TCM Star of the Month: Olivia de Havilland @ 100

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The remarkably durable Olivia de Havilland is celebrating her 100th birthday tomorrow. To commemorate the centennial of the actress’s birth, TCM is honoring de Havilland by making her the Star of the Month for July. For the next five weeks, viewers who tune in on Friday night will be able to see a broad selection of her work.

Her abilities and charm made de Havilland one of Hollywood’s most celebrated stars and throughout the 1930s and 40s the actress’s gentle manner and wide-eyed vulnerability led her to frequently play innocent ingénues, damsels in distress or women under duress, most notably in Gone with the Wind (1939). Despite this, I think she was often at her best in films such as The Dark Mirror (1946) and Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964), which allowed her to flex her acting muscles and exploit the darker aspects of her femininity. She was also a very funny lady and exhibited great comic timing in some of the films airing on TCM in July.

You can find the entire selection of Olivia de Havilland films scheduled to air on TCM next month here. Unfortunately, The Dark Mirror and Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte are not on the schedule but there are plenty of other great de Havilland films airing that are well worth a watch (or two!).

I thought I’d share some of my recommendations so I selected 10 features from the five-week schedule emphasizing de Havilland’s strengths. I hope my viewing suggestions will encourage readers to tune in on Fridays and discover what made the 100-year-old star such an admired Hollywood talent.

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Airing July 1:

The Adventures of Robin Hood (Dir. Michael Curtiz; 1938)
TCM Synopsis: “The bandit king of Sherwood Forest leads his Merry Men in a battle against the corrupt Prince John.”

Captain Blood (Dir. Michael Curtiz; 1935)
TCM Synopsis: “After being unjustly sentenced to prison, a doctor escapes and becomes a notorious pirate.”

Olivia de Havilland appeared in eight features with Errol Flynn but these two dynamic adventure films directed by Michael Curtiz can still impress and thrill viewers of all ages. They’re also a great showcase for demonstrating how these legendary performers with electric chemistry became one of our most beloved Hollywood screen couples.

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Airing July 9:

In This Our Life (Dir. John Huston; 1942)
TCM Synopsis: “A neurotic southerner steals her sister’s husband then vies with her for another man.”

It’s Love I’m After (Dir. Archie Mayo; 1937)
TCM Synopsis: “A squabbling stage couple gets mixed up with an amorous fan and her jealous suitor.”

Olivia de Havilland appeared in a number of films with Bette Davis and the two became friends on and off set. In John Huston’s magnificent southern melodrama In This Our Life, de Havilland and Davis play feuding sisters vying for the attentions of two men (George Brent & Dennis Morgan) and in the hilarious screwball comedy It’s Love I’m After, they tussle over Leslie Howard. Both films are personal favorites of mine but they’re often overlooked so I wanted to spotlight them today. Davis is a screen-stealing whirlwind but de Havilland’s low-key modern delivery distinguishes her.

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Airing July 15:

The Snake Pit (Dir. Anatole Litvak; 1948)
TCM Synopsis: “A young woman tries to recover her sanity in a corrupt mental institution.”

The Heiress (Dir. William Wyler; 1949)
TCM Synopsis: “A plain young woman’s money makes her prey to fortune hunters.”

The Snake Pit and The Heiress contain two of de Havilland’s most critically acclaimed performances. They also happen to be great films with harrowing plotlines that demanded a lot from their star. The Snake Pit remains one of the most powerful films about mental illness some 70-years after it was made and The Heiress is a timeless tragedy of epic proportions in the tradition of Henry James. Both are dark dramas and often referred to as ‘Women’s Weepies’ but they possess a depth and intelligence that speaks to the head as well as the heart.

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Airing July 22:

My Cousin Rachel (Dir. Dir: Henry Koster; 1952)
TCM Synopsis: “A young man suspects his cousin’s wife of murder.”

The Strawberry Blonde (Dir. Raoul Walsh; 1941)
TCM Synopsis: “A man’s infatuation with a gold-digging beauty continues after his marriage.”

My Cousin Rachel is a moody gothic romance based on a story by Daphne du Maurier and The Strawberry Blonde is an unconventional musical comedy that takes a surprisingly dour turn. On the surface they don’t share much in common except period settings but in both films de Havilland finds herself in complicated, frustrating and ultimately tragic relationships with two very different men. A somber Richard Burton is her costar in the first picture, where she plays a possible murderess and a fickle James Cagney is her costar in The Strawberry Blonde where she’s a spunky suffragette who competes with Rita Hayworth for Cagney’s attention. Burton and Cagney are magnificent performers who tend to dominate the screen but de Havilland is able to match them in scene after scene.

