The above is a excerpt from a diary kept by the late 18th century-early 19th century English intellectual radical William Godwin, covering the last few days of August and the first few days of September in the year 1797. The fourth entry down on the left-hand side describes what was going on in Godwin's life on the 30th, exactly 223 years ago today. It reads:
Mary, p. 116. Barnes R Fell & Dyson calls: dine at Reveley's: Fenwicks & M. sup: Blenkinsop. Birth of Mary, 20 minutes after 11 at night. From 7 to 10, Evesham Buildings.
So what's all that mean? Well, scholars who have looked into the matter believe Mary, p.116 refers to a 1788 novel Godwin was reading titled Mary: A Fiction, written by the 18th century radical feminist (by the standards of the day) writer Mary Wollstonecraft, whom Godwin had in fact married only five months earlier. Barnes is crossed out so we won't worry about that individual (if it is indeed an individual.) Fell, Dyson, Reveley, Fenwick and M. were all friends or acquaintances of Godwin's. Scholars can't identify Blenkinsop, but Godwin apparently ate supper with him (or her.) Skipping the second sentence for just a moment, Evesham Buildings refers to Godwin's residence, where he was at from 7 to 10. AM or PM? Assuming this diary entry is chronological in nature, I'm thinking it's AM (in which case it's now the 31st.) I say that because Mary is born 20 minutes after 11 at night, hence PM, and we all know 11 comes after 7 (and, for that matter, 10.) So who is Mary? Obviously not Wollstonecraft, who was by then 38. In fact, it's Wollstonecraft's and Godfrey's daughter, the reason the two tied the knot in the first place (though if you do the math, you'll see it's a somewhat belated knot.)
I'd like to report that Godwin's, Wollstonecraft's, and little Mary's story from that point on was one of familial bliss, but, unfortunately, I can't, for 11 days later there was this entry:
20 minutes before 8. _________________________
Godwin was now a widower with one daughter and and one stepdaughter (Fanny, Wollstonecraft's daughter from a previous relationship.) He soon remarried a woman with two children of her own, though young Mary was said to have had an uneasy relationship with her stepmother. Hey, it's not always the Brady Bunch.
Godwin for his part doted on Mary, plied her with books, and raised her to be a radical intellectual like himself. He did such a thorough job that she fell in love with an up-and-coming radical intellectual...
….Percy Shelley, who set forth his radical views in rhyme. Mary and Percy actually met through Godwin, for whom the young poet had a great deal of admiration. Godwin seems to have been less than flattered, as he opposed Mary and Percy's eventual marriage. Part of it was that Shelley, a scion of a wealthy family, had promised to pay off Godwin's many debts, only to renege after his parents cut off his purse strings. The other part was that Shelly was already married, a marriage that only ended when his wife drown herself in the Serpentine, a recreational lake in London's Hyde Park.
And so Percy and Mary tied the knot. It was said to be an open marriage, though biographers agree that he was more enthusiastic about free love than her. Whoever they were sleeping with, when together they enjoyed each other's company. One moment of togetherness had them holed up in a Swiss chalet with Percy's good friend Lord Byron and a Doctor Polidori during a spell of particularly nasty weather. To kill time they decided each would write a horror story. Though Percy and Byron were both published writers at that point, Mary was the only one to actually finish a story. Percy liked it so much that he encouraged her to expand it into a novel. And so she did. A horror novel with an intellectual bent, though for those who haven't read it but recognize the title, it may be more resonant of black-and-white Hollywood and Halloween costumes:
These days, Mary Shelley is more well-known than either William Godwin or Mary Wollstonecraft. Still, she needed their genes. Writers are born, not made.
