See it.

I was hoping that one of my favorite Charlton Heston movies would air on his day – Ruby Gentry or The Big Country or The Ten Commandments – but no such luck. So I’m going with Touch of Evil, even though it’s not one of my favorite noirs. Heston’s good in it, though, so there’s that. In it, he plays a Mexican (yes) drug enforcement official investigating a car bombing murder. You may not always know what’s going on as the film’s labyrinthine plot unfurls, but you won’t be bored. Trust me.

And join me here tomorrow for the last day (where did the time go?) of Summer Under the Stars!

TCM Summer Under the Stars: Day Twenty-Nine — Eva Marie Saint

•August 28, 2020 • 3 Comments

A treasure.

Eva Marie Saint is one of four stars being feted in this year’s Summer Under the Stars celebration who is still with us – she turned 96 this year.

She’s also the only one of this year’s stars that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in person. Is it any wonder that Eva Marie Saint Day is one of my personal favorites?

IN THE BEGINNING:

Eva Marie Saint was born on July 4, 1924 in Newark, New Jersey, one of two daughters of Quaker parents John Merle and Eva Marie. After high school, she attended Bowling Green State University. She was studying to follow in her mother’s footsteps to become a teacher when a member of the school’s drama department invited her to appear in a school production. Saint never looked back; after graduation, she moved to New York City, where she found work as a radio actress. She also took classes at the famed Actors Studio and the Stella Adler School of Acting.

Saint began her career as a page for NBC, then appeared on the NBC television show Campus Hoopla. She was also one of the original singing “Bonnie Maids” used in live commercials for the Bonnie Maid Versatile Varieties, a variety show on NBC. (The other “Bonnie Maids were Edie Adams, Anne Francis, and Janis Paige.)

Young Eva.

Beginning in 1949, she could be seen regularly on a variety of television shows, including Actor’s Studio and Prudential Family Playhouse. She played with Lillian Gish in a live TV performance of The Trip to Bountiful and in 1953, she made her Broadway debut in the same role. The following year, she won the role of Edie Doyle (beating out close contender Elizabeth Montgomery) in her big screen debut, On the Waterfront. For her performance, she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

OTHER STUFF:

  • Saint was a cheerleader at Bethlehem Central High School in Delmar, New York, located near Albany. She was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • There is a theater named after Saint on the campus of Bowling Green University.
  • In September 1949, Saint was featured in a Life magazine article about her struggles to make it as an actress in New York. The article stated that “the mathematical odds against Miss Saint . . . are terribly large.”
  • The actress was nominated for five Emmys for various roles; she won in 1990 for People Like Us, a miniseries based on the novel by Dominic Dunne.
  • Saint was married for 65 years to director-producer Jeffrey Hayden, until his death at the age of 90 in 2016.

MY SUTS PICK:

Don’t miss it.

I considered choosing On the Waterfront (1954) or A Hatful of Rain (1957) – Saint is simply outstanding in both. But for sheer joy, I’m going to go with North by Northwest (1959). This Alfred Hitchcock-directed feature involves a lot of things – mistaken identity, spies, and various and sundry other bits of business – but it’s riveting from start to finish and Eva Marie Saint is luminous throughout.

Also, treat yourself and check out Eva Marie Saint’s interview with Robert Osborne from the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival. She’s an absolute delight.

And join me for Day 30 of Summer Under the Stars!

TCM Summer Under the Stars: Day Twenty-Eight — Paul Henreid

•August 28, 2020 • 3 Comments

Smooth. Like butter.

Charming. Dangerous. Tender. Courageous. Mysterious.

The handsome and versatile Paul Henreid was all these and more.

IN THE BEGINNING:

Sources differ on the name Paul Henreid was given at birth – some say it was Paul George Julius Henried, according to others it was Paul George Julius von Hernreid, and still others say he was Paul Georg Julius Freiherr von Hernreid Ritter von Wasel-Waldingau. Whatever name is accurate, he was born on January 10, 1908, in Trieste, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Italy), the son of a banker, Baron Carl Alphons. He grew up in Vienna and attended the famed Maria Theresa Academy and the Institute of Graphic Arts.

In Goodbye, Mr. Chips. You can see Henreid over Donat’s shoulder, on the left.

