Olivia de Havilland, the actress who played Melanie Wilkes in Gone With The Wind passed away at the age of 104 on Sunday, July 26, 2020. Considered as the only surviving actress of the Golden Era of Hollywood, Oscar awardee Havilland rested in peace due to natural death. Disclosing the news of her demise, her publicist said that she had been living in her home in Paris for 60 years where she breathed her last.

Havilland was born to English parents in Japan and lived in Paris since 1953. She began her movie career with the 1935 adaptation of Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Max Reinhardt. She aced the role of Hermia in the play that impressed Warner Bros. He later signed her for a seven-year-contract that also included Hollywood’s Box Office champion, Gone With The Wind.

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Playing Melanie Wilkes

Havilland played the role of Melanie Wilkes in 1939 production of Margaret Mitchell’s bestseller Gone With The Wind. Her willful personality and outstanding performance made Wilkes the most intriguing character of the movie. The role also gave her first of the five Oscar nominations in her movie career. The movie won eight Academy Awards including best picture.


However, the name and fame that Havilland received through Wilkes couldn’t save her from the rivalry in the studio era. In the seven-year contract with Bros, she wasn’t offered the roles that she wanted and so often refused from working on them. This led to a dispute with the studio and was suspended many times. The challenges did not end here. In 1943, when Bros declared that her seven-year contract had expired without considering the tenure in which she was suspended, she took the dispute to court. Harville eventually won the case and defeated the dominance of the studio on the actors.

In 1946, she made a comeback with the brilliant performance in the movie, To Each His Own. She played the role of an unwed mother that won her the first Oscar award of her life. Three years later she appeared in The Heiress as a spinster that won her the Academy Award.

In a total, Havilland made 50 movies and some popular TV shows in her career. Other memorable roles that she aced were that of a mental patient in The Snake Pit that earned her an Oscar nomination, sweet and evil twin in ‘The Dark Mirror’ and many more. Among the TV shows some of the most popular were Feud, Anastacia: The Mystery of Anna, The Woman He Loved and many more.

In another dispute, Havilland filed a case against the producers of TV Show Feud. She claimed that she disliked the way she was portrayed in the TV shows- gossip and hypocrite. However, her case was dismissed by the US Supreme Court.

Havilland is also known for her feud with her Oscar-winning sister Joan Fontaine who passed away at 96 in December 2013. Reportedly in 1942, both the sisters were nominated for Oscar and Fontaine’s victory sparked their long-drawn rivalry.

Havilland married twice, first with screenwriter and novelist Marcus Aurelius Goodrich and then with the journalist Pierre Galante. She is survived by her son Benjamin, from her first marriage and a daughter, Giselle, with her second husband. In 2008, Havilland was honoured with the National Medal of Arts and in the year 2016, she became the Oldie of the Year. Moreover, she was bestowed with the honour of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2017.

The Oscar-winning actress and the off-screen fighter, Olivia De Havilland, was the last surviving character of Gone With The Wind. Ironically, Wilkes was the first major character to die in the movie.

Picture Credit: News hub/People.com

Also Read: Margaret Mitchell’s Southern Belle In ‘Gone With The Wind’ Still Enthralls Us

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