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Olivia de Havilland Turns 104 - Everything We Know about the 'Gone with the Wind' Actress

Jaimie-lee Prince
Jul 01, 2020
01:32 P.M.
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Olivia de Havilland has reached another landmark by turning 104 years old on July 1. The unique feat prompted many to look back at the actress' life and career.


Born in 1916, Olivia de Havilland has achieved what many fail to do — reached and surpassed the centenarian age. She's now 104 years old and is still going strong.

De Havilland is best known for her role as Melanie Wilkes in the 1939 classic, "Gone with the Wind." She's also the only surviving leading cast member of the film.

Olivia De Havilland I Image: Getty Images

Olivia De Havilland I Image: Getty Images



As De Havilland's birthday approached, HBO Max revealed that they would be restoring the movie to the network after some backlash it received from how it portrayed blacks.

The revised version of the film a nearly five-minute disclaimer in which film scholar Jacqueline Stewards explains "why this 1939 epic drama should be viewed in its original form, contextualized, and discussed."

She further acknowledged the protests from black people regarding how slavery was depicted, and the black characters were treated in the film. Screenwriter John Ridley previously called for the film to be pulled.



De Havilland has not spoken on the matter. In her day, she battled against the old studio system instead. Back in the 1940s, the legendary actress managed to make changes in the system backed by law.

In 1944, a judge described the studio system as that of "peonage," and De Havilland was released from her indenture to Warners Bros, who claimed the actress owed them six months' worth of work.

As a result of the win, Variety ran a headline, "De Havilland Free Agent." It explained how the actress was right in explaining her seven-year contract and paved the way for actors and agents to handle their deals better.



A few months later, De Havilland again succeeded in court when she pushed to be able to work with studios other than Warner Bros. The move allowed her career to flourish.

De Havilland didn't back down as she advanced in age. In 2017, she went to court again with FX Networks over how they depicted her in the series, "Feud: Bette and Joan." De Havilland suffered a loss, though.

Olivia De Havilland. I Image: Getty Images.

Olivia De Havilland. I Image: Getty Images.



The brunette beauty got her start in the film industry when she was just 19. She debuted in 1935's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." She also appeared in "The Adventures of Robin Hood" and "Captain Blood."

In 1946, she was in "To Each His Own," the film that landed her with her first Oscar win. Other works she starred in included "Light in the Piazza," "The Snake Pit," and "My Cousin Rachel."

De Havilland continued to showcase her sense of leadership by serving as the jury president of the Cannes Film Festival in 1965. De Havilland's final onscreen acting role was 1988's "The Woman He Loved."

Olivia De Havilland. I Image: Getty Images.

Olivia De Havilland. I Image: Getty Images.


President George W Bush honored the actress for her lifetime career with the National Medal of Arts in November 2008. In 2009, the National Museum in France appointed her a Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur.


In 2017, Queen Elizabeth anointed her with the title of dame. At 100 years old, she was the oldest woman to receive the honor. That year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences threw her a birthday party.

At the time, De Havilland said of the bestowment, "To receive this honor as my 101st birthday approaches is the most gratifying of birthday presents." Julie Walter and June Whitfield were also anointed.

Last year, De Havilland's 103rd birthday was commemorated with a picture of the actress riding a bicycle on the street. The Hollywood Walk of Famer has a son and a daughter from two marriages.

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