Saturday, January 07, 2006

Star of the month "olivia De Havilland"

Yes, I can be very cruel. I have been taught by masters.
Olivia De Havilland as Catherine Sloper
(Heiress, The - 1949)

Born to British parents in Japan, raised in California and discovered by Max Reinhardt, Olivia de Havilland signed with Warner Bros. before her 20th birthday and quickly built a solid reputation as an endearing leading lady in a series of Michael Curtiz swashbucklers starring Errol Flynn. Her demure sweetness played well against Flynn's cocky machismo, and Warners paired them eight times (seven directed by Curtiz) in romantic adventure films and Westerns like "Captain Blood" (1935), "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (1938) and Raoul Walsh's "They Died with Their Boots On" (1941). With the release of "Gone With the Wind" (1939), de Havilland became a major star, earning her first Academy Award nomination; her role as the long-suffering and almost insufferably sweet Melanie, however, did not lead to more prestigious projects, as Warners continued to put her in run-of-the-mill pics.

De Havilland's victory broke the stranglehold that film companies had on actors in Hollywood, but it was a risky move at the time. Once free from Warners and the courts, de Havilland made "The Well-Groomed Bride" before winning the first of her two Academy Awards for "To Each His Own" (1946). Playing twins (one good, one evil) in the psychological drama "The Dark Mirror" (also 1946) gave de Havilland an opportunity to present a more twisted nature side-by-side her standard saccharine temperament. She explored insanity further and picked up another Oscar nomination for "The Snake Pit" (1948), a wrenching look inside a mental institution which helped spur changes in the treatment of patients. Robert Aldrich convinced her to play the scheming cousin opposite Bette Davis in "Hush. . . De Havilland played the Queen Mother in "The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana" (CBS, 1982), the Dowager Empress Maria in the NBC miniseries "Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna" (1986) and Wallis Simpson's aunt in "The Woman He Loved" (CBS, 1988), her last screen appearance to date.

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