Olivia de Havilland, star of Gone with the Wind, has died age 104 in Paris due to natural causes.
On 26th July, Olivia de Havilland passed away peacefully in Paris. Age 104, she was amongst some of the last remaining stars of the Golden Age of cinema.
Born in Tokyo, raised in California and a long-time resident of Paris, Olivia De Havilland was synonymous for many with the Golden Age of cinema. The actress won two Oscars for best actress for her performances in 1946’s To Each His Own and 1949’s The Heiress, appearing alongside Hollywood greats such as Errol Flynn from her career’s offset.
Her performances in countless films would be memorable enough, yet she perhaps most impacted the film industry with her decision to sue Warner Bros Studios fairly early on in her career. It changed the entire landscape for actors, who, before the decision in De Havilland’s favour, were subject to the whim of production companies.
“You were a great celebrity but also a slave,” she once said when asked of why she chose to go to court. Her choice, and following win over the studio, gave creative and career agency to an entire industry of people.
Amongst her numerous film and legal credits, she was also the first woman to be the President of the Cannes selection jury in 1965. She once described it as “the hardest role of her career”.
Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier’s first meeting
Although perhaps best remembered for her performance as Melanie Hamilton Wilkes in 1939 cinema classic Gone With the Wind, the British Golden-age actress played a role in orchestrating the first meeting between Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly.
The two actresses bumped into each other on an overnight train from Paris to Cannes on the auspicious occasion of the Cannes Film Festival. De Havilland, although not a personal friend of the would-be princess, suggested she meet the Sovereign, as her husband, Pierre Galante (journalist at Paris Match), had a connection with him.
“I’m tempted to think it was destiny,” she said in an exclusive interview to PEOPLE magazine. “It was an idea that struck [Pierre] for the first time while dining on the train after he learned Grace Kelly was a fellow passenger. My husband had been born in Nice. He suggested the meeting between Grace and Rainier at dinner with Paris Match Editor-in-Chief Gaston Bonheur, en route to Cannes.”
It seems De Havilland’s judgement was an astute one, as less than a year later they would be married in one of the most lavish wedding ceremonies the Principality had seen.