Monday, December 16, 2013
Remembering Joan Fontaine
Silver screen icon Joan Fontaine, born Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland, has passed away of natural causes at age 96. She is survived by sister and rival Olivia de Havilland. She received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her starring role in Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940). ("Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.") She also had the title role in Jane Eyre. How Gothic Romance can one lady get? She practically cornered the market! Joan Fontaine won the Oscar for Hitchcock's Suspicion (1941) and was the only leading lady to do so in a Hitchcock film.
Joan's last theatrical starring role was in the Hammer horror film, The Witches, released in the USA as The Devil's Own (1966). It's actually a cult favorite of mine and Joan was, at middle age, still playing demure damsels in distress ~ and pulling it off! She even appeared in a 1937 film called Damsel in Distress, for crying out loud!
In 1939, she impressed audiences as the bashful, doe-eyed Mrs John Day in George Cukor's The Women, holding her own against a stellar cast including Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell and Norma Shearer.
Her sibling rivalry with sister Olivia de Havilland is legendary dish. Apparently, it started in childhood when Olivia would cut up her frocks that were to be hand-me-downs to her younger sister, forcing Joan to sew them back together. Joan felt their mother always favored Olivia. Both sisters went on to win Academy Awards. But tensions in their relationship came to a boil in 1942 when Fontaine won the award for her role in Suspicion over de Havilland's performance in Hold Back the Dawn.
In a 1978 interview, Fontaine told the press, “I married first, won the Oscar before Olivia did, and if I die first, she’ll undoubtedly be livid because I beat her to it!” Livvy must be livid! You beat her to it again, Joan. Congratulations and RIP.