Cartoonist and illustrator Jean-Jacques Sempé was born on this day in 1932. In his native France he's best known for illustrating a series of children's books written by RenéGoscinny (best known for the comic strip Astérix) collectively called Le Petit Nicolas (in English Little Nicholas.) Here in the United States Sempé is far better known for the many covers he's done for The New Yorker. Take a look (in some cases, a very close look):
Knowing that Sempé is from France makes me think all the above scenes must take place in France. However, The New Yorker is an American magazine, and there's no reason these scenes can't take place in America. The United States obviously has airports and swimming pools and downtowns with lots of traffic. The United States even has classical musicians, a favorite theme of Sempé's. In fact, there are whole orchestras with such musicians. I live in Cleveland, and I'm told we have a very good orchestra, have had a very good orchestra for quite a while, that it was once led by a man named Szell who in his day was as well-known as Dennis Kucinich. Currently, it's led by Franz Welser-Möst (like most Rust Belt cities, we have a lot of ethnic groups.) Cleveland rocks listens politely and then claps. But getting back to Sempé, whatever their country of origin, most of his characters seem engulfed by their surroundings. They don't seem to know or care that they're engulfed. On the other hand, we know they're engulfed, because we're afforded a bird's-eye view, and we have to care enough to squint to find them. But the squinting's usually worth it. Maybe that's what makes Sempé's work so universal, and particularly appealing for Americans. If there's one thing we have in this country, it's engulfing surroundings.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some squinting to do.
I'd rather leave directing to the directors. I'd find it distracting to be directed by a Paul Newman. Costarring with him is fine. But I like my directors to be father figures. If Paul directed me, I'd be committing mental incest.
Kicked out of the house by her strict stepfather for appearing in high school plays (and here I bet you thought that kind of thing only happened to teenage boys), young Olivia de Havilland nevertheless saw teaching English as her calling, and was in fact offered a scholarship to do just that. Which didn't mean she couldn't still act for fun at the community theater in her more-or-less hometown of Saratoga, California (the daughter of British expatriates, she had spent her first few years in Japan.) The play was Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream, and Olivia set the whole plot in motion as a mischievous pixie named Puck. Now it just so happened that the highly acclaimed Austrian stage director Max Reinhardt was in California scouring the state for actors to appear in the same play at the Hollywood Bowl. One of Reinhardt's assistants caught Olivia on stage and asked that she be second understudy for not Puck, slated to played by a young Mickey Rooney (it's obviously a role subject to interpretation) but the leading female part of Hermia. Leading female part or not, there was little chance as second understudy that Olivia would find herself actually performing in front of that Hollywood audience. But little chance is not the same as no chance (or else you wouldn't even need a second understudy, would you?), and for whatever reasons the two actresses ahead of her bailed out of the production two weeks before the premiere. Olivia must have proved a very able substitute, for when Warner Brothers asked Reinhardt to directed the movie version, he then asked her if she would appear in it. She at first hesitated--she after all had just got a scholarship--but eventually relented and signed a five-year contract with Warner's.
Though it's highly regarded today, A Midsummer's Night Dream upon its initial release got mixed reviews and tanked at the box office, but nobody blamed de Havilland for that. She was cast as the love interest in a few comedies, then Warner's decided to take a chance on a genre the studio hadn't really been known for up to that point: the costume drama. Since it was a swashbuckler, the studio had hoped to secure the services of British actor Robert Donat, who a year earlier had wielded a sword in The Count of Monte Cristo, a box office hit. But Donat suffered from asthma, and feared another swashbuckler would kill him. Warner's then took another chance. A screentest with an unknown Australian actor the studio had under contract had proven quite favorable, and so Errol Flynn was cast as the indentured physician-turned-buccaneer title character in 1935's Captain Blood, directed by Michael Curtiz. de Havilland is the plantation owner's niece who buys Dr. Blood at an auction, decides at first she doesn't like him, but finds she just can't resist his roguish charm and falls madly in love with him. Captain Blood was a box office hit, in no small part due to the onscreen chemistry between the film's attractive leads. Flynn and de Havilland would go on to make seven more movies together.
