Olivia de Havilland: Lady Triumphant
Before reading Olivia de Havilland: Lady Triumphant by Victoria Amador, I would have described Olivia de Havilland this way: “One of the most talented, beautiful, strong, and beloved stars of all time.”
AFTER reading Olivia de Havilland: Lady Triumphant by Victoria Amador, I would have described Olivia de Havilland this way: “One of the most talented, beautiful, strong, and beloved stars of all time… and quite possibly the most complex and completely fascinating one.”
For whatever reasons, it seems that many of my favorite actors and actresses were, at one time or another (in varying degrees) were capable of being…. well… hell on wheels. Henry Fonda, Ann Sheridan, Olivia de Havilland, James Cagney, Bette Davis… I dearly love each star but can’t even begin to count the time I’ve read something about each one and thought, “Holy cats, why did he/she say that?!” or “Wow… why did they act that way?!”
I mean, when they felt they were in the right, they could out-stubborn any mule in the county. Over time, I’ve decided that they said “that” and acted “that way” because they darn well felt they were in the right!
Good enough for me.
Olivia de Havilland, Dodge City
Olivia de Havilland, without question, was one of the most talented of all old Hollywood actresses. She was also, unquestionably, one of the most beautiful. Somehow her beauty was seldom the focus in the majority of her roles. In fact, we’re often (bizarre as it is) expected to view her as the “less attractive” female in a film or as the ‘invisible” one. Each time it happens, I think, “What a crock of bull!”
She was stunning, period.
Another claim that can be made for this extraordinary actress is that she was one of the all-time most loved and universally appreciated and respected stars ever. EVER. I will always be so very thankful that she lived long enough to realize this and I like to believe it meant as much to her as her films, awards, and many accolades.
From the Back Cover:
Legendary actress and two-time Academy Award winner Olivia de Havilland (1916–2020) is best known for her role as Melanie Wilkes in Gone with the Wind (1939). She often inhabited characters who were delicate, elegant, and refined. At the same time, she was a survivor with a fierce desire to direct her own destiny on and off the screen. She won a lawsuit against Warner Bros. over a contract dispute that changed the studio contract system forever, and is also noted for her long feud with her sister, actress Joan Fontaine.
Victoria Amador utilizes extensive interviews and forty years of personal correspondence with de Havilland to present an in-depth look at the life and career of this celebrated actress, from her theatrical ambitions at a young age to becoming one of the most well-known starlets in Tinseltown. Readers are given an inside look at her love affairs with iconic cinema figures such as James Stewart and John Huston, as well as her onscreen partnership with Errol Flynn. Amador also details how de Havilland became the first woman to serve as the president of the Cannes Film Festival in 1965, and showcases how, even in her later years, she remained active but selective in film and television until 1988. A new chapter covers de Havilland’s death at the age of 104 in July 2020.
Olivia de Havilland: Lady Triumphant is a tribute to one of Hollywood’s greatest legends―a lady who evolved from a gentle heroine to a strong-willed, respected, and admired artist.
About the Author: Victoria Amador has taught at a number of universities in the United Kingdom and other countries. She is the author of The Gothic Portal: An Online Resource for Academics and Aficionados of Gothic Cultural Productions from 1976 to 2008, and a number of articles on the gothic in film and literature.
At the first of the book review, I mentioned that Olivia de Havilland was “…quite possibly the most complex and completely fascinating..’ star of all time. Trust me when I say I’ve read about a lot of old Hollywood stars. A LOT. My shelves are full of biographies and autobiographies I’ve read and reread. Many actors, actresses, and directors were fascinating – many said and did wonderfully interesting things. But none top the lady we’re talking about today.
What made her so complex and fascinating? Where do I begin? For one thing her feminine, graceful… often even delicate… appearance and her refined manners were in direct contrast to the strong, fiery, and (at times) stubborn woman who resided behind them.
Think of the character of Melanie in Gone with the Wind. Arguably the strongest characters in the entire film, Mammy and Melanie, are not the ones you’d immediately equate with strength. When you see photos of Olivia de Havilland as Melanie, or say Maid Marion, you don’t necessarily see fierceness… and yet, this lady was completely fierce!
In her extraordinary biography, Victoria Amador presents all sides of Olivia de Havilland and, in doing so, she gives us a picture of an extraordinary lady – even more extraordinary than we ever dared to hope she would be!
I would imagine that there were a few times when the author (out of great affection and respect for her subject) weighed whether or not to include something in particular. I could see myself asking, “Should I point out that Olivia had somewhat of a tantrum, here?” or “Do I HAVE to mention that the cast and crew didn’t really care for her? Maybe I could just leave that out…”
However, leaving out even the smallest detail wouldn’t provide this complex look at a very complex lady.
Olivia de Havilland took on an entire studio and changed a system that had been in place in Hollywood long before she arrived. An actress did that! During a time when women simply weren’t supposed to do such things. The same Olivia de Havilland spoke of co-stars and acquaintances with great respect and never spoke out of turn or stooped to vulgar gossip or name-calling. Her upbringing and manners were almost always on display… until they didn’t serve her, that is!
I hope my great affection for this actress comes through in my words because I certainly feel it in my heart. She was one in a billion and I am fascinated by her. Was she perfect? Oh, heck no. Did she apparently behave in a way that probably made her a pain in the butt for co-stars and crews. Oh, you bet she did! But here’s the thing, I wouldn’t dare hope for her to have been any different… and, when you read this wonderful book, neither will you.
I also love that each of Olivia’s films are presented, one by one, with WONDERFUL information about the plot, cast, director, and (best of all) Olivia’s views of each. The films she made with Errol Flynn are presented in a way where you feel the emotions and the passion of the two stars. I also very much love all of the details about her relationships with James Stewart and John Huston and, as a Henry Fonda fanatic, I love how much respect Olivia had for him.
Love it a great deal.
I hope you’ll grab a copy of Victoria Amador’s extraordinary Olivia de Havilland biography right away. Olivia and all of the other (some, nearly as fascinating as the lady, herself) stars in the book will provide you with a visit you’ll never forget.
Olivia de Havilland: Lady Triumphant (Amazon link) by Victoria Amador is available in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle on Amazon.
Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn, The Charge of the Light Brigade