BC-VID-CORONAVIRUS-WHATTOSTREAM:MCT — entertainment (650 words)
The iconic actress Olivia de Havilland passed away last Sunday, at the age of 104 in her home in Paris. She seemed to be the last surviving star of classical Hollywood’s Golden Age, and with her passing, it feels like our last living link to that era is gone.
De Havilland was certainly a memorable star, and her frosty relationship with her sister, Joan Fontaine, also an actress and the star of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca,” is the stuff Hollywood legends are made of. But de Havilland also directly shaped Hollywood and the way it was run. How many other starlets have a California labor law named after them? The De Havilland Law allowed for stars to escape their unfairly drawn-out studio contracts and created a better working environment for all working actors. She remained dedicated to justice (and litigious) throughout her life. At 102, she sued Ryan Murphy for using her likeness without her permission in his 2017 series “Feud: Bette & Joan” (available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon, Fandango and Vudu).
Michael Phillips penned a lovely appreciation of de Havilland’s life last week, but here are a few streaming film recommendations to remember this remarkable actress.
She is, of course, well-known for playing Melanie in “Gone With the Wind,” which is available on HBO Max and Direct TV and for a $3.99 digital rental elsewhere. The sprawling Civil War epic is worth a watch, with the historical context well understood of the film, made in 1939, and its depiction of the Civil War, which has courted controversy.
But some of de Havilland’s best and most charming work was opposite Errol Flynn in a string of adventure films in the late 1930s that ran the gamut of genres, from “Robin Hood” (HBOMax) to the swaggering pirate epic “Captain Blood” ($3.99 digital rental), to the Western “Dodge City” ($2.99 digital rental) and the Crimean war film “The Charge of the Light Brigade” ($1.99 rental). De Havilland made a fine love interest for the grinning, leaping, sword-fighting hunk Flynn. She radiated a kind of intelligence and interiority that always proved her characters had the upper hand in the relationship, taming the wild men Flynn played.
She won her first Oscar for “To Each His Own” in 1946, playing a young mother who has to give up her child and follows his life from afar. That film is available free to stream with ads on the brand-new Peacock streaming service. She won her second Oscar for the 1949 film “The Heiress,” directed by William Wyler, whom she sought to direct an adaptation of Henry James’ 1881 novel “Washington Square,” after seeing the play written by Ruth and Augustus Goetz. She starred opposite Montgomery Clift as an heiress caught between her abusive father and new lover. Unfortunately that film is not streaming, but it is available on DVD from the Criterion Collection. Scoop that up for the home collection, or check out your local video store.
A personal favorite performance of hers is in the truly bonkers 1964 “psycho-biddy” film “Hush, Hush… Sweet Charlotte,” opposite Bette Davis. The film was supposed to be a sequel of sorts to “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” in which the tables were turned and Joan Crawford got to torment Bette Davis. But Crawford departed the film after feuding with Davis, and so de Havilland stepped in to play the scheming, manipulative cousin of Davis’ wealthy shut-in, who may or may not have killed her boyfriend as a teen. Directed by Robert Aldrich, it’s an absolute hoot, and it’s available to stream for a $3.99 digital rental.
De Havilland worked for more than five decades, so take a dive into her amazing filmography and pay tribute to this pioneering actress, one of the last the last vestige of classical Hollywood.