Friday, July 01, 2016

A Century of Maid Marian

You've probably already heard the news--after all, the story on Huffington Post has exploded with five whole comments--but to-day one of my favourite actresses turns 100 years old. Olivia de Havilland, the Brit born in Japan who became an American star and who now lives in Paris where she apparently still climbs five storeys to her apartment every day. Maybe the secret to longevity is elevation.

De Havilland's career took off in the 1930s. Nearly every article I read about her mentions her as one of the stars of Gone with the Wind but before that she was already a leading lady, appearing as Maid Marian in what still remains the best film version of Robin Hood opposite Errol Flynn in the title role. She starred with Flynn in numerous swashbuckler and adventure films, including one of the best pirate movies ever made, Captain Blood (pictured at the top of the post).

After single handedly changing the entire film industry in the late 1940s by suing her studio and winning, de Havilland was finally able to break out of the endless stream of damsel in distress parts to take on more complex roles that won her Academy Awards. My favourite is The Heiress--directed by William Wyler, De Havilland's performance is the most crucial element of the film as we watch how the thoughtless devices of society custom mould a loving and open hearted young woman into someone cold and withdrawn.

Happy birthday, Olivia de Havilland, here's to many more.

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