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Gone With the Wind’s Only Surviving Star Olivia de Havilland Turns 102!

Olivia de Havilland, Melanie Wilkes
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The civil-war era classic, Gone With the Wind, was such a big hit when it first came out that the Georgia governor, Erith D. Rivers, “proclaimed a Statewide holiday, prepared to call out the National Guard” (1). According to a Times article written in 1939 in response to the movie’s long-awaited premiere, “To Georgia it was like winning the battle of Atlanta 75 years late” (1).

Olivia de Havilland lovingly starred as Melanie Wilkes and managed her roll with excellence that has been remembered across decades! While most of the starring actors in the beloved film have since passed away, Olivia de Havilland has just had another birthday (2)!

Gone With the Wind Star Turns 102

Of the principle members who starred in the 1939 classic, including Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland is the last surviving member (2). This two-time Oscar award winner turned 102 years old on Sunday, July 22nd, 2018, and currently resides in Paris, France (2). Even though the classic Gone With the Wind underwent its fair share of challenges and setbacks, including three changes in film directors, Olivia de Havilland used it as her stepping stone into famedom (3).

Although the talented actress failed to receive her Academy Award nomination for her performance in Gone With the Wind, she successfully won two Oscars in 1946 and later that year went on to receive her award for Best Actress for her role in To Each His Own (2). De Havilland faced a healthy dose of sibling rivalry in 1941 when she and her sister, Joan Fontaine, were both nominated for an Academy Award, of which Fontaine took home for her role in Suspicion (4). Less than pleased to have lost such an important award to such a close relative, de Havilland explained to a reporter, “My sister was born a lion, and I was born a tiger, and in the laws of the jungle, they were never friends” (4).

Dame Olivia de Havilland

Nevertheless, de Havilland remained successful, soon possessing a statuette for her turn in The Heiress and she achieved the unique distinction last year after becoming the oldest person on earth to be named a Dame (2). “To receive this honor as my 101st birthday approaches is the most gratifying of birthday presents,” de Havilland said. She stated that she is “extremely proud that the Queen has appointed me a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire” (2).

Over the course of her excitement-filled life, de Havilland has made seven films with actor Errol Flynn, including The Adventures of Robin Hood in 1938, Sante Fe Trail in 1940, and They Died with Their Boots On in 1941 (4). After decades of intense and intriguing speculation, de Havilland admitted at the youthful age of 92 that she and Flynn had shared an emotional (though unconsummated) love affair (4). This was altogether shocking since Flynn was married, but even he admitted in his autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, that he had fallen deeply in love his his ever so frequent co-star, de Havilland (4).

Happy Birthday, Olivia

Winning awards, staring in movies, maintaining love affairs, and traveling the world, Olivia de Havilland should be known for far more than her role in Gone With the Wind. Ultimately, the 102-year-old actress has lived  a full and exciting life with hopefully many more years to come.

By Abbey Ryan-Elder

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