Olivia de Havilland, Icon of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Dead at 104

Photo: John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images

Olivia de Havilland, one of the most enduring and prominent actresses during the old Hollywood era, has died at the age of 104. She passed away “peacefully from natural causes” at her home in Paris on July 26. De Havilland began her acting career in 1935 with a Warner Bros. contract, often acting alongside leading men Errol Flynn, Dick Powell, and Clark Gable. The 1939 smash Gone With the Wind cemented her ingénue status, and in the following decade, she became a bona fide star with films such as Hold Back the Dawn, The Snake Pit, To Each His Own, and The Heiress with the later two earning her Academy Awards for Best Actress. De Havilland acted irregularly in the ensuing decades, with 1952’s My Cousin Rachel and 1964’s Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte among her most notable outings. She transitioned to television for a few select roles, which culminated in 1986 when she received an Emmy nomination for her supporting work in Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna.

Despite living a very private life in Paris for more than half a century, de Havilland’s presence was most recently felt in the Hollywood community when she sued FX for her portrayal in the miniseries Feud: Bette and Joan. “A large part of the reason I decided to move forward with my action against FX is that I realize that at this stage of my life and career I am in a unique position to stand up and speak truth to power,” she said in a rare 2018 interview, “an action that would be very difficult for a young actor to undertake.” This lawsuit echoes one that de Havilland historically waged against Warner Bros. in the 1940s, when she sued and defeated the studio for extending her contract after she refused certain roles. The “De Havilland law” is still in effect in Hollywood to this day.

De Havilland is survived by her daughter, son-in-law, and niece.

Olivia de Havilland, Hollywood Golden Age Icon, Dead at 104