“Gone with the Wind” star Olivia de Havilland, who also won an Academy Award for her role in another film, died at 104, according to her publicist, Lisa Goldberg.
Goldberg told TheWrap that she died at her home in Paris, France, of natural causes.
The longtime actress, who was born in 1916 in imperial Japan to British parents, played Melanie Hamilton Wilkes in “Gone with the Wind,” who had a conflict with Scarlett O’Hara, played by Vivien Leigh.
She also appeared in films such as “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” and won Oscars for her performances in “To Each His Own” and “The Heiress.”
Her greatest impact perhaps occurred when she sued Warner Bros. in 1943 to gain freedom from the studio after her contract with the company had expired. The previous interpretation of the contracts meant that she would have had to work longer than her seven-year contract and the years of actual service to the company would be spread over a longer period of time, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The legal battle and victory is now known as The De Havilland Decision.
“I was deeply gratified when, returning to MGM after his long and distinguished military service, Jimmy Stewart asked the court on the basis of that decision for a ruling on his contract—and thus the contracts of other actor-veterans—and received, of course, a favorable verdict,” de Havilland said in 1992.
She added of the case: “When I won the final round of my case on Feb. 3, 1945, every actor was now confirmed as free of his long-term contract at the end of its seven-year term, regardless of how many suspensions he had taken during those seven years. No one thought I would win, but after I did, flowers, letters, and telegrams arrived from my fellow actors. This was wonderfully rewarding.”
Meanwhile, in the 1940s, when she joined the Independent Citizens’ Committee of the Arts, Sciences, and Professions, she was asked to deliver a speech for the committee that contained views from the Communist Party USA, and the group was later identified as a front organization, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The actress also noted that the organization “rarely embraced the kind of independent spirit it publicly proclaimed. It always ended up siding with the Soviet Union even though the rank-and-file members were noncommunist,” the report said.
She told the paper: “I thought, ‘If we reserve the right to criticize the American policies, why don’t we reserve the right to criticize Russia?'” Of the group, she added: “I realized a nucleus of people was controlling the organization without a majority of the members of the board being aware of it. And I knew they had to be communists.”