Olivia de Havilland, the World’s Oldest Surviving Oscar Winner, Dead at 104
By Abb Jones
Olivia de Havilland, the oldest surviving Oscar winner and one of the last of Hollywood’s Golden Era, has died of natural causes at the age of 104.
De Havilland died overnight in her sleep at her home in Paris, where she had lived for the past 64 years.
Following her Oscar-nominated, break-out performance as kind-hearted Melanie Hamilton in 1939’s Gone With the Wind, de Havilland won her first Academy Award for 1946’s To Each His Own, about a mother seeking to reclaim a son she gave up for adoption, and a second Oscar three years later, in The Heiress, as a woman who is controlled by her wealthy father and betrayed by her greedy lover but ends up with the last laugh.
At 104, De Havilland was one of the oldest living Hollywood legends and an outspoken activist for liberal causes. In the 1940s de Havilland successfully sued Warner Bros in a landmark ruling that helped break the stranglehold of Hollywood’s movie studio system. It is known today as The De Havilland Law.
De Havilland’s younger sister and fellow actress and Oscar winner Joan Fontaine, with whom she had been estranged for decades, died in 2013 at the age of 96.
De Havilland admitted in a 2015 interview that she still watched Gone With the Wind from time to time in order to connect with her former co-stars, whom had long since died.
“Luckily it does not make me melancholy,” she said. “Instead, when I see them vibrantly alive on screen, I experience a kind of reunion with them, a joyful one.”
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