Although his family wasn’t in favor of his choice, Paul was determined to become an actor. He trained for the theater at night, earning a living by day as a translator and book designer for a publishing company. One of his acting school performances caught the attention of Otto Preminger, who was then working as managing director for famed stage director Max Reinhardt. Preminger introduced Paul to Reinhardt, and in 1933, Paul debuted at the Reinhardt Theatre in Faust. Over the next few years, Paul went on to become a prominent player in Reinhardt’s theater, and also appeared in several Austrian films. He later left Austria and moved to London, appearing as Prince Albert in Victoria the Great, and in 1939, he made his English-speaking feature film debut in Goodbye, Mr. Chips.

OTHER STUFF:

Henreid with his wife and daughter Monika

  • Henreid’s last name is pronounced “HEN-reed.” I know this because his daughter, Monika, schooled me at the 2019 TCM Film Festival.
  • The actor’s best known films were both released in 1942 – Now, Voyager and Casablanca.
  • In the 1950s, Henreid stepped behind the camera and directed numerous television shows and feature films, including close to 30 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
  • Henreid was blacklisted as Communist sympathizer by the House Un-American Activities Committee.

MY SUTS PICK:

See it.

Although both Now, Voyager and Casablanca are airing on Paul Henreid Day (and by all means, you should treat yourself by checking them out), I am selecting Hollow Triumph as my pick. In this film, Henreid plays a dual role – as a gangster on parole, and the psychologist whose identity the gangster endeavors to assume. I’ve loved this film since the first time I saw it – Henreid is outstanding and the story is unique and riveting. And the ending is noir-perfect. Don’t miss this one.

And join me for Day 29 of Summer Under the Stars!

TCM Summer Under the Stars: Day Twenty-Seven — Claudette Colbert

•August 26, 2020 • 4 Comments

She was a star.

In 1936, Claudette Colbert was the highest-paid actress in Hollywood.

Two years later, she became Hollywood’s highest-paid STAR.

IN THE BEGINNING:

Claudette Colbert was born Émilie Claudette Chauchoin in Paris, France, on September 13, 1905 – her family called her Lily, reportedly after singer Lillie Langtry (who was born on the Isle of Jersey, a few miles off the coast of France). When her father, George, experienced financial setbacks in his job as an investment, he moved his wife, his daughter, and son Charles to New York to start a new life. Once in New York, Émilie’s parents legally changed her name to Lily.

Young Lily.

After high school, Lily had plans to become a fashion designer, but when one of her teachers suggested that she try out of a school play, the die was cast. She enrolled in the Art Students League of New York following her graduation, but as fate would have it, she attended a party with playwright Anne Morrison Chapin, who offered Lily a small part in her new production, The Wild Westcotts. The play opened on Broadway in December 1923; Lily used the name Claudette (she reportedly hated the name Lily) and took the name of her grandmother as her last name. She went on to appear in a total of 11 Broadway productions during the 1920s.

OTHER STUFF:

  • In New York, Claudette lived in a fifth floor walk-up. She attributed her shapely legs to climbing the stairs to her apartment every day for several years.

    With first husband, Norman Foster

  • After appearing in her first movie, the Frank Capra-directed For the Love of Mike (1927), Claudette vowed that she would never make another film.
  • Claudette considered her left side to be her best side and, famously, insisted on only being shot from that side.
  • Claudette received three Oscar nominations during her career – for It Happened One Night (1934), Private Worlds (1935), and Since You Went Away (1945). She won for It Happened One Night. (She’d been so certain that she wouldn’t win that she was at the train station, on her way out of town, when she got the word that she’d received the award.)
  • Claudette’s first husband was actor-turned-director Norman Foster, whose second wife was Sally Blane, the older sister of Loretta Young, with whom Foster appeared in two films.

MY SUTS PICK:

See it.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and select Tomorrow is Forever (1946) as my SUTS pick. I have to admit that, generally speaking, I’m not wild about Claudette Colbert’s performances after, say, 1934 or so (although there a few exceptions, like The Palm Beach Story, released in 1942). But I was lured in by this film from almost the very start, and I just had to recommend it – not necessarily because of Colbert’s performance, but for so many other reasons. Starring Orson Welles and a young Natalie Wood, the movie is about a man, believed to have been killed in the war, who re-emerges in the life of his now-remarried wife. My description doesn’t do the movie justice. Check it out.

