Posts tagged ‘Joan Fontaine’
This post is in conjunction with the blog Viv and Larry’s Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier Blogathon.)
Early in the summer of 1939, when principal photography on David O’Selznick’s soon-to-be masterpiece Gone with the Wind had finally finished, Vivien Leigh boarded a plane and headed to New York to be reunited with Laurence Olivier. She was spotted by gossip columnist Louella Parsons who promptly reported that Olvier had signed on to play the role of Maxim deWinter in the film adaptation of Daphne duMaurier’s novel Rebecca, and that “All of Vivien Leigh’s brave plans to return to England for a stage play will go a-glimmering,… for she is now mentioned for the role of the wife opposite her very good friend Laurence.” Read more ►
“Look for it only in books for it is no more than a dream remembered—a civilization gone with the wind.”
With today’s passing of Dame Elizabeth Taylor, I could not quite get those opening credits of David O Selznick’s Gone with the Wind out of my mind. Taylor is not the last star of Hollywood’s Golden Age to leave us— we still, thankfully, have with us the talents of Mickey Rooney, Debbie Reynolds, Jane Powell, Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, Olivia deHavilland, Joan Fontaine, Shirley Temple and Louis Rainer. All of whom I love dearly. (And a few of whom I prefer as actors to Taylor.)
But as far as the 20th Century idea of “movie star” goes, no one has been, is and will be more consummate of a movie star than Elizabeth Taylor. The name is larger than life, and is topped only by the woman who possessed it: a woman who loved hard, lived large and suffered deeply—an epic story of love, loss and survival. Her passing, symbolically, signifies the end of an entire civilization. A world that no longer exists.
I’m open to argument, but I strongly feel that she is the last Hollywood Superstar.
Golden Hollywood, already a legendary Oz, really began fading from our tangible collective hold in the late 90s, with the deaths of Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart, Katharine Hepburn and Bob Hope. The past years have been especially sad for classic film lovers around the world, particularly with the passings of Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Tony Curtis and Jane Russell to highlight but the few. And although dear Elizabeth had been failing for quite some time, the news is still a sad shock to any and all who love her and love the world she reigned over. And somehow, for me anyway, with the candle blown on her legendary life… that golden Hollywoodland that I grew up with is, finally, truly, forever gone.
Created and cultivated by the studio system, bred by the studio system—its shining beacon of beauty and glamour—there will only ever be one Elizabeth Taylor. Initially just another ‘product’ to be exploited by studio suits, Taylor turned the tables and became an accomplished actress (“She knows her instrument,” co-star and friend Paul Newman once said, “and she knows how to play it.”)
The Kitty Packard Pictorial bids adieu to this extraordinary woman, her extraordinary beauty and her extraordinary gifts as an actress.
This moving tribute paid to her by Paul Newman on TCM a few years back sums up so much: her strength as a human being, her worth as a talent– her legacy as a star.
“It was a privilege to watch her,” Newman says in the tribute.
It is now more than a privilege. It is an honour.
Thank you for the memories, Elizabeth. We love you. And you are a part of us. Always.
One of our readers was kind enough to share a first-hand experience involving screen legend (and perennial Pictorial favorite) Joan Fontaine.
We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
My father, who’d be 91 were alive today, was a charming and most unusual man. When I was 10 or 11, back in the very early 60s, there was no such thing as cable TV and the “Late Show” broadcast old movies most nights.
One night my father said, “You are going to sleep late tonight, school night or not. We’ll just have you stay home if you are tired tomorrow.”
Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” was on the tube that night. I loved it. And I adored Fontaine.
I was thrilled when in my early 20′s, she was doing some lecturing at a local college and lived in Boston for a time. She was charming, and slightly imperious, and, then in her 50′s, quite tiny and very lovely.
One of our local hotels had been purchased by a mysterious Brit, and its cabaret, under his aegis, ran sophisticated intimate acts, mostly singers, which were broadcast live on Saturday nights. One night a very talented local singer/comedian named Mercedes Hall (the actor Anthony Michael Hall is her son ) was appearing.
During the show, which as I say was broadcast live, the smarmy hotelier/host — his name was Allen Temayne, introduced Fontaine, who was amongst the patrons. “Miss Fontaine” he said — may I call you Joan?”
Chic, cool, and immaculately coiffed, the former film star looked at him and said, “NO. You may call me MISS Fontaine.”
At that point admiration turned to adoration.
She is a complicated woman, maligned in many show biz bios — Vivien Leigh, Judith Anderson and Noel Coward were all less than kind — but I suspect she was less sinner than sinned against, especially during her childhood with de Havilland.
A unique lady indeed.
The magnificent Olivia de Havilland turns 94 years young today.
Born in 1916 in Tokyo, Japan, where father held a legal practice, the de Havillands immigrated to California two years later for health reasons. The two year old Olivia and her one year old sister, Joan, would both grow up in the golden warmth of northern California’s San Mateo county before eventually heading south … to Hollywood. To stardom. To film immortality.
Olivia is one of the last few surviving stars of Hollywood’s golden age, having made her screen debut 75 years ago in Max Reinhardt’s shimmery 1935 film adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She achieved true film immortality in 1939 when she won the role of Melanie Hamilton in the biggest film ever made, Gone With the Wind, which would also give her the first of five Oscar nominations. Twice she would take home gold. She would fight the iron-fisted Studio system for creative freedom—and win. She successfully broke the mold of the Warner Bros’ crafted ‘goody-two-shoes’ image (starting, with scintillating stealth, in The Strawberry Blonde) and would go on to play a challenging range of roles—from the insanely paranoid Virginia of The Snake Pit, the deliciously evil Miriam of Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte to … well … a Lady in a Cage.
Olivia would never quite bury the hatchet with her rival and sister Joan Fontaine in what was (and still is) perhaps the movie biz’s most famous case of sibling rivalry, and the true nature of her off screen relationship with her most famous leading man, the dashing Errol Flynn, is still somewhat… shall we say … ambiguous.
Although Olivia retired to Paris some twenty years ago, remains active—most recently having provided the narration for the 2009 documentary on Alzheimer’s disease, I Remember Better When I Paint.
A truly great actress, lady and humanitarian, The Pictorial wishes to salute the divine Miss de Havilland with a resounding thanks… for all the memories.