Screen legend Olivia de Havilland will be honored with an Academy Tribute on June 15, 2006 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The two-time Academy Award winner will travel from her home in France to the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills for the event, which will feature film clips of her most-admired performances and discussion with colleagues from throughout her career.
Born on July 1, 1916 in Tokyo to English parents — her sister was to become almost equally famous as Joan Fontaine — de Havilland was raised in Los Angeles and made her screen debut as Hermia in Max Reinhardt’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1935, a role she had also played on stage at the Hollywood Bowl. Her pairing the same year with Errol Flynn in Captain Blood proved a great success, and the two starred together in seven more films together, including The Adventures of Robin Hood (’38), burnishing each other’s stars.
De Havilland earned the first of her five Academy Award nominations for her supporting performance as Melanie Hamilton in Gone with the Wind in ’39. Two years later her lead performance as Emmy Brown in Hold Back the Dawn was nominated. She earned her first Oscar for her portrayal of Jody Norris in To Each His Own (1946). The Snake Pit (1948) provided her with another nominated lead performance, and in 1949 she took home her second Academy Award for her role as Catherine Sloper in The Heiress.
Among the A-list directors with whom she worked during the heart of her career were Michael Curtiz, Victor Fleming, Lewis Gilbert, John Huston, Stanley Kramer, Mitchell Leisen, Anatole Litvak and William Wyler.
Later, de Haviland had a great evil role as Bette Davis’s conniving cousin in ’64’s Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, a decade later gamely added class to The Swarm and Airport ’77, and worked on TV into the late-’80s.
De Havilland also played a critical role in the history of the studio system in the ’40s, suing Warner Brothers and winning the “De Havilland Decision,” which significantly limited the power of the studios over “talent” (ie, cattle) for the first time.