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Airing July 29:

Light in the Piazza (Dir. Guy Green; 1962)
TCM Synopsis: “A woman’s efforts to marry off her daughter are hindered by a family secret.”

Libel (Dir. Anthony Asquith; 1959)
TCM Synopsis: “A former POW is accused of being an impostor.”

It’s typical of film critics and historians to mockingly dismiss the later films of actors who became popular in the 1930s and continued to work into the 1960s. I’m not one of them. In fact, I’ve always thought that Olivia de Havilland, sister Joan Fontaine as well as her famous co-star Bette Davis, delivered some of their finest work after a lifetime of experience had supplied them with a wealth of emotional baggage to sift through. Light In The Piazza and Libel both demonstrate my point by providing de Havilland with two meaty roles late in her career. In Light in the Piazza she is Meg Johnson, the protective mother of a beautiful but mentally disabled young woman (Yvette Mimieux). While the two are on holiday in Italy, they meet the handsome and suave Signor Naccarelli (Rossano Brazzi) along with his son (George Hamilton) and romance blossoms between both couples but it’s complicated by Meg’s reluctance to abandon her responsibilities and resist her motherly instincts. In Libel she plays Lady Margaret Loddon, wife of Sir Lodden (Dirk Bogarde), whose marriage is upended when her husband is accused of being an imposter. Dirk Bogarde tackles two-roles and is given much more screen time as a result but de Havilland eventually gets her chance to add an emotional punch to this tense courtroom drama.

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Bonus! Airing July 29:

The Swarm (Dir. Irwin Allen; 1978)
TCM Synopsis: “Killer bees extend their territory into the U.S., with devastating effect.”

This Irwin Allen disaster features an all-star cast that includes such notable names as Michael Caine, Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, Slim Pickins, Patty Duke and birthday girl Olivia de Havilland who finds herself in a love-triangle with Ben Johnson and Fred MacMurray. The ridiculous plot involves a swarm of killer bees that are causing chaos and eventually kill most of the cast. This isn’t highbrow entertainment but it’s a fun popcorn muncher and de Havilland shows off her lung power in some hair-raising scenes.

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34 Responses TCM Star of the Month: Olivia de Havilland @ 100
Posted By Lyndell : June 30, 2016 8:36 pm

This is Our Life (Dir. John Huston; 1942)
TCM Synopsis: “A neurotic southerner steals her sister’s husband then vies with her for another man.”
You threw me for a loop at first because you referred to this title more than once–I thought I knew every movie Davis ever made, and your title didn’t compute. You did mean IN THIS OUR LIFE, didn’t you? Can’t wait for Olivia’s month to start.

Posted By Joe Dante : June 30, 2016 9:54 pm

What?! No LADY IN A CAGE??!!

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : June 30, 2016 9:56 pm

Joe – I’m afraid it’s not on the schedule but I’d endorse it!

Posted By Flora : June 30, 2016 10:23 pm

Happy 100th to Olivia.

I’ve seen most of the films mentioned in this blog, but a couple airing I have not yet seen.

The Snake Pit has long been on my to-see list.

And I missed The Swarm again…

I LOVE ALL OF Olivia’s FILMS.

Posted By Arthur : July 1, 2016 12:42 am

Recently saw IN THIS OUR LIFE, and I kept thinking of JEZEBEL and GONE WITH THE WIND.

In IN THIS OUR LIFE Betty Davis is after Olivia’s husband while in GONE WITH THE WIND, Vivian Leigh was after Olivia’s spouse.

JEZEBEL came out just before GONE WITH THE WIND and was very similar to it. Betty Davis played the Scarlett O’Hara part and George Brent who also starred in IN THIS OUR LIFE played the RHETT BUTLER role.

In JEZEBEL Davis wore a bold red dress to a ball prefiguring Leigh’s appearing at a ball in a bright dress IN GONE WITH THE WIND even though she had just been widowed. And in IN THIS OUR LIFE Davis, after her husband dies, refuses to wear mourning clothes.

Hattie McDaniel played a servant in IN THIS OUR LIFE and GONE WITH THE WIND.

Posted By George : July 1, 2016 1:25 am

LADY IN A CAGE is one I’d like to see again. Saw it on late-night TV as a teenager, and haven’t seen it since. Great early role for James Caan, too.

