For any Hollywood star, this may be a record: After making her most famous film, Olivia de Havilland lived another 81 years.
She was 23 when she co-starred in “Gone With the Wind” (1939) as sweet-spirited Melanie (shown here), getting an Academy Award nomination; she was 104 when she died July 26.
This month, highlights of her career will rerun on Turner Class Movies. It will be a 24-hour package, starting at 6 a.m. Aug. 23, but for many people it will be something to record and catch later.
“Gone With the Wind” – which is also on the new HBO Max streaming service – will anchor the night, from 8 p.m. to midnight. (And that’s without commercials; this runs three hours, 58 minutes.) That will be followed by the two shows she won Oscars for – “The Heiress” (1949) at midnight and “To Each His Own” (1946) at 2:15 a.m. – and preceded by a string of adventures. There’s a pirate film, a cowboy film and a Robin Hood film.
Yes, de Havilland was once Maid Marian. She was cast alongside Errol Flynn in that movie, in two others in the TCM marathon – “Captain Blood” (1935) and “Dodge City” (1939) — and in “Charge of the Light Brigade” (1936).
Hollywood was like that, using women as accessories to male action. That was altered a bit when de Havilland sued Warner Brothers to escape the final six months of her contract.
“While most stars feared losing their livelihoods, (she) found the courage to sue her home studio,” Jeanine Basinger wrote in “American Cinema” (Rizzoli, 1994). She won a suit that “freed stars from studio bondage.”
That doesn’t automatically mean she made better movies then. “Gone With the Wind” was under the studio system; de Havilland begged Warner to loan her to MGM. In her freedom years, she sometimes made what Basinger called “the mysterious entity known … as the woman’s film.”
Basinger describes that in “A Woman’s View” (Wesleyan, 1993), singling out how “one oddball event after another piles up in ‘To Each His Own.’”
Still, it was an Oscar-winning performance, part of a life filled with rich details for de Havilland. She was born in Japan, raised (by an English mother) near San Francisco, died in France, but was a person of Hollywood … and of the Civil War South, Sherwood Forest, Dodge City and the open seas.
And outlasting your most famous film? Kirk Douglas died (at 103), 60 years after “Spartacus” … Mickey Rooney (at 93), 68 years after “National Velvet” and his final Andy Hardy film … Shirley Temple (at 85), 75 years after “Heidi” and “The Little Princess.” In this category, de Havilland tops the list; the TCM marathon on Aug. 23 (all times are ET) is:
“The Male Animal” (1942), 6 a.m.; “Princess O’Rourke” (1943), 8 a.m.; “Light in the Piazza” (1962), 10 a.m.; “In This Our Life” (1942), noon;
“Captain Blood” (1935), 1:45 p.m.; “Dodge City” (1939), 4 p.m.; “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938), 6 p.m.; “Gone With the Wind” (1939, 8 p.m.
“The Heiress” (1949), midnight; “To Each His Own” (1946), 2:15 a.m.; “Hard to Get” (1938), 4:30 a.m.