And join me for Day 28 of Summer Under the Stars!

TCM Summer Under the Stars: Day Twenty-Six — Laurence Olivier

•August 26, 2020 • 3 Comments

Beauty with a ‘stache.

He possessed sculptured features – complete with cleft chin – expressive eyes, and an acclaimed acting talent that was once called “the greatest of our century.”  In a career that spanned six decade, Laurence Olivier was the total package.

IN THE BEGINNING:

Laurence Kerr Olivier was born on May 22, 1907, in Dorking, Surrey in England, the youngest of three children born to a minister and his wife. His mother, to whom he was devoted, died when Olivier was 12 years old; of this tragic event he once said, “Perhaps it’s good for a person, when they’re young, to have a blow that takes them some getting over. And that probably does something for your character, or your guts, or your courage or something.” Olivier showed an early affinity for acting, playing Brutus in a school production of Julius Caesar at the age of 10, and later portrayed Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Young Larry.

Olivier spent a year at the Central School of Speech Training and Dramatic Art. When he left the school, he worked with small touring company, and then signed on as a bit part player, understudy, and assistant stage manager for the London company operated by actress Sybil Thorndike.

Later, he joined the Birmingham Repertory Company, where he was seen in such productions as All’s Well That Ends Well and Uncle Vanya. Over the next several years, his roles and his reputation grew in stature, which attracted the attention of Hollywood, resulting in a contract from RKO.

OTHER STUFF:

  • Olivier was the youngest actor to ever be knighted.
  • In 1970, Queen Elizabeth made Olivier a Peer of the Realm.
  • Olivier was cast as Antonio in Queen Christina (1933), but the film’s star, Greta Garbo, rejected him after their first meeting at the studio. The part was ultimately played by John Gilbert.
  • Olivier was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, and won for Best Actor in Hamlet; he is one of only two actors to direct themselves in an Oscar-winning performance.
  • Olivier’s three wives were all actresses – Jill Esmond, Vivien Leigh, and Joan Plowright.

    With second wife, Vivien Leigh.

  • He was, reportedly, seriously considered for the role of Don Corleone in The Godfather.

MY SUTS PICK:

While there are several first-rate films airing on Olivier Day, I didn’t need to spend much time selecting my pick: Wuthering Heights. If a movie makes me cry, it’s tops in my book. And Wuthering Heights always makes me cry.

The story concerns a great love between a gypsy stable boy and the daughter in the family where he’s employed. It’s really lovely. If you’ve never seen it, you simply must.

And join me for Day 27 of Summer Under the Stars!

See it.

TCM Summer Under the Stars: Day Twenty-Five — Anne Shirley

•August 24, 2020 • 3 Comments

Peaches and cream.

Her complexion was peaches and cream. She had sweet, soulful eyes, and a softly curved mouth, and a demeanor of gentle innocence. Anne Shirley may not have reached the heights of movie stardom, but she made an impact on the Golden Age of Hollywood that is unforgettable.

IN THE BEGINNING:

Dawn Evelyeen Paris was born in New York City on April 17, 1919. Her father died while she was a baby, and her mother began finding jobs for Dawn as photographer’s model for baby clothes, using such fanciful names as Lenn Fondre, Lindley Dawn, and Dawn O’Day.

When she was just four years old, Dawn – billed as Dawn O’Day – made her big screen debut in The Hidden Woman (1922), starring Evelyn Nesbit (later known, famously, as the Girl in the Red Velvet Swing). After a second film, a western called Moonshine Valley (1922), Dawn’s mother decided to seek their fortune in Hollywood and moved with her young daughter to California. Dawn managed to land a few parts in feature films every year, as well as several Vitaphone shorts. She also played the live-action Alice in Walt Disney’s silent animated series Alice in Cartoonland.

Dawn O’Day.

Dawn’s parts included playing Jean Arthur as a child in Sins of the Father (1929), Barbara Stanwyck as a child in So Big (1932), and Ann Dvorak as a child in Three on a Match (1932). In 1934, after testing along with hundreds of other young girls, Dawn was given the title character in Anne of Green Gables. When the picture was completed, Dawn adopted her character’s name, and Anne Shirley was born.

OTHER STUFF:

  • Anne was married three times. Her first husband was actor John Payne.
  • Her second husband, writer-producer Adrian Scott, was blacklisted in 1947 during the McCarthy era, and went to prison as one of the Hollywood 10.