Their third collaboration, 1938's The Adventures of Robin Hood, again directed by Curtiz, wound up being their biggest hit as a duo, and eventually considered a Hollywood classic, one of the greatest adventure films ever made, that even today can hold its own against the latest Avengers offering. de Havilland plays the legendary Maid Marian, referred here as Lady Marian and a member of King Richard the Lionheart's court. She initially spurns the advances of Flynn's Robin (here a slumming aristocrat whose robbing of the rich and giving to the poor is part of a larger agenda having to do with Norman/Saxon factional politics) but finds she just can't resist his roguish charm and falls madly in love with him (as you may have ascertained, in costume dramas it helps to have roguish charm when looking to score with chicks.) They take turns rescuing each other from prison, help restore Richard to his rightful place on the throne, get engaged, and have so much cash on hand at film's end that Robin may have to rob himself if he wants to keep giving to the poor.
Instead of a swashbuckler, Flynn's and de Havilland's fifth movie together was a Western, 1938's Dodge City. Olivia is a young pioneer woman who this time has a very good reason for spurning trailblazer Flynn's advances: he killed her brother. However, it was in self-defense, and, as you might expect, roguish charm works as well in the bar-brawling Old West as it does in those parts of the world where people brandish swords instead of six-shooters, and so the two fall in love. Flynn also becomes the sheriff of Dodge, an odd job to give to somebody with roguish charm, but as James Arness was still in high school when this picture was made, there may have been no other takers. Flynn cleans up this particular part of the West and he and de Havilland move on to Virginia City, which, in the absence of Lorne Greene (still in Canada doing radio), was in complete disarray. de Havilland was beginning to feel like a bit of disarray herself. She enjoyed working with Flynn, but felt she was too good an actress always simply just to stand on the sidelines and look on admiringly while he proved that Roguish Charm always triumphs over Evil.
Independent producer David O. Selznick saw something more in de Havilland. Having secured the film rights to Margaret Mitchell's massive Civil War novel Gone with the Wind soon after it was published, and then see it become a Pulitzer Prize-winning best-seller, he set about selecting a cast to bring the book's characters to life. This resulted in the famous nationwide search for the right actress to play main character Scarlett O'Hara, and that had every starlet in Hollywood lobbying for the part. In fact the whole search was a publicity stunt and delaying tactic, as Selznick himself had to lobby his father-in-law, MGM head Louis B. Mayer, to loan out Clark Gable to play the equally important role of Rhett Butler, which led to a distribution deal with the studio that took some time to come to fruition. Eventually, a British actress not all that well-known on this side of the pond, Vivien Leigh, got the part of Mitchell's Southern belle. As for Olivia De Havilland, she may have been the one female star in Hollywood who didn't try out for Scarlett. She had read Mitchell's novel, and had taken an interest in a another character, Melanie Wilkes, Scarlett's bookish sister-in-law, friend, and (though Melanie doesn't consider herself as such) romantic rival. Jack L. Warner agreed to loan de Havilland out, and Selznick, perhaps surprised that a glamorous movie star would even want to play such a non-glamorous character, happily welcomed her aboard.
But what was this thing she was boarding? Nine years ago on this blog I wrote a critique of Mitchell's novel, in which I said the author (the Irish-American 1920s flapper daughter of a Southern suffragette) offered some real insight into human behavior that to me almost made her work profound, but that profundity was undercut by a simplistic view of African-Americans that a reasonable person may interpret as "racist". Well, that more or less describes the movie, too, and as with Confederate flags and confederate statues, there's recently been renewed calls to remove the film from public view. That may very well happen, but before it does I should remind you that whatever its racial politics, both the novel and movie mostly concerns itself with the interpersonal relations of four Caucasians during a rather trying time in history, and may be summed up this way: Rhett loves Scarlett, Scarlett loves Ashley, Ashley loves...well, who does Ashley love? As portrayed by Leslie Howard, the Southern Gentleman has his head so far up his ass (per Mitchell's novel) that it hard to tell if he prefers Scarlett or the woman he ends up marrying, Melanie, and that what makes de Havilland's performance important to the film's (um...nonracially) artistic success.
