Happy 100th birthday Olivia de Havilland, golden age rebel

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Screen legend Olivia de Havilland turns 100


In October 1932, seven years before her role in the highest-grossing film of all time, Olivia de Havilland was cast in the junior play at Los Gatos High School.

Her new stepfather, a man she and her sister called the Iron Duke, delivered an ultimatum: Give up the play or leave this house forever.

"I went off to school with my decision made," de Havilland said in a 2001 speech for the Academy of Achievement. "I spent that night and several more with friends of my mother's, went on with the play, and never again slept in the house."

PHOTOS: Olivia de Havilland from present to glorious past

72 PHOTOS
Olivia de Havilland through the years
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Olivia de Havilland through the years
PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 25: Olivia de Havilland arrives at the 36th French Cesar film awards ceremony at Theatre du Chatelet on February 25, 2011 in Paris, France. (Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images)
Olivia de Havilland arrives at the 36th Cesar Awards at Theatre du Chatelet on February 25, 2011 in Paris, France.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy (2ndL) poses with prima ballerina Sylvie Guillem (L) English an US actresses Jacqueline Bisset (R) and Olivia de Havilland (2ndR) and French prefect Bernard Tomasini (C back) after they received an award on September 9, 2010 at the Elysee Palace in Paris. AFP PHOTO / ERIC FEFERBERG (Photo credit should read ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 18: Screen legend Olivia de Havilland appears on stage prior to the screening of 'The Heiress', in which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1949, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Bing Theater on June 18, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 17: U.S. President George W. Bush congratulates actress Olivia de Havilland before presenting her with the 2008 National Medals of Arts award during an event in the East Room at the White House November 17, 2008 in Washington, DC. During the event president Bush presented recipients with awards for the National Medals of Arts and the National Humanities Medal. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 18: Screen legend Olivia de Havilland holds a photograph from the premiere of 'The Heiress' during a question and answer session prior to the screening of the film, in which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1949, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Bing Theater on June 18, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 18: Screen legend Olivia de Havilland acknowledges the audience following a question and answer session on stage prior to the screening of 'The Heiress', in which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1949, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Bing Theater on June 18, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
Joan Leslie and Olivia de Havilland during Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science Presents Tribute to Olivia de Havilland at Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by M. Phillips/WireImage)
Olivia de Havilland (Photo by M. Phillips/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JUNE 15: Screen legend Olivia de Havilland attends the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' tribute to Ms. de Havilland at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on June 15, 2006 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
Jack Valenti and Olivia de Havilland during Jack Valenti receives the Legion of Honor at Ministere of Culture in Paris, France. (Photo by Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage)
Olivia de Havilland (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Olivia de Havilland during Christening of New Grand Princess Cruise Ship at Pier 88 in New York City, NY, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
English actress Olivia de Havilland. (Photo by Terry O'Neill/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 9: Actress Olivia de Havilland attends 17th Annual American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Awards on March 9, 1989 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Olivia de Havilland during The 44th Annual Golden Globe Awards at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Jim Smeal/WireImage)
Olivia de Havilland during The 44th Annual Golden Globe Awards at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
ANASTASIA: THE MYSTERY OF ANNA -- Air Date 12/07/1986 -- Pictured: Olivia de Havilland -- Photo by: Alan Singer/NBCU Photo Bank
ANASTASIA: THE MYSTERY OF ANNA -- Air Date 12/07/1986 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jennifer Dundas as Grand Duchess Anastasia, Olivia de Havilland as Dowager Empress Maria, Christian Bale as Tsarevich Alexei, Claire Bloom as Czarina Alexandra, Omar Sharif as Czar Nicholas II, unknown as Grand Duchess Olga, unknown as Grand Duchess Tatiana, unknown as Grand Duchess Maria -- Photo by: Alan Singer/NBCU Photo Bank
