With all of the sad and tragic and scandalous news that has dominated the cycle for the last couple weeks, I missed an important birthday. Olivia de Havilland, the last surviving high profile actress from Hollywood’s “Golden Age”, celebrated her 100th birthday on July 1st. By all accounts, she was in real life the characters she played: Kind, caring, and a sincere desire to do the right thing. I’m sure she’s human like all of us. But she hearkens back to a different age, a world so far removed from today, one that is being dismantled and cast into the flames of modern witch hunts of arrogance and judgmentalism, that my boys say it’s easier to comprehend life on Jupiter than life in the world of her heyday.
Olivia herself is a multiple Oscar winner, and appeared in some of the biggest movies of the 30s and 40s, as well as a couple of the great films of all time. She reflects on her long friendship with Errol Flynn, who she stared with in several movies, including the legendary The Adventures of Robin Hood.* In that movie, which features Flynn as the definitive Sherwood outlaw, de Havilland and Flynn played parts that reflected their real life personas. A year later, she stared in the most successful movie of all time, if inflation and other factors are considered. Gone With the Wind, the mega-hit of all mega-hits, and one of the greatest movies ever made, saw her act alongside another iconic role, that of Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler.She made many other films of course. One of our boys’ favorites is The Heiress, which casts her as a backward spinster starstruck by a young, dashing Montgomery Clift, but held back by her protective but cold-as-ice father, played to dispassionate by Ralph Richardson. The movie is one of those you find yourself glancing at while skipping through channels, and before you know it you sat through the entire film.
May God bless her and give her many years. And thanks Ms. de Havilland for all the memories and enjoyment you’ve brought to audiences through your many years.
*In addition to being a great movie, Robin Hood contains the quintessential duel; the sword fight against which all movie sword fights are measured. Just watched it with the kids and it never gets old.