The very first sentence of the novel states that Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, so of course when it came time to make the movie David O. Selznick goes out and hires a beautiful actress to play her. Well, that's really no biggie. The novel further states that what Scarlett lacks in looks she easily makes up for in flirtatious charm, so guys just end up thinking she's beautiful. But what of nerdish Melanie, who never attracts the menfolk, and whom Scarlett hardly considers (at least not initially) serious competition? Selznick then goes out and hires another beautiful actress. Well, that's Hollywood, folks. If the Scarlett of the novel fakes beauty, then Olivia de Havilland's challenge is to fake plainness. To that end, she wears very little makeup, dresses somewhat dowdily, has a kind but nonsexual smile, and never, unless she's giving birth or otherwise wracked with illness, lets her hair down. Does it work? When I was in high school I took an elective course called The Novel, and the very first one we read was Gone with the Wind, and got to watch the movie as well. A subsequent classroom discussion turned toward Melanie's/de Havilland's looks, and the consensus among both the guys and the girls was that "she's all right." Had they seen any of the movies de Havilland made prior to GWTW, or the many glamorous Warner's publicity photos of her, my classmates might have rated her a couple notches above "all right". But even such a top-down approach goes to Mitchell's central point that on an equal playing field (or with equal attention paid to from the wardrobe and makeup departments), there's no particular reason to believe Scarlett is prettier than Melanie.
Why does any of this matter? Because film is a visual art form, and, among other things, the actress has to look the part, even if the part is a bit ambiguous. The Scarlett/Melanie rivalry (one-sided as it is) and eventual friendship (I love the way they bond over a dead Yankee deserter) is one of the most important elements in Gone with the Wind, at least as important as the movie poster-erotic Scarlett/Rhett relationship (not that that's not interesting, too.) But where the book can go inside a person's head, the movie can't. Her character's high self-regard has Vivien Leigh smirking quite a bit throughout the film, unnecessary in the book where we can just read her thoughts. As for Melanie, she's seen mostly through Scarlett's eyes in the novel, whereas in the movie we get to see her through our eyes. We don't necessarily have to dismiss Melanie as a wimp when she first shows up, but we also can't be surprised when Scarlett does so. That not only calls for more acting on Vivien Leigh's part, but also on de Havilland's. In fact, it becomes kind of tricky for the latter. The first impression she makes has to be convincingly cloying for both Scarlett and the audience, while knowing that the second, third, and forth impression will demand reinterpretation, but at the same time she has to stay in character, or at least not wander too outside of it. Drab Melanie would seem to be totally clueless as to what a girl has to due to secure a fellow. Except she secures the fellow anyway, and it's up to actress de Havilland to exhibit some wider appeal beyond the drab cluelessness. Because Scarlett flouts Old South conventions to such an extent that she eventually becomes a successful Reconstruction businesswoman, she's often seen as a protofeminist. It's the proto that can be excruciating. Lacking a certain self-awareness that manifests itself as a highly selective form of procrastination ("I'll think about it tomorrow"), all of Scarlett's emancipatory behavior threatens to become merely a means to a retrograde end, that she'll someday again be that Southern belle surrounded by admiring beaux, chief among them Ashley. Melanie may not seem like much of a feminist, but she cares far less than Scarlett about being the object of male desire, and it galls the latter that she gets the guy anyway. After her first husband (whom she married just to spite Ashley) dies of war-related measles, Scarlett moves to Atlanta and, at her invitation, in with sister-in-law Melanie. It's reasonable to believe that Scarlett has an ulterior motive, so that she can steal Ashley back, but to do that, she first has to figure out, what does he see in Melanie? Well, the marriage is to some extent arranged (it's downplayed in the movie, but Ashley and illness-prone Melanie are first cousins, and come from a long line of wedded first cousins, the multi-ethnic Mitchell's jab at Southern