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - APRIL 17: Actress Olivia de Havilland sighted on April 17, 1983 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - 1982: Actress Olivia De Havilland, who plays the Queen Mother, on the set of the television movie 'The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana' in 1982 in New York City. (Photo by Peter Carrette Archive/Getty Images)
LOVE BOAT - 'Two for Julie/Aunt Hilly/The Duel' which aired on March 14, 1981. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) JOSEPH COTTON;OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND;GAVIN MACLEOD
LOVE BOAT - 'Two for Julie/Aunt Hilly/The Duel' which aired on March 14, 1981. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND
Olivia de Havilland (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Olivia de Havilland during 10th Anniversary of The American Film Institute at Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., Washington, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 18: ROOTS: THE NEXT GENERATION - 2/18/79 -HENRY FONDA, OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 1: Actress Olivia de Havilland attends Fifth Annual American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Awards Honoring Bette Davis on March 1, 1977 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Olivia De Havilland and Joseph Cotten comtemplate the terror of their recent experience and the possibility of a new life together in a scene from the film 'AIRPORT 77', 1977. (Photo by Universal Pictures/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - 1977: Actress Olivia de Havilland (right) in a scene from the movie 'Airport '77' in 1977 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
LONDRES, ROYAUME-UNI - AOUT 28: Olivia de Havilland le 28 aout, 1971 a Londres, Royaume-Uni. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
ROME, ITALIE - 1970: Olivia de Havilland sortant de la soirée gala au théâtre Sistine, est en tournage pour le film 'Les Derniers Aventuriers' à Rome, Italie, en 1970. (Photo by Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Olivia De Havilland in a scene from the film 'Pope Joan', 1972. (Photo by Columbia Pictures/Getty Images)
Actress Olivia de Havilland posing for photographers wearing a Dior dress, as she leaves the Dorchester Hotel in London, England, August 24th 1971. (Photo by Express/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
ROME, ITALIE - 1968: Olivia de Havilland, qui tourne le film 'Les Derniers Aventuriers' est photographiée à Rome, Italie en 1968. (Photo by Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
BELL TELEPHONE HOUR -- 'Festival of Spring' Episode 12 -- Air Date 04/13/1965 -- Pictured: Olivia de Havilland -- Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
THE HOLLYWOOD PALACE - Airdate: November 7, 1964. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) L-R: BETTE DAVIS;GENE BARRY (HOST);OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND
British-born American actress Olivia de Havilland posing in front of the fireplace with the bellows in her hands. 1970s. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
Olivia De Havilland opens a door in a scene from the film 'Hush....Hush, Sweet Charlotte', 1964. (Photo by 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images)
Olivia de Havilland and Dirk Bogarde in a scene from the film 'Libel', 1959. (Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 20: The American actress Olivia de Havilland wearing a Christian Dior wedding dress for the film 'The Ambassador's Daughter' on October 20, 1955 in Paris, France. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Studio portrait of actress Olivia de Havilland wearing a ball gown and flowers, as she appears in the movie 'Government Girl', 1943. (Photo by Archive Photos/Moviepix/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 14: American Actors Olivia De Havilland, James Stewart And Young Margaret Sullavan (From Left To Right) At The Charity Bal Of The Associated Actors And Artists Of America In Hollywood On March 14, 1940. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
Portrait of actress Olivia de Havilland wearing a ribbed sweater and hot pants, 1940. (Photo by Pictorial Parade/Moviepix/Getty Images)
circa 1940: British-born actress Olivia de Havilland raises the skirts of her filmy black dress like wings. (Photo by George Hurrell/John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)
British American actress Olivia de Havilland wearing an off-the-shoulder satin ball gown in a publicity still for the western 'Santa Fe Trail', directed by Michael Curtiz, 1940. The actress plays Kit Carson Holliday in the film. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
Charles Winninger smiling at Olivia de Havilland as she carries her violin case in a scene from the film 'My Love Came Back', 1940. (Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Images)
1940: Olivia De Havilland stars with Jeffrey Lynn in the film 'My Love Came Back'. Title: My Love Came Back Studio: Warner Brothers Director: Curtis Bernhardt (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
