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Saturday, September 19, 2020

Happy 104th birthday, Dame de Havilland!

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After the death of Kirk Douglas on February 5th this year at the age of 103, Olivia de Havilland is the most famous movie star from the Golden Age of Hollywood Cinema still alive. She was born to British parents in Tokyo on July 1st, 1916, and raised in California by her mother after her father abandoned the family and returned to Japan.

Although she didn’t win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Gone with the wind (1939), the first of five Oscar nominations, she will always be remembered for her role as Melanie Hamilton in the most successful film of all time. It can be considered unfortunate that she has lived to witness the Orwellian controversy about that masterpiece, stirred recently by self-proclaimed antiracist agitators.

She and her sister Joan Fontaine (1917-2013), with whom she had a very difficult relationship, are the only siblings in history to be awarded with an Oscar in a lead acting category: while she won in 1946 for To each his own and in 1949 for The Heiress, Fontaine did so in 1942 for Suspicion. Her impressive cinematic career spanned from 1935 to 1988.

De Havilland has lived in Paris since the 1950s and received honors such as the United States Congress National Medal of the Arts and the Legion of Honour, the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits. She is also a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

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