homogeneity.) It would be great if that's all it was, but it's not. When Scarlett joins Melanie as a volunteer nurse at the local army hospital where amputations are not an uncommon occurrence, she sees her Pollyannaish sister-in-law has her own reservoir of strength. And Melanie may be a goody-two shoes, but as Scarlett discovers, she can decide for herself what constitutes good than have society decide it for her, such as when she accepts a charitable donation from the town hooker. The two women end up depending on each other quite a bit throughout this saga.. Scarlett gets Melanie through some dire straits--there's few straits more dire than going into labor as a city burns around you, and Melanie repays Scarlett by bailing her out from one social faux pas after another (including one involving her own husband Ashely!) Melanie can be too good to be true at times, the fate of a secondary character who primarily exists to provide a springboard for the main character's personal growth, though Mitchell does make a late-in-the-novel stab at making her more relatable. I don't have the novel in front of me, but I believe the only time the book goes outside of Scarlett's head, it is when it goes inside of Melanie's. After Scarlett has her miscarriage, Rhett breaks down crying in front of Melanie, who for once is dumbfounded, though in the end she comforts him. The film skips the dumbfounded part and goes straight to the comforting (perhaps because Clark Gable didn't relish crying on camera, wasn't particularly convincing at it, and everyone concerned just needed to get through that scene as quickly as possible.) But Olivia de Havilland gets another chance at humanizing Melanie, and here she scores. Scarlett's and Rhett's daughter Bonnie Blue is killed in an accident involving an underachieving Shetland pony, Mammy relates to Melanie the turmoil in the Butler household of the past few days. Here Melanie really does seem overwhelmed by a tearful Mammy's story of an out-of-control Rhett, and for a moment denies there anything she can do to help. For such a sainted character as Melanie that moment is significant, though Mammy convinces her that she can help, and in fact she does help (though God-knows-how since it's played off-screen.) Finally, de Havilland gets her own deathbed scene, through there it's Vivien Leigh's character who is humanized. These two actresses knew how to play off each other.
For her work on Gone with the Wind, Olivia de Havilland was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, but lost to a woman who had played Mammy in the same film, Hattie McDaniel. There's no record of any resentment on de Havilland's part, no should there be. After spending an entire movie cleaning up after a bunch of dysfunctional white folk, McDaniel deserved some kind of compensation.
After Gone with the Wind, de Havilland was back at Warner Brothers, where the studio brass didn't particularly care that she just had a major role in what was already one of the most famous motion pictures of all time. She was again cast in a movie with Errol Flynn, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, but she didn't get to play Queen Elizabeth, Essex/Flynn's true love interest. That went to Bette Davis. Instead she played the fictional Lady Penelope Gray, and got third billing behinds Flynn and Davis. Several more so-so film roles followed, then some so-so roles that failed to follow because De Havilland refused to do them, resulting in a studio suspension. After the suspension was lifted, there was another movie with Flynn, a Civil War-themed Western titled Santa Fe Trail (which, if anything, presents an even more backwards take on slavery than GWTW.) An attack of appendicitis gave de Havilland an excuse to turn down a few more pictures, which gave an unsympathetic Jack L. Warner an excuse to put her back on suspension. After that she did get a meaty role in Hold Back the Dawn, as a small town teacher who finds herself in a romance with a scheming, but in the end redemptive, Charles Boyer. it led to another Academy Award nomination, but no win. There was one final movie with Errol Flynn. In Santa Fe Trail, Flynn had played future Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart, who competes with George Armstrong Custer, played by Ronald Reagan in his salad days, for the affections of de Havilland (guess who comes out on top there.) Well, in They Died with Their Boots On, Flynn himself gets to play Custer. Whether that's a step up or a step down I'm not sure, but it's nice to see him and de Havilland together one last time.