British-American actress Olivia de Havilland, circa 1940. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
circa 1940: British-born actress Olivia de Havilland wearing a wide-brimmed hat and printed dress. (Photo via John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)
Portrait of actress Olivia de Havilland (1916-) wearing a patterned dress and a hat, for Warner Bros Studios, 1939. (Photo by George Hurrell via John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)
Actress Olivia De Havilland, as Melanie Hamilton, puts a hand on actress Vivien Leigh's shoulder, as Scarlett O'Hara, who is in mourning for her first husband's death, in a scene from the movie Gone with the Wind by Victor Fleming. United States, 1939. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) de Havilland, Olivia - Actress, USA - *01.07.1916- Scene from the movie 'Gone with the Wind'' Directed by: Victor Fleming USA 1939 Produced by: Selznick International Pictures Vintage property of ullstein bild (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Portrait of actress Olivia de Havilland wearing a chenille crepe dress, as she appears in the movie 'Raffles', 1939. (Photo by Pictorial Parade/Moviepix/Getty Images)
Half-length portrait of smiling actors Leslie Howard and Olivia De Havilland, who play the roles of Ashley Wilkes and Melanie Hamilton, wearing stage costumes in a scene from the movie Gone with the Wind by Victor Fleming. United States, 1939. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
circa 1940: British-born actress Olivia de Havilland wearing a black lace veil and a pearl necklace. (Photo via John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)
Errol Flynn (1909 - 1959), as Wade Hatton, and Olivia de Havilland as Abbie Irving, in a promotional still for 'Dodge City', directed by Michael Curtiz, 1939. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
Actresses Vivien Leigh and Olivia De Havilland, as Scarlett O'Hara and Melanie Hamilton respectively in Gone with the Wind by Victor Fleming, nurse an injured man in a church that is converted into a hospital. United States, 1939. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
Actresses Vivien Leigh, Olivia De Havilland and Hattie McDaniel play the roles of Scarlett O'Hara, Melanie Hamilton and Mammy respectively in a scene from the movie Gone with the Wind by Victor Fleming. United States, 1939. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1939: From Left To Right, John Hay Whitney, Irene Mayer Selznick, Olivia De Havilland, David O. Selznick, Vivien Leigh And Laurence Olivier. Hollywood. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
Howard University homecoming football game vs. Morgan State. Parade Grand Marshall Ice Cube; high school marching bands from Washington DC, Maryland, New Jersey, Texas, Florida, Tennessee. Held on Saturday, October 14, 2006. (Morgan Riehl, AOL)
LOS ANGELES - 1938: Actress Olivia de Havilland poses for a portrait in 1938 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by George Hurrell/Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
circa 1938: Hollywood screen star Olivia De Havilland riding a bicycle. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
1938: British-born actress Olivia de Havilland leans against a tree in a peasant dress with a laced bodice. (Photo via John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)
circa 1935: Promotional portrait of American actor Olivia de Havilland reclining on a lawn against a polka-dotted umbrella next to a table tennis paddle and ball. She is wearing a bathing suit and high-heeled shoes. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
circa 1935: Headshot portrait of British-born actor Olivia de Havilland looking up and wearing a short-sleeved, striped dress with a plunging neckline. The background is composed of iron fencing and shadows. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
1935: Actor Olivia de Havilland stands next to a horse and holds its reigns in front of cloisters and a fountain. She is wearing jodhpurs and a plaid shirt. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
NON SPECIFIE - CIRCA 1930: Olivia de Havilland portant un chapeau conique et un manteau cintré, circa 1930. (Photo by Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - NON SPECIFIE: Kirk Douglas accueillant Olivia de Havilland par un enorme baiser a son arrivee a la soiree d'anniversaire du producteur Arman Deutsh a l'Hotel Beverly Hilton a Beverly Hills, Californie. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - 1938: Olivia de Havilland portant un séduisant vêtement d'intérieur dessiné par Milo Anderson qu'elle porte dans le film 'Les Aventures de Robin des Bois', en 1938 à Hollywood, Californie. (Photo by Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1900: Olivia De Havilland (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - NON DATE: Olivia de Havilland et le capitaine Joseph McKeon arrivant au restaurant Le Crillon à Hollywood, Californie. (Photo by Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
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De Havilland, who turns 100 on Friday, is the last surviving female star of Hollywood's Golden Age.

