Olivia de Havilland (1916-2020)

Extracts from Wikipedia:

The French-British-American actor Olivia Mary de Havilland was born on July 1, 1916 in Tokyo, Empire of Japan. She died yesterday, aged 104, in Paris.

A cousin on her father’s side was Captain Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, OM, CBE, AFC, RDI, FRAeS (27 July 1882 – 21 May 1965), an English aviation pioneer and aerospace engineer. His Mosquito has been considered the most versatile warplane ever built, and his Comet was the first jet airliner to go into production.

Director Max Reinhardt and executive producer Henry Blanke of the film A Midsummer Night’s Dream persuaded her to sign a five-year contract with Warner Bros. on November 12, 1934, with a starting salary of $200 a week, marking the beginning of a professional acting career which would span more than 50 years.

After fulfilling her seven-year Warner Bros. contract in 1943, de Havilland was informed that six months had been added to her contract for the times that she had been suspended. At the time, the studios had adopted the position that California law allowed them to suspend contract players for rejecting a role, and the period of suspension could be added to the contract period. Most contract players accepted this, but a few tried to challenge this assumption, including Bette Davis, who mounted an unsuccessful lawsuit against Warner Bros. in the 1930s. On August 23, 1943, acting on the advice of her lawyer, Martin Gang, de Havilland filed suit against Warner Bros. in California Superior Court seeking declaratory judgement that she was no longer bound by her contract on the grounds that an existing section of the California Labor Code forbade an employer from enforcing a contract against an employee for longer than seven years from the date of first performance. In November 1943, the Superior Court found in de Havilland’s favor, and Warner Bros. immediately appealed. A little over a year later, the California Court of Appeal for the Second District ruled in her favor. The decision was one of the most significant and far-reaching legal rulings in Hollywood, reducing the power of the studios and extending greater creative freedom to performers. California’s resulting “seven-year rule”, as articulated by the Court of Appeal in analyzing Labor Code Section 2855 in the De Havilland case, is still known today as the De Havilland Law. (The court misspelled de Havilland’s last name, meaning that the case was published as De Haviland.)

In April 1953, at the invitation of the French government, she traveled to the Cannes Film Festival, where she met Pierre Galante, an executive editor for the French journal Paris Match. Following a long-distance courtship and the requisite nine-month residency requirement, de Havilland and Galante married on April 12, 1955, in the village of Yvoy-le-Marron, and settled together in a three-story house near the Bois de Boulogne park in Paris’ 16th Arrondissement.

The year 1962 saw the publication of de Havilland’s first book, Every Frenchman Has One, a lighthearted account of her often amusing attempts to understand and adapt to French life, manners, and customs. The book sold out its first printing prior to the publication date and went on to become a bestseller.

Of course the thing that staggers you when you first come to France is the fact that all the French speak French‍—‌even the children. Many Americans and Britishers who visit the country never quite adjust to this, and the idea persists that the natives speak the language just to show off or be difficult.

— Olivia de Havilland in Every Frenchman Has One

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