Olivia de Havilland Biography

(One of the Leading Actresses of Golden Age of Hollywood )

Birthday: July 1, 1916 (Cancer)

Born In: Tokyo, Japan

Olivia de Havilland was a British-American actress. A centenarian, Olivia was among the last surviving actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood Cinema. She first achieved prominence with her performance as ‘Melanie’, a supporting character in the film Gone with the Wind. She then went on to establish herself as a leading lady in the years to follow. One of the most successful actresses in the history of Hollywood, she won two Academy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and two New York Film Critics Circle Awards among other prestigious awards. Born in Tokyo to English parents, she moved to California with her mother and sister following her parents’ separation. Primarily raised by her mother, who was once a stage actress, Olivia de Havilland stepped into the world of show business and made her stage debut as a young girl in Alice in Wonderland. More stage roles followed and she had made her Hollywood debut by the time she was in her late-teens. She was often cast opposite popular leading men; her pairing with Errol Flynn became one of the most popular romantic on-screen pairings in Hollywood. Her sister Joan Fontaine was an equally successful actress, and the sibling rivalry between the two was well-known in Hollywood.

Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In July

Also Known As: Dame Olivia Mary de Havilland, Livvie


Spouse/Ex-: Marcus Goodrich (m. 1946; div. 1953), Pierre Galante (m. 1955; div. 1979)

father: Walter Augustus de Havilland

mother: Lillian Augusta

siblings: Joan Fontaine

children: Benjamin Goodrich (1949–91), Gisèle Galante (b. 1956)

Born Country: Japan

Quotes By Olivia De Havilland Actresses

Died on: July 26, 2020

place of death: Paris, France

Notable Alumni: Mills College

Cause of Death: Natural Causes

Ancestry: British American, American French, British French

City: Tokyo, Japan

More Facts

education: Mills College

  • 1

    How old was Olivia de Havilland when she died?

    Olivia de Havilland died on 26 July 2020, at the age of 104. At the time of her death, she was the oldest living Academy Award winner and the last surviving lead from Gone With the Wind.

  • 2

    What was the cause of sibling rivalry between Olivia de Havilland and her sister Joan Fontaine?

    Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine had an uneasy relationship right from the childhood. Joan was younger to Olivia and Olivia had trouble accepting the idea of having a younger sister, while on the other hand Joan was of the view that their mother favoured Olivia and hence, she resented Olivia.

    Later on, at the work front, Olivia de Havilland was the first to become an actress and for several years Joan Fontaine remained under the shadows of her sister’s accomplishments. The relationship further deteriorated when in an interview in 1946, Joan made adverse comments about Olivia’s husband Marcus Goodrich. The sibling rivalry ended with Joan’s death in 2013. Olivia publicly condoled her death.


Childhood & Early Life

Olivia Mary de Havilland was born on July 1, 1916, in Tokyo, Empire of Japan, to English parents. Her father, Walter Augustus de Havilland, was an English professor at the Imperial University in Tokyo. Walter later became a patent attorney. Her mother, Lillian Augusta, was a former stage actress. Olivia had a younger sister named Joan, who went on to become a prominent actress.

Her parents did not have a happy marriage as her father was not loyal to her mother. They separated when the girls were young. Subsequently, Olivia moved to the United States with her mother and sister.

Olivia received ballet and piano lessons as a young girl. She went to ‘Los Gatos High School’ where she performed well in studies and also excelled in oratory and field hockey. She also participated in school plays.

She made her debut in amateur theatre, playing a role in Alice in Wonderland in 1933. Although she had interest in dramatics, she aspired to become a school teacher. Following her graduation from high school in 1934, she was offered a scholarship to ‘Mills College’ in Oakland.

Around the same time, she also got an opportunity to play ‘Hermia’ in a stage production of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Her performance as ‘Hermia’ led to a movie contract. When she was forced to choose between teaching and acting, she signed a five-year contract with Warner Bros. in 1934.

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Olivia de Havilland made her movie debut in the film adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1935. While the film was not successful, she got noticed for her beauty and acting skills.

She was offered roles that required her to play the ingénue—a sweet, innocent, and wholesome young woman.

