7/1/1916 to Present Day
Olivia Mary de Havilland was born in Tokyo, Japan. Her sister, Joan, later become famous as Joan Fontaine, was born the following year. Her parents divorced when Olivia was just three years old, and she moved with her mother and sister to Saratoga, California. After graduating from high school. Olivia enrolled in Mills College in Oakland. It was while she was at Mills that she participated in the school play "A Midsummer Nightís Dream" and was spotted by Max Reinhardt. She so impressed Reinhardt that he picked her up for both his stage version and, later, the Warner Bros. film version in 1935.
Warner executives then signed her to a seven-year contract and she soon appeared in three more films: The Irish in Us (1935), Alibi Ike (1935) and Captain Blood (1935), the latter with the man with whom her career would be most closely identified, heartthrob Errol Flynn. He and Olivia starred together in eight films during their careers. She confessed in later years that she had an intense crush on Errol Flynn during the years of their filming, saying that it was hard to resist his charms.
In 1939 Warner Bros. loaned her to David O. Selznick for the classic Gone with the Wind (1939). Olivia received her first nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. After GWTW, Olivia returned to Warner Bros. and played Emmy Brown in Hold Back the Dawn (1941), which resulted in her second Oscar nomination, this time for Best Actress. Again she lost, this time to her sister Joan for her role in Suspicion (1941).
After that strong showing, Olivia now demanded better, more substantial roles than the "sweet young thing" slot into which Warners had been fitting her. The studio responded by placing her on a six-month suspension, all of the studios at the time operating under the policy that players were nothing more than property to do with as they saw fit. As if that weren't bad enough, when her contract with Warners was up, she was told that she would have to make up the time lost because of the suspension. Irate, she sued the studio, and for the length of the court battle she didn't appear in a single film. The result, however, was worth it. In a landmark decision, the court said not only that Olivia did not have to make up the time, but that all performers were to be limited to a seven-year contract that would include any suspensions handed down. This became known as the "de Havilland decision"; no longer could studios treat their performers as mere cattle.
Returning to screen in 1946, Olivia made up for lost time by appearing in four films, one of which finally won her the Oscar that had so long eluded her. It was To Each His Own (1946), in which she played Josephine Norris to the delight of critics and audiences alike. Olivia was the strongest performer in Hollywood for the balance of the 1940s. In 1948 she turned in another strong performance in The Snake Pit (1948). The end result was another Oscar nomination for Best Actress). As in the two previous years, she made only one film in 1949, but she again won a nomination and the Academy Award for Best Actress for The Heiress (1949). After a three-year break, Olivia returned to star in My Cousin Rachel (1952). From that point on, she made few appearances on the screen but was seen on Broadway and in some television shows. Her last screen appearance was in The Fifth Musketeer (1979), and her last career appearance was in the TV movie The Woman He Loved (1988) (TV). During the hoopla surrounding the 50th anniversary of GWTW in 1989, she graciously declined requests for all interviews as the only surviving one of the four main stars.
She married and divorced twice and had 2 children. After her divorce from second husband Pierre Galante in 1979 they remained close friends, and after Galante became ill with cancer she nursed him until his death in 1998. Her son Benjamin died in 1991 at her home following complications of Hodgkin's disease. Today she enjoys a quiet retirement in Paris, France.