Sunday, July 26, 2020

RIP Olivia de Havilland

On the set of the now reviled Gone With the Wind
Today the world lost perhaps the last of a bygone world.  Olivia de Havilland, the celebrated Academy Award winning actress from Hollywood's Golden Age, has died at the age of 104.

She was a bright star who managed to have her name in some of the most iconic movies of any age.  She also lived long enough, sadly, to see them maligned.  From the charge of Nazi Racism aimed at her most successful film, to charges of the entire era being a cover for white supremacy, I wonder what she thought.

Her relationship with Errol Flynn was legendary.  The two made enough films together that you could be forgiven for believing they were a married couple off screen.  Their close relationship led to a powerful on screen chemistry.  Flynn, a bad boy whose antics would shock even modern connoisseurs of 21st century pron culture, was smitten with her by all accounts. Being a child of old world values, however, she maintained an intimate friendship - but no more. 

She was married twice, her first husband dying of lymphoma.  Her second marriage did end in divorce, but she maintained a close relationship for the sake of her child.  Later, as he was dying, she helped take care of him.  She never married after that. 

Like many in Hollywood of that era, she identified as an FDR liberal and fought for causes near and dear to that period's understanding of liberalism.  Like Reagan and a few others, however, she also came to see the growing stranglehold that  communists were having on Hollywood and the greater popular culture. 

As McCarthyism pushed so many into bed with those who would wave the hammer and sickle  banner, she became a shrinking minority who still clung to the old ways, the old values and the old priorities.  Like Reagan, she realized the threat of the pro-Soviet Hollywood movers and shakers, one that she sadly was able to live long enough to witness played out.

Like many from that age, my boys know her and can rattle off quite a few of  her films.  Their favorite, as far as she is concerned, is the drama The Heiress.  Seeing it on TCM years ago, they realized then that brutal rhetoric does not have to be delivered in fist fights, yelling and expletives.  Her father's dressing down of her (delivered brilliantly by the late Ralph Richardson) smacked the boys in the face when they realized that, for all the flare and overproducing in similar films today, that's about the 'coldest smack' they had ever seen.

So RIP Ms. de Havilland.  Such a long and rich life is worth more than a blog post.  A Christian herself, may she find peace in the arms of God that is so lacking in this vale of tears. 

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