The seven-year contract de Havilland had signed with Warner's was set to expire in 1943, except the studio added another six months to make up for the two suspensions. Feeling that was akin to slavery, de Havilland filed suit. The California Superior Court ruled that the California Labor Code forbid a employer from enforcing a contract for long than seven years, and, a year later, the California Court of Appeal for the Second District (where I guess Hollywood must be located) agreed. Olivia de Havilland was a free woman. Unfortunately, her hard-won freedom didn't sit well with any of the other movie studios in Tinseltown, which not surprisingly had sided with Warner's, and it was almost two years before she worked again. Meanwhile, World War II was still going strong, and de Havilland made good use of her free time by joining a USO tour of military hospitals in the South Pacific (due to a bout of viral pneumonia, she spent time in an island hospital herself.)
Paramount Pictures eventually signed de Havilland to a two-picture deal. The first of these pictures was the 1946 child-born-out-of-wedlock drama To Each His Own. Charles Brackett's witty (if not entirely credible) script had de Havilland as the unwed mother who gives up her son to avoid scandal, and then is surprised to learn that she can't easily adopt him back, not even when she becomes quite wealthy running the London branch of a major cosmetics company. The real treat in this film is watching de Havilland convincingly age some thirty years from World War I to World War II. Actually, since the story is told in flashbacks, the aging is kind of in reverse. She starts out in her fifties, then film-dissolves into her 20s, with the incremental disappearance of youth in-between. It's no much that de Havilland looks older--you may as well credit the makeup artist who adds all the lines to her face--but she gets the voice right, which gets deeper as she gets older and develops a more regal bearing. Olivia was again nominated and this time won her first Best Actress Oscar.
Olivia's greatest performance, in my opinion, came in 1948 when she played mental patient Virginia Cunningham in The Snake Pit. Like a lot of well-meaning "problem pictures" of the 1940s, this film can seem somewhat exploitative by our standards, as if it were an R-rated women-in-prison film with the swear words and lesbian scenes cut out. Except it's not a prison but a state mental institution. And the screenplay by Frank Partos, Millen Brand, and an uncredited Arthur Laurents isn't afraid to inject moments of comedy bordering on satire into the lurid proceedings. More important, actress de Havilland isn't afraid to inject humanity into a portrait of derangement. Actually, it's an open question as to just how deranged Virginia really is. Certainly, her problems are real enough, but the film seems to make the case that in a mental institution, mental illness itself may be relative. I say that because there really is no other character in the film for the audience to identify with as Virginia comes across as, if not saner, than at least more sympathetic (and more good-humored) than not merely the other inmates but most of the nurses and doctors as well. I mean, how sane is it to wave a cigar in a mental patient's face, as one jackass shrink does? The psychiatrist who treats Virginia, played by Leo Genn, is rational enough, but even that doctor-patient relationship is threatened by a jealous bitch of a nurse played by Helen Craig. Then there's the famous scene where Virginia finds herself in the worst part of the asylum, where the patients everyone has given up on are housed, the snake pit of the title, and has de Havilland philosophically narrating her hallucinatory response to roomful of women in a hallucinatory state. Like I said, relative. A film made in the 1950s, Home Before Dark starring Jean Simmons, is probably a more realistic, more saner version of mental illness, and Simmons is very good in it. But whatever the excesses of The Snake Pit, de Havilland's canny performance offers an existential aspect to madness that Simmons and every other thespian who's ever played a mentally ill person lacks, and that I for one find hard to resist. She once again was nominated for an Oscar, but sadly (well, I consider it sad) did not win.