Posted By kingrat : July 1, 2016 3:17 am

Some great choices, Kimberly. I’ve seen all of them except THE SWARM and can second your recommendation for all. I’d just add that Olivia De Havilland makes so much of Melanie in GWTW–a role that could easily be massively annoying–that it deepens the whole film. The Scarlett/Melanie relationship is at the heart of the film.

Posted By drandmrsplus2 : July 1, 2016 6:39 am

I am really looking forward to revisiting some of these films. I would have loved to see The Male Animal again! It will be my first time seeing The Swarm though. Happy Birthday to an amazing star of screen and film, just LOVE her! Thanks for celebrating her this month!

Posted By Emgee : July 1, 2016 9:38 am

One of my all-time favourite actresses, and such a stunningly beautiful woman. Happy birthday, Olivia!

The Dark Mirror and Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte should have been scheduled, but hey, so much to choose.
She was such good friends with Bette Davis that she gladly replaced Joan Crawford on Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte. The story goes they drank Coca Cola to celebrate the fact, and annoy Crawford of course.

Posted By swac44 : July 1, 2016 10:11 am

Sadly, The Swarm is one of the few films that TCM has a substandard master for. I’ve tried to watch it twice on the channel, but each time it’s the same lousy pan & scan version. I keep hoping they’ll upgrade, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up.

Posted By LD : July 1, 2016 10:15 am

Happy 100th birthday to Olivia de Havilland! Most of the films mentioned I have seen and I am especially fond of her performance in HUSH, HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE. Disappointed to find out that THE DARK MIRROR would not be shown.

Posted By robbushblog : July 1, 2016 4:44 pm

I am looking forward to seeing those that I have never seen before. My all-time favorite De Havilland movie, which is also in my all-time top 10 favorite movies ever, is THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD. I have it on Blu-ray so I won’t be watching it on TCM, but there are so many more great titles to choose from this month. Happy 100 to Olivia De Havilland!

Posted By robbushblog : July 1, 2016 4:45 pm

I hope we can have another big celebration of a living centenarian Hollywood star in December as well.

Posted By Marty : July 1, 2016 5:26 pm

Olivia de Havilland to me was blessed with the beauty of perhaps the sweetest face to grace the screen and a beautiful voice to with it. I remember Roger Ebert mentioning that whenever he viewed The Adventures of Robin Hood, he would pause the picture just to stare at her gorgeous face…the most beautiful face in pictures he felt, and I pretty much agree with him. Where Davis was the Queen Bee scene chewer of the Warner lot, Olivia was simply a regal Queen. Oh she was tough, when she broke her contract and proved that player contracts were indentured servitude. In the special features of The Adventures of Robin Hood, John Masceri, in his talk about Korngold’s score, noted that Korngold listened to the voices of the actors in each scene and then put the scene’s music in keys that best complimented the actors’ voices.
Of all the scenes they played together, I believe that scene in which Olivia and Errol leave the Sherwood Forest banquet scene and walk amongst the survivors of Prince John’s cruelty. He explains his reasons and when she finally says I do begin to understand…he bows, kisses her hand and they walk off.

Posted By robbushblog : July 1, 2016 5:31 pm

A wonderful scene, Marty. Not enough can be said about Korngold’s score.

Posted By Mitch Farish : July 1, 2016 6:19 pm

I could do without GWTW, which I have seen way more than is good for me. TCM needs to avoid the usual suspects and start showing gems that not everyone knows about, or that are seldom aired. No Dark Mirror? Come on!!! At least they have My Cousin Rachel and In This Our Life.

Posted By Flora : July 1, 2016 6:29 pm

If you have Olivia’s films on DVD or Blue Ray, etc. then you can decide what films you want to watch. I for one will be looking out for film I either have not seen lately or have not seen. Being that it is Canada Day today, I will likely not be watching a movie tonight. I do believe that GWTW is THE film to watch for people who have not seen it.

Posted By Emgee : July 1, 2016 7:01 pm

“I hope we can have another big celebration of a living centenarian Hollywood star in December as well.”

Ok, it took me a while to figure out, but yeah, let’s hope Kirk Douglas is still with us on December 9th.

Posted By Starr : July 2, 2016 1:21 am

HAPPY HAPPY birthday to Miss Olivia!! A year older than my Dad.WONDERFUL.

Please inform the very pleasent young host…. Melanie, is NOT Scarlett’s cousin. She’s Ashley’s cousin.
I really love the new blood. But it just confirms most people do not do their home work. And if you can’t be acurate about one of the most iconic movies of all time… Hummnnnn. Don’t want to listen to him much.