In the mid-1930s, she was paired with Errol Flynn for the first time in the action-adventure tale Captain Blood (1935). The pairing turned out to be a success and the duo went on to become one of the most popular on-screen couples in Hollywood. They acted together in eight films.

In the 1939 film Gone with the Wind, she played ‘Melanie Hamilton’, a gentle and kind woman. She earned an Academy Award nomination for ‘Best Supporting Actress’ for her portrayal of ‘Melanie’.

Soon, the talented actress got tired of being typecast and wanted to play different kinds of roles. In the 1941 comedy drama, The Strawberry Blonde, she played an outspoken advocate for women's rights, a role that was much appreciated by the film critics.

She played a variety of film roles during the 1940s and 1950s. Some of the notable roles she portrayed were in films like To Each His Own (1946), The Well-Groomed Bride (1946), The Snake Pit (1948), The Heiress (1949), My Cousin Rachel (1952), Not as a Stranger (1955), The Ambassador's Daughter (1956), and The Proud Rebel (1958).

During the 1980s, she began focusing on television and remained active doing TV roles. Her popular television projects include television film Murder Is Easy (1982), biographical drama film The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana (1982), and the 1986 ABC miniseries North and South, Book II. In 1988, she appeared in the romantic television drama The Woman He Loved.

In 2010, she almost made her big screen comeback after a hiatus of 22 years when James Ivory planned a film adaptation of The Aspern Papers. Unfortunately, the project never materialized.

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Major Works

Olivia de Havilland won her first Academy Award for her portrayal of a young unwed mother in the romantic comedy film To Each His Own. Her poignant performance was much appreciated and the film was both a critical and commercial success.

Her role as Catherine Sloper—a rich heiress who struggles with an indifferent father and falls in love with a fortune hunter—in the drama film The Heiress earned her much acclaim. She won several awards for her performance, including an ‘Academy Award’, ‘Golden Globe Award’, and ‘New York Film Critics Circle Award’.

Awards & Achievements

Olivia de Havilland won the Academy Award for ‘Best Actress in a Leading Role’ twice; she first won the award in 1946 for To Each His Own and then in 1949 for The Heiress.

Her role as Catherine Sloper in The Heiress earned her the Golden Globe Award for ‘Best Motion Picture Actress’ and New York Film Critics Circle Award for ‘Best Actress’ in 1949.

In 1986, she won the ‘Golden Globe Award’ for ‘Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role’ for her performance in Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna. The same role also earned her the ‘Primetime Emmy Award’ for ‘Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries’.

In 2008, she was presented with the ‘National Medal of Arts’. The medal, which is conferred to an artist on behalf of the American people, was given to her by the then-President George W. Bush.

Personal Life & Legacy

Prior to getting married, Olivia de Havilland had dated several men like Howard Hughes, James Stewart, and John Huston. Her first marriage was to Marcus Goodrich, a Navy veteran, screenwriter, and novelist, in 1946. The marriage, which produced a son, ended in divorce in 1953.

She tied the knot for the second time in 1955. Her second husband Pierre Galante was an executive editor for the French journal Paris Match. The couple had one daughter. This marriage too ended in divorce in 1979, but the two remained close until Galante’s death in 1998.

Olivia de Havilland died of natural causes in her sleep on 26 July 2020, at the age of 104, at her home in Paris, France.

Olivia De Havilland Movies

1. The Heiress (1949)

  (Drama, Romance)

2. Gone with the Wind (1939)

  (Romance, Drama, War, History)

3. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

  (Romance, Action, Adventure)

4. Captain Blood (1935)

  (Adventure, Action)

5. It's Love I'm After (1937)


6. The Snake Pit (1948)

  (Drama, Mystery)

7. To Each His Own (1946)

  (Romance, Drama)

8. Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)

  (Crime, Thriller, Mystery, Drama)

9. In This Our Life (1942)


10. Hold Back the Dawn (1941)

  (Drama, Romance)


Academy Awards(Oscars)
1950 Best Actress in a Leading Role The Heiress (1949)
1947 Best Actress in a Leading Role To Each His Own (1946)
Golden Globe Awards
1987 Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna (1986)
1950 Best Actress The Heiress (1949)

See the events in life of Olivia De Havilland in Chronological Order

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