Hollywood is in mourning today after it was revealed that the legendary actress Olivia de Havilland, who was the last surviving star of the classic 1939 film Gone With The Wind, had passed away on Sunday at the age of 104.
de Havilland’s death was confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter by her publicist, who said that she died of natural causes at her home in Paris, France.
Born in 1916 in Tokyo, Japan, de Havilland went on to launch an incredibly successful career in Hollywood that included five Oscar nominations, with her bringing home the award twice. Her first nomination came for her portrayal of Melanie Wilkes in the classic movie Gone With The Wind. While every other actress in Hollywood was desperate to win the role of Scarlett O’Hara, de Havilland always had her sights set on Melanie.
“It was the character of Melanie that attracted me most because of her admirable qualities and the values that meant so much to her and meant so much to me,” she said in 2004. “I wanted to perpetuate these values. And the perfect way to do that of course would be to play the part of Melanie.”
de Havilland also liked the angelic qualities of Melanie, even though playing “good girls” was not popular at the time.
“Playing good girls in the ’30s was difficult when the fad was to play bad girls,” she once said. “Actually, I think playing bad girls is a bore; I have always had more luck with good girl roles because they require more from an actress.”
de Havilland was also known for playing a major role in dismantling the Hollywood studio system, and for fighting for the rights of herself and her fellow actors. After her passing, SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris issued the following statement:
“Olivia de Havilland was not only beautiful and talented, she was a courageous visionary and an inspiration to generations. She was a founding member of Screen Actors Guild in a time when organizing and joining a union was often a dangerous enterprise. She sued her studio, Warner Bros., in 1943 for extending her contract past its original seven-year expiration date. SAG-AFTRA members will be forever grateful to Ms. de Havilland for her contributions to the founding of our union and the protection of its members. She was a marvel and a legend. Rest in peace.”
de Havilland had her final role onscreen in 1988, and she had been living quietly in Paris during the last decades of her life. She is survived by one daughter, and by millions of fans from around the globe who will miss her dearly.