Olivia de Havilland is synonymous with original movie star glamour, but she also paved the way for actors by fighting the Hollywood power structure.
Two-time Oscar winner Olivia de Havilland, who died in her Paris home Sunday at 104, was honored for her legacy that went far beyond the screen.
Tributes for the “Gone With the Wind” actress, who was nominated for an Academy Award for playing sweet-natured Melanie Hamilton in the 1939 screen version of Margaret Mitchell’s novel, addressed her landmark legal battle against Warner Bros. studios. De Havilland’s feud with her sister, actress Joan Fontaine, also was part of the ongoing historical discussion.
TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, grandson of “Citizen Kane” screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, paid tribute to de Havilland on Twitter Sunday.
“There will be discussion of her 2 Oscars, of the feud w/ her sister, Joan Fontaine, of her role as ‘Gone with the Wind’s last survivor,” Mankiewicz wrote. “Her greatest contribution came in court against Warner Bros, setting a template for labor rights in Hollywood.”
Long critical of her movie contract, de Havilland sued Warner Bros. in 1943 when the powerful studio tried to keep her under contract after it had expired, claiming she owed six more months because she had been suspended for refusing roles. De Havilland prevailed through the protracted legal battle, with the California Court of Appeals ruling that no studio could extend an agreement without the performer’s consent — now known as the “de Havilland law.”
In 2009, actor/musician Jared Leto used the legal precedent to prevail in his 30 Seconds to Mars lawsuit against EMI records. Leto paid tribute with a lengthy Twitter string Sunday.
“Olivia made a powerful impact in my life and I had the pleasure to spend some time with her in Paris. I thanked her for her bravery and shared how her choices affected me and my brother and gave us opportunities to fight for our creative freedom,” Leto wrote, referring to brother and bandmate Shannon Leto.
“She was a class act. I still have the kind and thoughtful letters she wrote me in longhand on beautiful blue stationery. They were of another era,” Leto wrote.
Leto went to visit de Havilland in Paris and “we had a wonderful time together,” he wrote. “I got to thank her for fighting the system back then so I could battle it now. It was amazing to meet her – she’s a legend.”
De Havilland’s sister Fontaine, who had a long history of rivalry, was even quoted as saying, “Hollywood owes Olivia a great deal.”
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences paid tribute to de Havilland’s two best-actress Oscars (for the 1946 drama “To Each His Own” and 1949’s “The Heiress”) and other roles on Twitter. “Olivia de Havilland was a mainstay of Hollywood’s Golden Age and an immeasurable talent. Here’s to a true legend of our industry,” the tweet read.
The estate of fellow Hollywood legend Humphrey Bogart called de Havilliand’s death “the loss of a true Classic Hollywood icon,” before noting she “successfully fought the studio system.”
Actor William Shatner paid tribute on Twitter. “The great Olivia de Havilland has passed,” he wrote.
Antonio Banderas referred to de Havilland as “a great icon of cinematography” in a Twitter tribute.
Mia Farrow tweeted that “beyond all reason” she hope de Havilland “would be with us for much longer.”
“In films she was unfailingly wonderful and an unforgettable Melanie in GWTW,” Farrow wrote.
Director Edgar Wright tweeted some of his favorite roles, stating, “At what age does it change from ‘gone to soon’ to ‘they had a great run’? Well, 104 is a hell of a run.”
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