Posted By Wanda Davis : July 2, 2016 1:39 am

Please,those who introduce movies should at least watch them. Tonight Dave said Melody was Scarlett cousin. At least watch the first 10 minutes which explains the relationship. Of course even critics mess up,he didn’t understand that Yvonne DeCarlo was half black in Band of Angel’s and whoever writes film description for Starz gets The Comanchros wrong. Sigh

Posted By Flora : July 2, 2016 2:37 am

hi, Wanda.

I agree. Often I turn the sound off if the person does not know his/her stuff.

Posted By Marnie St Clair : July 2, 2016 5:32 am

Imagine! Olivia of all the 30′s and 40′s Stars still endures oh thanks Emgee Kirk Douglas as well
Who is Friday Star O’ the Month guest host?
My favorite Olivia role is “The Heiress”
I looked up to see if Mickey Kuhn (Beau in GWTW) is still living and he is. Also played young K Douglas character in “Strange Loves of Martha Ivers”
And yes Mitch I love the complicated Olivia of “My Cousin Rachel”

Posted By Anne Rood : July 2, 2016 1:44 pm

I’ll add on here about Dave and his introductions and endings. Olivia de Havilland was not 23 when she auditioned for GWTW. She turned 23 while nearing the end of production. There is a picture of her with a huge birthday cake surrounded by the crew. I like to watch the intros and endings “just in case” I can learn something new — last night was not the case! Too bad, I was expecting more.

Posted By Wanda Davis : July 2, 2016 3:27 pm

You recently had two famous boxers criticing boxing scenes and they tore into Cagney in The Irish in US. Someone should have told them Cagney was pretending to be clumsy because his character didn’t box.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : July 2, 2016 4:22 pm

If you have complaints about TCM programming you should take them to the TCM forums. Your comments on my blog post probably won’t be seen by anyone but me and I have no control over programming or the hosts. The TCM forums can be found here: http://forums.tcm.com/

Posted By George : July 3, 2016 1:46 am

I don’t mind occasional goofs by the TCM hosts. As a famous movie put it: “Nobody’s perfect.”

I remember when local TV stations chopped old movies to pieces so they could squeeze in more used-car commercials. There was no respect for classic movies in those days, except maybe on PBS. Being able to see movies uncut and without commercial interruption on TCM makes up for any unhappiness I might have with the hosts — and I like ‘em all.

Hiring Tiffany Vazquez (who DOES seem to know classic movies, from what I’ve read and seen) was a smart move. The movie buff of the future is probably not going to be an elderly white male (like Robert Osborne) or a middle-aged white male (like Ben Mankiewicz). Osborne and Mankiewicz do great jobs, but more diversity can only help TCM.

Posted By robbushblog : July 3, 2016 1:56 am

Wanda – I think you mean “Melanie”, not “Melody”.

I just finished watching RAFFLES. It was a fun, breezy, little caper film. And they were watching TV!

Posted By Darlene Ijams : July 3, 2016 2:18 am

Does anyone know when Movies on Demand does not have her movies from Friday except Errol Flynn and Robin Hood. I was interested in watching Raffles today and was extremely disappointed.

Posted By Emgee : July 3, 2016 9:05 am

Yes, The movie buff of the future is probably going to be a 10 year old boy. Or girl.

Posted By dukes : July 4, 2016 11:29 pm

The Snake Pit and The Heiress are favorites of mine, but what about showing To Each His Own (which she won an Oscar for best actress — she also won it for The Heiress). It has not played on TCM for a long time. It should be at least shown on Mother’s Day.

Posted By dukes : July 5, 2016 12:18 am

Duh!!! It will shown on Friday 7/15/16.

Posted By Timothy J Carlson : July 5, 2016 8:32 pm

I am so glad that you chose my favorite actress for July’s Star of the Month. I must have been 11 or 12 when I first saw The Adventures of Robin Hood. Miss De Haviland had me captivated from her first scene. As Robert Osborne said shetold Error Flynn when they first met and asked what she wanted from acting she only wanted to be respected. Well I haven’t seen any film she was in that I walked away from with feeling a sense of respect for her as an actress and the grueling work she put forth in all her movies. She makes it look so simple. Thank you Olivia DeHaviland for the decades of movie enjoyment you will always remain my favorite actress!

Posted By Kurt : July 6, 2016 2:19 pm

Thank you Robert Osborne for your personal tribute to Livie. My life has been blessed by her work. Yours by her friendship.Very lucky man.

Posted By Ann Nennig : July 6, 2016 4:25 pm

Does anyone know the name of the song and the artist for July’s Star of the Month? I think it’s something like “I’ll Never Give Up”???

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