Olivia did win another Oscar for 1949's The Heiress. Based on a play that was in turn based on Henry James 1880 novel Washington Square, it's the story of an unattractive rich girl whose widowed father has never shown her any affection and so becomes the willing recipient of the affection shown to her by a handsome young man played by Montgomery Clift, though he may just be a cad out for her money. To play the unattractive rich girl, de Havilland wears no makeup (or only enough so her face can be seen on camera underneath all the lights), her hair up like a melted skull-fitting manhole cover, and has downcast eyes and a frown that threaten to crash into the Earth's surface. She's actually prettier wearing a straitjacket in The Snake Pit. As for Clift, in order to play a handsome young man he merely had to make sure he had a designated driver. Clift does turn out to be a cad, as her father warned, and de Havilland, who looks improve as she grows increasingly bitter, she manages to get back at the both of them. In this film, Olivia is Scarlett and Melanie rolled into one, with a touch of that bitch nurse played by Helen Craig. And here you never wanted to read James because you thought he was too stuffy.
Olivia's film appearances became more sporadic throughout the 1950s as she resumed her stage career to a degree, and, upon meeting a Frenchman, moved to Paris. One of her more interesting later movies is 1962's Light in the Piazza. She was about 45 when she made it, and still fairly attractive, though I imagine most straight males in the audience were paying more attention to Yvette Mimieux, who played de Havilland's beautiful brain-damaged daughter. Olivia and Yvette are both on vacation in Italy, when the latter captures the eye of a handsome, suntanned young Italian played by George Hamilton. Though actor Hamilton grew up in Arkansas, he does a credible job portraying a Florentine whose grasp of English is so poor he never realizes the girl of his dreams has the mind of a child and instead dismisses such acts as eating rice thrown at a wedding as an American eccentricity. It all seems to work out in the end, possibly because he never learns the truth, thanks to de Havilland's character, who sees this as her daughter's best chance at happiness. One wonders if there's also another chance awaiting the mother, whose marriage is strained (thanks to Yvette's problems), as she finds herself in a flirting relationship with Rossano Brazzi, who plays Hamilton's dad.
In 1964, de Havilland starred in a couple of psychological thrillers. In Lady in a Cage, she's a rich woman with a broken hip whose private elevator breaks down with her inside it. This leads to a home invasion (one of the intruders is a young James Caan), and quite a bit of violence. It's a nasty film, but that doesn't necessarily mean I wouldn't recommend it. Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte was director Robert Aldrich's follow-up to his surprise hit of a year earlier, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Again it was supposed to star Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, but the latter had to leave the project due to illness (given how the two stars reportedly felt about each other, maybe Crawford was sick of Davis), and so de Havilland stepped in. Davis is a wealthy Southern spinster slowly losing her mind while trying to hang on to her mansion, which stands in the way of a proposed highway. Olivia is her conniving cousin out for her money in a plot that involves murders both past and present. Another nasty film that I wouldn't necessarily not recommend.
Olivia de Havilland's final movie appearance was a cameo in 1979's The Fifth Musketeer. (I haven't seen this film or even heard of it until now, but my curiosity is piqued as I see Alan Hale Jr, the Skipper on Gilligan's Island, plays one of the Three Musketeers. I reminded that Hale's lookalike father, Alan Hale Sr, appeared in even more Errol Flynn pictures than did de Havilland!) She did a lot of television in the 1970s and 80s, including the miniseries Roots: the Next Generation, and a TV version of Anastasia, in which she played the Dowager Empress, and won a Golden Globe for her efforts. De Havilland retired from acting in 1989. She made news a few years ago when she filed a defamation suit against the FX network and the producers of the miniseries Feud: Bette and Joan in which she was played by Catherine Zeta-Jones. It bounced around this California court and that California court, the final judgement being that she was a public figure and that the producers had a First Amendment right to portray her as long as there was no slander involve. Many outside observers were amused that a 100-year-old woman should care about such a thing, while others cheered her on because she was 100.
Well, that's about all you need to know about Olivia de Havilland. Lessee, did I forget anything? Oh, yeah, that's right.
Olivia had a sister. But to explain that relationship would take another eighteen paragraphs, and I've used up enough of your time already.