7 Fascinating Facts About Last Living ‘Gone With the Wind’ Star Olivia de Havilland, 103

By Louise Chambers
Louise Chambers
Louise Chambers
Louise Chambers is a writer, born and raised in London, England. She covers inspiring news and human interest stories.
February 29, 2020Updated: March 15, 2020

At the age of 103, Olivia Mary de Havilland is Hollywood royalty. The actress’s illustrious career on the big screen spanned over five decades, but de Havilland’s name became legendary for much more than simply her film roles.

The actress was born in Tokyo, Japan, to British parents on July 1, 1916. She made a name for herself in Hollywood with roles in hit movies such as “Gone with the Wind,” “To Each His Own,” and “The Heiress.”

As the iconic actress approaches her 104th birthday, she remains among the last surviving screen icons of classical Hollywood cinema. Here are seven outstanding facts about de Havilland that deserve recognition.

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British-American actress Olivia de Havilland (©Getty Images)
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De Havilland (C) leans in to hear a conversation while lunching with her younger sister Joan Fontaine (R) and the actor John Payne, circa 1940. (©Getty Images | General Photographic Agency)

1. Shakespeare Was Her “Big Break”

De Havilland made her screen debut in Reinhardt’s 1934 movie adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Her performance was highly praised in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, where journalist Winston Burdett referred to the young actress as having acted “graciously,” adding that she “does greater justice to Shakespeare’s language than anyone else in the cast.”

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Studio portrait of de Havilland taken in 1938 (©Getty Images | Keystone)

2. She Toured Military Hospitals During WWII

During the Second World War, de Havilland toured military hospitals and appeared on the radio in an effort to entertain the troops. As per Stars and Stripes, the actress earned notoriety and popularity for visiting the more isolated battlefronts in the Pacific during the war effort, once even contracting pneumonia, while always offering her services for free.

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The actress having her hair and makeup attended to, circa 1958 (©Getty Images | Express)

3. She Appeared in Eight Movies with Errol Flynn

De Havilland and Flynn became one of Hollywood’s most popular on-screen couples. Both later admitted in interviews that they had fallen in love with one another, but, as per The Telegraph, de Havilland explained that their feelings never culminated in a real-life romantic relationship.

De Havilland was married twice and had two children. The actress’s first marriage was to Navy veteran Marcus Goodrich in 1946; the second was to “Paris Match” editor Pierre Galante in 1955. Both marriages ended in divorce.

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De Havilland during the 11th Cesar Awards ceremony at the Palais des Congres, Paris, on Feb. 22, 1986 (©Getty Images | MICHEL GANGNE)

4. She Is the Only Surviving Cast Member of “Gone with the Wind”

According to the Los Angeles Times, de Havilland visited with the wife of rival MGM’s studio manager—the actress was contracted with Warner Bros at the time—and pleaded with her over tea to help convince the Warner Bros bosses to allow de Havilland to play Melanie Hamilton in “Gone with the Wind.”

It worked. The tenacious actress was just 22 at the time. She is the only still-living cast member of the film’s four main stars, since Vivien Leigh’s death in 1967.

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De Havilland with the French politician Frederic Mitterrand at the 36th Cesar Film Awards at Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, France, on Feb. 25, 2011 (©Getty Images | Dominique Charriau)

5. She Wrote a Book

In 1962, de Havilland published a book on French culture and tradition called “Every Frenchman Has One.” De Havilland has lived in Paris since the 1950s.

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De Havilland receives her Best Actress Oscar from the actor Ray Milland for her performance in “To Each his Own” on March 19, 1947. (©Getty Images | Keystone)

6. She and Her Sister Both Won Oscars

As per Southern Living, de Havilland and her younger sister feuded for much of their adult lives. Joan eventually adopted her stepfather’s surname, Fontaine, in an effort to differentiate herself from her older sister in the movie industry.

Both sisters were Oscar-nominated for the “Best Actress” award in 1941, but de Havilland ultimately lost to her estranged sister; Fontaine took home the Oscar for her role in “Suspicion.” De Havilland later won two Oscars, the first for “To Each His Own” in 1946, the second for “The Heiress in 1949.”

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©Shutterstock | Elliott Cowand Jr

7. She Changed History with the “De Havilland Law”

De Havilland wanted out of her contract with Warner Bros, so she took them to court in 1943. The actress was backed by the Screen Actors Guild, and the Supreme Court of California ultimately ruled in her favor.

The verdict was that contracts had to be capped at seven years of service. The law, also known as Labor Code Section 2855 as per Reuters, stands to this day and has aided and emancipated countless actors in the industry.

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De Havilland smiles during the 36th Cesar awards ceremony at Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, France, on Feb. 25, 2011. (©Getty Images | BERTRAND GUAY)

De Havilland is one of the most recognized and highly praised actors in the history of Hollywood. Her contributions to film still inspires what film ought to be right to this day.