A very, very Happy 100th Birthday to Olivia de Havilland!
Usually when I am writing birthday posts about Clark Gable’s co-stars they are actually no longer with us. But Olivia is alive and well in Paris, and I hope having quite a celebration!
She may be most commonly known as “mealy mouthed ninny” (as Scarlett called her) Melanie Wilkes in Gone with the Wind, but Olivia had a illustrious career beyond Melanie. Olivia is a two time Academy Award winner (The Heiress and To Each Their Own) and was nominated three more times. She starred in such classics as The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, A Midsummer Nights Dream, The Adventures of Robin Hood, They Died With Their Boots On, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte and more. Her co-stars include Errol Flynn, Bette Davis, James Cagney, David Niven, Paulette Goddard, Henry Fonda, Ida Lupino, Frank Sinatra, and Robert Mitchum, not to mention Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, of course.
In celebration of her birthday, here is a charming little magazine interview with her from 1944, in which she details her favorite things.
Scrapbook on Olivia de Havilland
by Eleanor Harris
Photoplay magazine, June 1944
Being the fascinating odds and ends in the fabulous life of a very fair lady
Favorite role: Melanie in “Gone with the Wind.” Until then, she had never known what it was like to love her work–or to be flattered by her producer. David O. Selznick showered his players with baskets of flowers, fruit, wine and caviar, which Livvie loved as well as the next.
Favorite inanimate object: Her bed in which she spends nearly all the time she’s home, from dusk until dawn. In it she reads, eats breakfast and dinner, telephones endlessly; and from it she even entertains her friends with the dignity of a drawing-room dowager!
Pet beauty secret: False eyelashes to bring out eyes to their fullest.
Favorite clothes: Bedjackets–she has three dozen of them in every material and color. After them, she’s poetic about a white blouse with bunches of bananas painted on the bosom and sleeves.
What she can cook the best: Boiled water–she can’t cook a thing. But she can make the most delectable tea sandwiches in the Western world; such as tiny cornucopias of white bread, spread with peanut butter, stuffed with watercress. And dainty open-faced sandwiches of cream cheese smeared with strawberry jam.
Worst faults: Her absurd old-maid complex; she tells everyone she’s sure she’ll never marry. Also, her grim determination to ignore other people’s opinions of her in public…with the result that she upsets restaurants by yelling her conversations, bossing her friends in shouts and laughing like a heavyweight prizefighter. None of this fits in with her ladylike appearance–and none of it is necessary or even natural. All we can say is, why?
Pet hates: Nearly all women. Men who don’t tip generously. Liars of both sexes, and bores of ditto. Most of all she loathes people who try to give her advice or tell her things for her own good. Her theory is that she’s the one who’s living her life and people who try to interfere are generally frustrated fumblers who’ve made hash of their own lies and have no right to try and better hers.
Current beau: She’ll cough and look the other way when you bring up her Number One Beau–but we know her heart’s with Captain John Huston. Even though her face has been seen recently through the windshields of cars driven by writer Dwight Whitney of Life Magazine, ex-director Major Anatol Litvak and actor Jess Barker–as whose face hasn’t?
Happiest moments: Whenever she’s flirting; whenever she’s eating delicious food; and one vacation in Cape Cod after the season, when she took the name of Emmy Brown and spent a month completely away from Olivia de Havilland.
Best woman friend: Hasn’t any. But thoroughly likes, admires and respects acquaintances Bette Davis and Geraldine Fitzgerald.
Favorite book: The Bible. Reads some of it every day.
Favorite flower: Moss roses.
The worst lie she ever told: She never told one, and more’s the pity. When a little evasion would do the trick, she insists on telling the truth–even when it makes her out an egomaniac or a bird brain.
Favorite food: Tea first–and then every kind of food from every kind of country, just so it’s cooked to perfection and served with distinction.
How she’ll celebrate end of war: By starting on a long trip around the world–with hiking shoes in one hand and her Airedale Shadrack under the other.
Pet form of entertainment: Small dinner parties at her home, carefully planned, exquisitely carried out–with no crowds, no games. But lots of good food and conversation.
Ex-boyfriends: Get set for a long list. George Brent, Lew Ayres, Roger Pryor, Burgess Meredith, Jimmy Stewart, Franchot Tone, Jock Whitney…of which Whitney and Stewart came closest to riding on the well-known white charger.
What she wants in a husband: He must be homely as a mud fence (that’s the way she likes ’em), intelligent, sensitive, cultured, humorous–and very understanding.
What she’d like to be as a wife: If he were just Mr. Average, she’d continue whirling through her acting career until death did them part. But if he were a man of destiny she’d drop everything always to help him in his interests and career at the expense of her own.
Ideal home: Just the one she has–small, formal yet gay; shiningly immaculate, run like clockwork; and yet comfortably filled with flowers, books and candy. With a sign on the front gate: “Private!”
Habit she’s trying to break herself of: Her dead-pan sense of humor which people take seriously; and her habit of subscribing to every magazine, from the Wall Street Journal to Rod and Reel!
What she wants to be doing when fifty: She wants to look down the dinner table at a husband, around the dinner table at her children–and in the newspaper for her latest motion picture!
How many children she wants: A houseful of them–and if she never marries, she intends to adopt a lot. She refuses to grow old without them.
Unhappiest moment: When she and Jimmy Stewart decided it was time to take their romance off the fire.
Most irritating daily task: Dressing her hair, which is as fine as a baby’s and as unruly. When unaided, she always ends up by stuffing it in a snood-when aided, it takes one hairdresser and two hours to do it right.
Proudest achievement: It was also her most painful achievement–changing from the shy and sheltered girl who came to Hollywood (causing everyone around her to form a “Club for the Protection of Olivia de Havilland”)–to the aggressively independent young woman she is today, who makes up her own rules, chooses her own friends, and lives alone..and loves it!
What bores her the most: Big parties–and people who shirk their jobs, regardless of the job’s importance.
Pet superstition: Walking on cracks in the sidewalk, for good luck.
Loneliest moment: Her first night alone in her house four years ago–after her mother had moved back to Northern California, her sister, Joan Fontaine, had married and moved away and suddenly Olivia was by herself…and frightened.
Greatest virtues: Her generosity, her devastating honesty–and her truly great ability to act.
Greatest annoyance from the public: The widespread theory that she and her sister, Joan Fontaine, despise each other–when the truth is that they fight sharp skirmishes with each other, but defend each other savagely to the rest of the world.
Greatest thrill: The time she almost died, alone and lost, on a freezing night in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
First proposal: From a gangly boy in high school, who gasped out “Will you marry me?” while he cranked the engine of his drying T-Type Ford.
What she doesn’t suspect about herself: That she’s the unhappiest girl in the world–when she could be the happiest!
Well, that feud with her sister was true–and was seemingly never resolved before Joan died a few years ago. I find it odd that it says she’s sure she’ll never marry, but then they ask her what kind of husband she wants and what kind of wife she’d be, and she says at fifty she pictures herself with a husband! At fifty she was only halfway there so far….
Happy Centennial Olivia!