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Hollywood legend Olivia de Havilland dies peacefully at 104


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Typecast: Olivia de Havilland as Melanie Wilkes in ‘Gone With The Wind’

Typecast: Olivia de Havilland as Melanie Wilkes in ‘Gone With The Wind’

Typecast: Olivia de Havilland as Melanie Wilkes in ‘Gone With The Wind’

Olivia de Havilland, the two-time Oscar winner who played Melanie Wilkes in 'Gone With the Wind', died at her Paris home yesterday at the age of 104.

The actress, sister of fellow Oscar-winner Joan Fontaine, died peacefully of natural causes, her publicist Lisa Goldberg said.

De Havilland was among the last of the top screen performers from the era when the studios dominated Hollywood.

She was also the last surviving lead from 'Gone With the Wind', an irony, she once noted, as the fragile, self-sacrificing Melanie was the only major character to die in the 1939 epic.

During a career that spanned six decades, de Havilland took on roles ranging from an unwed mother to a psychiatric inmate in 'The Snake Pit'.

She was Errol Flynn's co-star in a series of dramas, Westerns and period pieces, most memorably as Maid Marian in 'The Adventures of Robin Hood'.

But she was an actress too beautiful for her own good, often typecast in sweet and romantic roles while desiring greater challenges.

Her frustration finally led her to sue Warner Bros in 1943 when the studio claimed she owed them a six-month extension on her contract because she had been suspended for refusing roles.

Her friend Bette Davis was among those who had failed to get out of her contract under similar conditions in the 1930s, but de Havilland prevailed, with the California Court of Appeals ruling no studio could extend an agreement without the actor's consent. The decision is known as the 'De Havilland law'.

De Havilland won her first Oscar in 1946 for 'To Each His Own', a melodrama about out-of-wedlock birth.

A second came three years later for 'The Heiress'.

She was also famous as the sister of Fontaine, who died in 2013 and with whom she had a troubled relationship.

"On my part, it was always loving, sometimes estranged and, in the later years, severed," she said, referring to her sister as "Dragon Lady".

De Havilland was born in Tokyo on July 1, 1916, the daughter of a British lawyer.

Her parents separated when she was three, and her mother brought her and younger sister Joan to California, where de Havilland began acting in high school.

The actress's two marriages, to Marcus Goodrich and Pierre Galante, ended in divorce.

She denied ever having had a romance with her frequent co-star Flynn, despite his notoriety as a womaniser. But she did date Howard Hughes and James Stewart and had an intense affair in the early 1940s with director John Huston.

In middle age, her career slowed but she made several movies for television, including 'Roots' and 'Charles and Diana', in which she portrayed the British Queen Mother.

She also co-starred with Davis in the macabre camp classic 'Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte'.

Catherine Zeta-Jones played de Havilland in the 2017 FX miniseries about Davis and Joan Crawford, but de Havilland objected to being portrayed as a gossip and sued. The case was dismissed.

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Irish Independent