She played good-girl ingénues on the screen — including in that inflation-adjusted top-grossing film, "Gone With the Wind." But offscreen, she rebelled — just as she had as a high school junior — and her fight for better roles helped free countless stars from the studio system.

Happy birthday, Olivia de Havilland.

From "Images of America, Los Gatos," by Peggy Conaway:

Olivia de Havilland

After graduation, she appeared as Hermia in Max Reinhardt's Hollywood Bowl production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Those in the opening-night audience, de Havilland said, were Charlie Chaplin and Bette Davis.

Soon, de Havilland would befriend and vie for roles with Davis — but also beat the studio system in a way the more established actress could not.

Three months after the Hollywood Bowl production, de Havilland was under contract with Warner Bros., working on the film version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," she recalled in the 2001 speech.

Her acting career would eventually include five Academy Award nominations and two Oscars, one for "To Each His Own" in 1946 and the other for "The Heiress" in 1949. (Her younger sister, Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland, would become the actress Joan Fontaine. Though their relationship could be chilly, they are the only siblings ever to win lead acting Oscars.)

De Havilland's wholesome looks and soft brown eyes facilitated her casting as a proper, well-behaved foil for more tempestuous co-stars, most notably Vivien Leigh, the fiery Scarlett of "Gone With the Wind," and Errol Flynn. In films like "Captain Blood" (1935) and "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (1938) Flynn often played the thief, pirate, or thieving pirate out to steal de Havilland's heart. Their banter and chemistry fueled eight on-screen pairings.

In an Academy of Achievement interview, she said Flynn once asked her: "What do you want out of life?"

"I said I would like respect for difficult work well-done," she responded.

But it was hard to find the work she wanted, typecast as she was as the good girl.

She begged Warner Bros to loan her out to MGM to play Melanie, Scarlett's friend and rival, in "Gone With the Wind." De Havilland told the Academy of Achievement that Jack Warner relented only after de Havilland appealed to his wife, Ann.

But her fight for roles was only beginning. She is quoted as saying in Judith M. Kass' 1976 book, "Olivia de Havilland":

I wanted to do complex roles, like Melanie for example, and Jack Warner saw me as an ingénue. I was really restless to portray more developed human beings. Jack never understood this, and ... he would give me roles that really had no character or quality in them. I knew I wouldn't even be effective.

The law at the time allowed studios to place actors on suspension when they rejected roles — as de Havilland once did when a script wasn't complete at the start of shooting. Under the law at the time, the studio could add the time actors spent on suspension to the end of their contracts. Bette Davis unsuccessfully sued Warner Bros. in an effort to change the practice.

De Havilland went to court in 1943 to fight back when Warner Bros. tried to add time to her completed contract. Her victory led to what's still known as the "De Havilland Law," a section of the California Labor Code stipulating that an exclusive personal services contract — like an actor's deal with a studio — cannot extend past seven calendar years.

The law helped end the studios' iron grip on talent, freeing them to break out of the safe, reliable roles studios often assigned them.

The years after the legal victory brought some of de Havilland's biggest critical successes, including the two films for which she won Oscars, both of which she made for Paramount.

De Havilland has spent the last 50 years in Paris, where she still gives lively interviews about her life — and sends the occasional interesting note.

One went to "Suicide Squad" star Jared Leto in 2009, as his band, 30 Seconds to Mars, used the de Havilland law to get out of a contract dispute. It was written, the Los Angeles Times reported, "in formal, feminine script and arrived on thick, azure-colored paper."

The men who once controlled her career are gone. She remains. The only other survivor of the Golden Age is Kirk Douglass, who turns 100 in December.

She received what she wanted out of life.

Read original story Happy 100th Birthday Olivia de Havilland, Golden Age Rebel At TheWrap

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