    With first husband, John Payne.

  • Anne and her third husband, Charles Lederer, were married in 1949 in the home of Bennet Cerf, well-known publisher for Random House. Lederer was the screenwriter of such pictures as His Girl Friday (1940) and the nephew of actress Marion Davies. Anne and Lederer were married until Lederer’s death in 1976.
  • In 1938, Anne was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in Stella Dallas (1937). She lost to Alice Brady in In Old Chicago.

MY SUTS PICK:

Check it out.

There could only be one pick for me on Anne Shirley Day – Murder, My Sweet (1944). In a nutshell, this often-convoluted picture tells the story of a private dick hired to find an ex-con’s ex-girlfriend. Along the way, a motley crew of characters is introduced, including Anne Shirley’s Ann Grayle, the daughter of the husband of . . . well, just watch it. You may not know what’s going on half the time, but you won’t care. Trust me.

And join me for Day 26 of Summer Under the Stars!

TCM Summer Under the Stars: Day Twenty-Four — George Raft

•August 23, 2020 • 2 Comments

Hard-boiled on screen and off.

George Raft was the essence of the 1930s cinema gangster – calculating, ruthless, and always handy with a gat.

Off-screen, he led a life that often mirrored his big-screen persona, rubbing shoulders with such real-life mobsters as Bugsy Siegel and Owney Madden and once describing himself as “kind of a greaseball type.” Actress Joan Bennett once said he possessed “an underlying toughness . . . beneath the finely veneered surface.”

IN THE BEGINNING:

George Ranft was born in New York City on September 26, 1895, one of 10 children of a department store deliveryman and his wife. Raised in the rough “Hell’s Kitchen” neighborhood of the city, the future actor (who changed his name to Raft in his late teens) frequently skipped school, spending much of his time getting involved in street fights, hanging out on local corners, and serving for a time as mascot for the New York Highlanders baseball team. He left home (and school) at the age of 13, sleeping in subways and mission homes and performing odd jobs to make ends meet.

Young George with Carole Lombard.

Raft was a professional boxer for a short time, then switched gears, capitalizing on his natural dancing ability to first get a job as a dance teacher at the Audubon Ballroom, and later entering ballroom dance contests and working as a “taxi-dancer” in local cafes. He got his first job on the legitimate stage at the Union Square Theater after an agent spotted him in a contest.

During the next several years, billed as “The Fastest Dancer in the World,” Raft toured nationwide with the Orpheum and B.F. Keith vaudeville circuits, landing bookings in some of the top clubs on Broadway and in Europe, and appearing as the featured dancer at Texas Guinan’s El Fey Club in New York. He made his screen debut in 1929 when Guinan offered him a role as a taxi-dancer in Queen of the Nightclubs, a film about her life as a famed nightclub hostess.

OTHER STUFF:

  • Early in his dancing career, Raft supplemented his income by working for his boyhood pal, Owney Madden, who had become a top gangster in New York. Among other jobs, Raft drove the convoy car for Madden’s fleet of beer trucks.
  • Raft claimed that he was “tricked” in the early 1920s into marrying Grayce Mulrooney, who was once one of his dancing partners. Shortly after they were wed, the couple separated, but Mulrooney refused to grant Raft a divorce – a stance that she maintained until her death in 1970.

    With Bugsy Siegel.

  • In the late 1930s, Raft decided he no longer wanted to be depicted as a criminal on screen; instead, he wanted to be seen as upstanding, even heroic. As a result, he turned down a variety of films, including Dead End (1937). High Sierra (1941), Double Indemnity (1944) – in the latter, Raft wanted the character of Walter Neff to turn out to be an undercover detective. The part was ultimately played by Fred MacMurray.
  • During the filming of his 1941 picture Manpower, Raft and co-star Edward G. Robinson engaged in what one magazine called “one of the fieriest feuds Hollywood has enjoyed in many a moon.” The two got into at least one fist fight, resulting in Robinson walking off the set. The two stars patched up their differences in later years and shortly before his death, Robinson praised Raft as a “true actor.”
  • On the night of Bugsy Siegel’s murder in June 1947, Raft was reportedly scheduled to meet the gangster at his home, but he was delayed by a bridge game.

    Raft and Mae West, together again at the end.

