Inside the life of ‘Gone With the Wind’ star Olivia de Havilland and her turbulent childhood

One of Hollywood’s real legends, Olivia de Havilland, passed away in 2020.The 104-year-old star of classic movies including Gone with the Wind and The Adventures of Robin Hood, who won two Oscars, passed away.

When filming Gone With the Wind, the final big live Hollywood star was infamous for her dark sense of humor, but her real life was far more sinister than her films.

In terms of grace, control, beauty, strength, intelligence, and wit, Olivia is unmatched. She embodied what a lady should be.

As one of Hollywood’s leading ingénues in the 1930s, De Havilland originally rose to prominence by memorable roles opposite Errol Flynn in swashbuckling action movies like Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood.

She ended the decade playing Melanie Wilkes in the iconic Gone with the Wind, which is frequently regarded as one of the greatest Hollywood movies of all time and remains, when adjusted for inflation, the highest-grossing movie ever made. This is undoubtedly the role for which she is most remembered.

As Vivien Leigh’s sweet Scarlett O’Hara’s confidant and best friend, Olivia de Havilland gave a timeless performance that garnered her her first Oscar nomination.

She sued Warner Bros. in 1943 over the conditions of her exclusive contract because she wanted the flexibility to pursue opportunities with other studios. This is where she made her other greatest contribution to Hollywood, though, which was off-screen.

She prevailed in the lawsuit, giving actors a victory and lessening the influence the studio system had over them. It is still referred to as “The de Havilland Law.”

De Havilland was able to shatter the stereotype of the ingenue at Warner Bros. and pursue more dramatic roles, which paid off: Among other accolades, she won two Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role for the 1946 film To Each His Own and the 1949 film The Heiress.

She was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. She received the National Medal of Arts in 2008. De Havilland continued to be a part of vintage Hollywood after her final on-screen appearance in 1988.

Given her upbringing, Olivia de Havilland must have been extremely proud of what she had done. Her early years were rather terrible and chaotic. Olivia was born in Tokyo in 1916 to British parents Walter de Havilland, a patent attorney, and Lillian (née Ruse), an actor.

Olivia also had a younger sister, actress Joan Fontaine, born in 1917. According to BBC, the sister’s relationship and rivalry ”was a constant source of speculation in the gossip columns.”

Their mother presumably opted to relocate to California in 1919 since Olivia and Joan had bronchial issues. The plan was to relocate the girls to a climate that would be more beneficial to them. A doctor suggested Saratoga, which is located in the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains.

Sadly, Lillian and Walter de Havilland had a strained relationship. Olivia’s father had a history of adultery and would eventually desert the family. The father departed and went back to Tokyo to marry his Japanese housekeeper 11 days after arriving in California.

Olivia de Havilland, on the other hand, was raised by her mother, sister, and stepfather. It has been said that the mother’s upbringing was extremely severe. Lillian expected a lot from her girls. Oliva and Joan both need authorization before leaving the house.

Things at home deteriorated when teenage de Havilland, who had large brown eyes and long golden-brown hair, became interested in amateur theater and began to appear in school productions.

She had a strong desire to work in the entertainment industry, which eventually brought her and her stepfather, George Milan Fontaine, into a heated argument. If Olivia accepted the main role in the high school production of “Pride and Prejudice,” he threatened to kick her out of the house because he didn’t want her to pursue a career as an actress.

But Olivia’s passion for drama couldn’t be stopped.

She was told categorically that if she left the house, she left for good by her strict stepfather. The 17-year-old girl made the decision to accept the part and left her family behind to follow her goals.

Olivia stayed at the home of friends until she won a scholarship to Mills College. And the rest is history. 

The atmosphere around us feels as though it is losing air because of Olivia’s death.At the age of 104, she passed away on July 26, 2020.

According to her spokesperson, she passed away at her Parisian home from natural causes.

Of course, Hollywood didn’t wait long to honor the legacy and her extraordinary career.

The actress Jane Seymour remembers working with her on a movie and referred to her as “larger than life” and “a brilliant actor.”

The actor Jared Leto, who recalls visiting de Havilland in Paris and discussing how the actress’ legal success affected his own career, provided one of the most intimate tributes.

“I thanked her for her bravery and shared how her choices affected me and my brother,” Leto wrote on Twitter.

And fans even honored de Havilland with tributes on her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame:

What a remarkable career and life. To a true Hollywood great, may you rest in peace! Your favorite Olivia de Havilland recollections should be included with this narrative.