  • There is an excellent interview with George Raft on YouTube, from The Mike Douglas Show. The program aired just seven months before Raft’s death.
  • Raft appeared in Mae West’s first film, Night After Night in 1932, and her last film, Sextette, in 1978. Ironically, Raft and West would die within two days of each other in 1980 and their corpses were briefly alongside each other on stretchers in a hallway of the same mortuary.

MY SUTS PICK:

There are a number of good films airing on George Raft’s Summer Under the Stars Day, including the aforementioned Manpower, Each Dawn I Die (1939), Nocturne (1946), and one of my all-time favorite films, Some Like It Hot (1959). For my pick of the day, though, I’m going with They Drive By Night (1940), in which Raft stars with Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, and Ida Lupino. The story concerns a pair of truck driving brothers – Raft and Bogart – and their experiences when they decide to strike out on their own, including a tragic accident and Raft’s relationship with his boss’s emotionally unstable wife. It’s good stuff – check it out.

By the way, George Raft was never known as one of Hollywood’s greatest actors, but there’s no denying that he could cut a rug like nobody’s business. Check him out here in this clip from the 1930s . . .

. . . and join me for Day 25 of Summer Under the Stars!

TCM Summer Under the Stars: Day Twenty-Three — Olivia de Havilland

•August 23, 2020 • 5 Comments

Dame Olivia de Havilland

Olivia de Havilland once said, “I would prefer to live forever in perfect health, but if I must at some time leave this life, I would like to do so ensconced on a chaise lounge, perfumed, wearing a velvet robe and pearl earrings, with a flute of champagne beside me and having just discovered the answer to the last problem in a British cryptic crossword.”

Miss de Havilland died July 26, 2020, at the age of 104. I like to think that her life ended just as she’d imagined.

IN THE BEGINNING:

Olivia Mary de Havilland was born in Tokyo on July 1, 1916, the oldest of two girls (her younger sister is Joan Fontaine). Her father, Walter Augustus, was an English professor-turned-patent attorney, and her mother, Lillian, had studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and performed as a concert singer. After her marriage, she taught dramatic art, music, and elocution.

As Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Eventually, Olivia’s parents split up (her father later remarried – to the family’s Japanese housekeeper, and her mother remarried a storekeeper named George Fontaine) and Lillian and her daughters wound up in Saratoga, a village about 50 miles from San Francisco. In high school, Olivia appeared in class plays and was the secretary of the school club, using acting to rid herself of what she considered to be an extreme case of shyness. After her graduation in 1934, she was offered the role of Puck in the Saratoga Community production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As fate would have it, Austrian director Max Reinhardt brought his production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to the Hollywood Bowl and Olivia was recommended for the role of Hermia. When the play was made into a feature film in 1935, Olivia was part of the cast, making her big screen debut.

OTHER STUFF:

  • Olivia appeared in a total of nine films with Errol Flynn, including Captain Blood (1935), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), and Dodge City (1939).

    Olivia appeared in nine films with Errol Flynn.

  • Olivia and her sister, Joan, are the only siblings in history to have won an Oscar in a lead acting category.
  • Olivia moved to France in 1956 when she married Paris Match editor and journalist Pierre Galante. She lived there for the rest of her life.
  • Two weeks before her 101st birthday, Olivia was appointed Dame Commander of the British Empire. She was the oldest recipient ever to receive the honor and called it “the most gratifying of birthday presents.”
  • In 1943, de Havilland filed a lawsuit against her studio, Warner Bros., which had typecast her in film roles as an ingénue. She strongly preferred different roles, but Warner Bros. would not lend her to other studios. De Havilland won the suit, thereby reducing the power of the studios. The case is known as The De Havilland Law.

MY SUTS PICK:

Run, don’t walk, to see Gone With the Wind.

What a quandary!! Gone With the Wind (1939) or The Heiress (1949)?? I love them both but, ultimately, I simply had to go with Gone With the Wind, which I’ve long considered to be my favorite film. De Havilland plays Melanie Wilkes, whose character exudes strength, kindness and, loyalty. For me, she is the heart and soul of this epic film.

I’ve seen GWTW countless times, but I plan on watching it again to celebrate Olivia de Havilland on her special Summer Under the Stars Day. I hope you’ll join me.

And I’ll see you on Day 24 of Summer Under the Stars!